Taketomi Island (竹富島, Taketomijima) is an island just off the coast of Ishigaki Island and the site of a beautifully preserved, traditional Ryukyu village. As Taketomi Island is fairly small, it is often visited as a day trip from Ishigaki.
Thanks to preservation efforts, the small village consists almost entirely of traditional style, one-storied houses, which are surrounded by stone walls, and covered with red tiled roofs and ample lion-like shisa statues to ward of evil spirits. Some of the village's houses serve as minshuku accommodations.
Other traditional homes inside the village are used as restaurants and shops selling local food and crafts. There are no rental cars on Taketomi, and most visitors either walk or rent a bicycle to travel through the village's white sand roads and to the nearby beaches along the western shore of the island.
Water Buffalo Cart Rides
Hours: 8:30 to 17:00 Fee: 1200 yen
Two companies offer water buffalo drawn cart tours of Taketomi Village. The 30 minute tours travel around the preserved, traditional streets of the village while a Japanese speaking guide talks about the island, sings songs and plays Okinawan music on their sanshin (Okinawan stringed instrument). You may notice that the guides rarely offer guidance to the water buffalo who know their routes by heart.
Can currently not be climbed due to its deteriorating state
The 4.5 meter tall Nagominoto Tower sits roughly in the center of the village, from where you have a view over most of the island. Combined with the hill on which it stands, the tower is about 10 meters above the surrounding houses. Below the tower is a grassy area, with a few shops and restaurants nearby.
Taketomi Island has both sandy beaches and rocky beaches where you can enjoy swimming and snorkeling. Except for Kondoi Beach, the beaches do not have any public facilities.
When using the beaches always beware of strong currents that can pull you out to sea and poisonous creatures such as Habu Jellyfish, a type of box jellyfish, that are most prevalent from June to October. Signs in English inform about the dangers while some beaches have netted off swimming areas. Although stings are rare, if stung you should pour vinegar over the sting, remove any tentacles, and seek medical help as it may become life threatening.
Kondoi Beach is Taketomi Island's best beach with emerald green water with a shallow, sandy floor. It has a large white sand beach that is perfect for laying out in the sun, and warm waters to swim in, although they are too shallow to swim in during low tide. Grassy, shaded picnic areas as well as restroom, changing, and rental facilities are also available.
This beach, together with Hoshizuna Beach on Iriomote Island, is known for its sand which is shaped like tiny stars (although it is actually made up of the skeletons of small one-celled organisms that live among the sea grass). Though a protected beach today, little star sand remains as it was bottled and sold as souvenirs in past decades. Swimming is prohibited due to strong tidal currents.
Three ferry companies operate high speed ferries and an infrequent car ferry, between Ishigaki Island and Taketomi Island. Boats depart every 30 minutes between 7:30 and 17:30 with a short break around noon. The roundtrip fare is 1150 yen, and the one way trip takes 10 minutes by high speed ferry, and 15 minutes by car ferry. Online reservations can be made through Direct Ferries.
Taketomi Island is small, and it is possible to explore the island entirely on foot or by rental bicycle (300 yen per hour, or 1500 yen per day). Another popular way to tour the village is from a water buffalo drawn cart.
The water buffalo tour operators and bicycle rental companies offer free shuttle service between the ferry terminal and their respective locations (no reservations required). Otherwise, the village can be reached in a 10-15 minute walk from the pier.