Ishigaki is a great island to use as a hub for exploring many of the Yaeyama Islands including Yonaguni, Iriomote, Kohama, Hateruma, and Taketomi. All of these islands are connected by a high speed ferry, which runs from early morning to early evening. You can also stay overnight at most of these islands. Taketomi is a small island just a 10 minute ride from Ishigaki, and in that 10 minutes, you travel back through time a few hundred years.
The ferry will drop you off at Taketomihigashi Port, which is a half mile from the center of town. You could walk, but I suggest taking one of the buses waiting in the parking lot in the port. Most of these buses are run by a water-buffalo tour company – a great way to get your bearings. I chose the busiest one! Typically each group has about 20 people, depending on the time. The tour is about 30 minutes and takes you around the old city, explaining the history and culture of Taketomi. I couldn’t understand any of it, but I still enjoyed it!
Little stone figures are found on every business and house in Taketomi. Although they may not look like it, they’re friendly figures called shisa that ward off evil spirits and protect your home.
After the tour, rent a bicycle to access many of the beautiful beaches around Taketomi. You could walk as well, but this is the perfect place for a ride! There are a few rental shops on the island, and the condition of the bicycles vary widely. Check them out before renting. Where to next? More about that in the next post!
Tip: Grab a drink from one of the vending machines in the main town (or the teeny grocery store if its open) as they’re hard to find in other parts of the island, and it can get quite sunny and hot.