The Secret Tropical Paradise In Japan You Need To Visit At Least Once

March 28, 2018

|Ariel Rodriguez
yaeyama islands japan

These paradise islands are hidden away from civilization.

When you think of Japan, what comes to mind? Tall buildings and urbanized cities like Tokyo, anime and manga billboards placed everywhere, or crowded subways as result from the overpopulation in the metropolises. There are many images that come to our heads when thinking of the island nation. But what we often forget about this country, is that it is a nation composed of many islands and that some of them are actually gorgeous beach paradises with tropical weather with almost no one around to enjoy them. It’s hard to think that the country with implemented policies designed to lower birth rates, due to over populations, actually has inhabited islands. But these photos of the Yaeyama Islands will change the way you thought about Japan as a tourist destination.

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Images by: @discoveryaima

There are 10 islands that make up the Yaeyama archipelago, which at the same time are part of the Okinawa Prefecture. Ishigaki predominates as the biggest one, whereas Hatoma is by size the tiniest of them all. They are located in the southwest part of the nation, near Okinawa prefecture – kind of where the shape of the nation curves into a moon crescent. In these images we can appreciate the white sand of the beaches, variety of plants and fruits from the forests, and wild life that includes exotic animals like sea turtles, manta rays, and whales.

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Images by: @visitishigaki

Thinking of these islands as a tourist destination and getaway from busy cities is a great idea since one can enjoy activities that involve the crystal clear waters, snorkeling, and snapping away many photographs of the rural environment. This takes one of the best distinctions of the islands, its people. There are only about 53 thousand people living in these islands. Although Ishigaki is the most populated of them all, it is said that each island carries its unique traditions, attractions, and culture. From local handcrafted souvenirs to tea houses. The easy way of life from the archipelago relieves anyone’s stress.

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From photographs, we can recognize the different festivals that the residents of the region engage in. With traditional colorful customs and distinctive dances, there is the Hounensai festival that takes place on the island of Kuroshima, which is meant to honor a god of harvest season and fertility. The island of Kohama celebrates the Kitsugansai festival and the festival of Tanetorisai displays women riding horses though the village streets.

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Hounensai festival in Kurishima Island

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Kitsugansai Festival in Kohama Island

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Kitsugansai Festival in Kohama Island

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Tanetorisai Festival in a Small Village of the Yaeyama Islands

Images by: @discoveryaima

An iconic sculpture that distinguishes the Okinawan region and is commonly found in the Yaeyama Islands, is the Shisa statue. It is a lion-dog looking creature, also known as gargoyle beasts, with an open mouth that are believed to keep evil away –it is also known as the protector of the Yaeyama Islands. They usually are placed on top of the wooden houses, which makes sense because they don't want evil spirits near their homes, and sometimes they come in pairs. Since the islands are closer to the Chinese nation, it is believe to have influenced the culture of the region, the Shisa statues is a perfect example of this influence.

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Image by: @visitishigaki

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Image by: @visitishigaki


Getting there might include hopping from place to place to place, but it’s doable and accessible in order to presence the coral beaches and reefs. Just the Ishigaki Island is a world alone to be discovered. There are museums, tours to the landmarks like the rivers, an observation point called Tamatorizaki, and astonishing architectural residences to look at. Besides, you probably have to stop by there to move on to the other islands since Ishigaki is the region’s transportation hub. If these photographs captured your attention, and virgin islands are your next travel destination, then this forgotten corner of Japan won’t disappoint.

Ariel Rodriguez

Ariel Rodriguez

Creative Writer