Yaeyama Islands are a bunch of unique islands that are very rich in nature and home to several mysteries in Japan. They are located in the middle of East China Sea, between Taiwan and the main island of Okinawa. There are many places to have a relaxing time in this region, one of which is Hateruma Island which is called the southernmost populated point of Japan. Here are three things that you can do if you are on this tiny island which can be reached via ferry from Ishigaki City, the main center of the Yaeyama Archipelago!
Hateruma Island, together with nearby Iriomote and others, comes under the Taketomi township.
You can find Japan’s Southernmost Monument on this island which indicates that you have reached the southern end of Japan and from where you can look for the Philippines. You can also find Japan’s southernmost police station and southernmost school in Hateruma as you won’t find anything beyond the island.
There is also an observatory, the Hoshizora Observation Tower, that lets you find the constellations such as the Crux easier compared to other places in Japan because of its location advantage. These places should not be missed as they are extremely popular among tourists.
Hateruma is similar to a village because of its small population of less than a thousand. The cool thing about the buildings and monuments here is that they use coral stones and undersea materials for construction. There are a bunch of small Ryukyuan residential buildings that are really old with pyramid roofs and guardian lions (shisa) on top. It has become rare to find this type of houses, which are a symbol of Ryukyuan culture and religion, anywhere else in Okinawa Prefecture.
The people of the island admire their hero, Oyake Akahachi, who fought against the imposition of taxes and for self-governance during the rule of Ryukyuan kings. The Akahachi Memorial, a monument dedicated to him, can be found in the center of the island.
There is also an old signaling tower, namely Kodomori (Sokona Tameike Observation Deck), from where people used to guide the ships that traveled across.
Kodomori (Sokona Tameike Observation Deck) Website *Automatic translation available
Some people say that the waters of Nishihama Beach in Hateruma are the best in the entire southern region of Japan because of its amazing clarity and blue-green hue. The best place to enjoy swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, and other activities is on the north coast because of fewer rocks and impurities.
If you want to loosen up, you can go to Fuka Shoten and order Awanami, a native alcoholic drink that you must try. There are a couple of local restaurants such as Pananufa where you can get a nice meal and enjoy local music.
Furthermore, you will be amazed to see that the local lodges such as Nishihama-so offer free rice for its customers. There are also many accommodations that offer bike ride services for a fee so you can stroll around the island with ease.
There is an emergency airport and a harbor that connect this tiny island to the rest of the world. You can actually easily reach Hateruma from Ishigaki and visit all the places mentioned within a day because of the island’s small size.