Japan’s Last Frontier: Iriomote Jima

“I like to be grounded by nature, go hiking… go to an isolated island that’s not glamorous and touristy at all.” – Cote de Pablo

Iriomote Jima (西表島) Island

Covered by dense jungles and mangrove forests, and surrounded by beautiful coral reefs – Iriomote Jima is one of the best destinations in Japan for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

Iriomote Jima mangrove forest

Iriomote Jima mangrove forest

Mangrove crab

Mangrove crab

Iriomote is the southernmost island of Japan, close to Taiwan – between East China Sea and Philippine Sea.

The island is famous for the elusive Iriomote cat – a nocturnal wild cat, found only on Iriomote.

Iriomote cat road sign

Iriomote cat warning road sign

Coming from bustling Tokyo via Nagoya through Ishigaki, undeveloped Irimote Jima is an oasis of tranquility. The beaches are deserted. The sea is crystal clear, even in low deep water you are surrounded by colorful, exotic fish. Snorkeling and scuba diving in the sea, kayaking on the rivers, hiking in the mountains are some of the activities to enjoy on the island.

Ocean view

“I go to the ocean to calm down, to reconnect with the creator, to just be happy.” – Nnedi Okorafor

And where can you find an island with a star sand beach? The beach is Hoshizuna-no-hama and the sand grains are star-shaped! The sand is actually the skeletons of small sea organisms.

Hoshizuna-No-Hama beach star sand

Hoshizuna-No-Hama beach star sand © Amusing Planet

Beauty comes with a price. Poisonous creatures, like the Habu venomous snake, lurk outside or even in your hotel room! The hoteliers keep quite a thick book with photos of worms and snakes in case you have one of these creatures in your room. If this is the case, you will pinpoint the creature and the host will tell you if you have to worry or forget about it.

My roommate, an ugly looking, thick worm, appeared to be from the inoffensive list. So, sleep well and hope the worm will take care of his own business!

My room at the Hoshi-No-Suna Pension was overlooking the ocean from a cliff. Beautiful view!

Hoshi-No-Suna ocean view

View from Hoshi-No-Suna, Iriomote Jima

Fish and sashimi is served at the nearby restaurant. Add a little bit (or more) of “Awamori” – the Okinawa famed and strong liquor – and you will have an unforgettable night!

Fish and sashimi

Fish and sashimi

Iriomote Jima, island view

Iriomote Jima, island view

Japanese signs

Orientation signs (only in Japanese)

Island view

The island’s road and the mangrove forest

Mariyudō-no-taki waterfall

Mariyudō-no-taki waterfall

Students at Mariyudō-no-taki waterfall

Students at the waterfall

Mangrove flowers

Mangrove flowers

Schoolgirls hiking in Iriomote

Girls in a school trip, Iriomote mountain path

Fried fish

Fried fish

Fish dish

Fish dish

Iriomote Jima Nature Photos

Iriomote Jima island

Shell of a crab

Iriomote Jima beach

Crab shell

Iriomote cliff


Iriomote beach rock

The photos were taken with Sigma DP1 and Leica D-Lux 3 cameras.

How to Get to Iriomote Jima

Iriomote Jima island

Island Map


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