Hateruma Island is perfect getaway to do nothing
|Editor’s Note: Okinawa’s beautiful southern islands are being showcased in Japan Update each week. This week, travels move to Hateruma Island, the farthest south and one of the most colorful islands in the Yaeyama chain.
Hateruma means “Uruma of the edge”, Uruma means Coral leaf and Hate means edge or the end. That fits Hateruma island, the southernmost inhabited island in Japan.
It is only one hour from Ishigaki island by a ferry, and just 14km around. The ocean surrounding Hateruma looks especially blue in color, and people call it “Hateruma Blue”; many describe it as one of the most beautiful oceans in Yaeyama archipelago. There are a lot of old style houses and huge sugar cane fields on this really primitive island. There are some pensions and guesthouses, and the island is famous for having not a single traffic light.
Street lights are also small in numbers, and you can watch a lot of stars at night time. There are some sightseeing places, but the locals’ recommend doing nothing while on the island. Except giving the local awamori a try. The “Awanami” awamori is made on Hateruma Island, but the availability is very limited, and the price would be much higher if one happens to find it outside of Hateruma Island.
Nishi Hama is one of the most popular beaches in Yaeyama. “Nishi” means east in Japanese, but it means north in Okinawan dialect. That’s why the beach called Nishi Hama is located in the northern part of the island. It’s almost a kilometer long with white pure sand, and ocean color is especially emerald green.
Most of beaches in Yaeyama are very beautiful, but the Nishi Hama beach is even beyond beautiful. Sand at the beach is so smooth, and after walking toward east, there is a plant community called Hama Shitan. Plants are said to be at least a couple of hundred years old. The sunset time is more than special! The color of the ocean changes as the sun dips in the west and the sight’s out of sight. The swimming is good at the beach too.
Ko-to mui is a lookout post, or sea watching observatory built in the Ryukyu kingdom era. It is located on the way from Hateruma Port to the village, and was used for watching ship traffic near the island, and when the people watching noticed a ship out on the ocean, they set a fire to alert the observatory on nearby Iriomote Island.
The spiral shape observatory is only four meters high, but as the island is flat, and visibility allows one to see a long distance from the spot.
At the southern end of the Hateruma island, there is a rock monument that says “the most southern point of Japan”. There are some gazebos, where a visitor can take a rest, and enjoy the great view from the vantage point.
When visiting Okinawa’s southern islands, check with th Okinawa Tourland Hotel Booking site,http://eng.tourland.co.jp for special prices and deals on hotels, transportation and acitivies.