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Water buffalo, tourists stir up conflict between company and Taketomi Town

Date Posted: 2008-03-07

A company providing tourists transportation by water buffalo has begun constructing a building on its property without Taketomi Town permission, and the town is taking legal measures to block it.

Taketomi Island development is heavily regulated by the government because of its traditional structures, including the well known Okinawa tile roofs on all houses, and new construction permits must conform to the Protection District rules. A company that uses water buffalo to transport tourists around the island has purchased land, and begun construction without waiting for approval from Taketomi Town.

Taketomi Tourism Center conducts sightseeing tours, and is developing land and preparing land for construction. Owner Chokichi Kosoko says “I’ve been applying the paperwork to get approval for construction since last August, but Taketomi Town hasn’t given approval.” Kosoko says his land rental expires in May, and he must move forward, “so I bought other land for my own future business. In the meantime I have a small office on the current land, but we need offices to take care of tourists and my workers to rest, and to operate my business.”

The Taketomi Town Office say the survey requires time. “We need to examine the construction work if it is more than 1,000 square meters, and this company’s construction work has already gone over 2,000 square meters bigger.” The Town Office says it still must ask the Town Board of Education if the construction conforms to government rules, and “we didn’t get approval from the Town Board of Education because paperwork has not yet been completed from this company.”

Local residents are opposing the issue of building permits, citing excessive noise by tourists, and “the water buffalo smell bad. There are already complaints about the building because it is near a school area or hospital area.” Kosoko says if Taketomi Town denies his building permits, he’d “ask money for my business from the Taketomi Town.”

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