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‘Last Paradise in Japan’ town celebrates 60th anniversary

Date Posted: 2008-10-31

Isolated Iriomote Island in the far southern district of Okinawa is known to tourists as ‘The Last Paradise in Japan’ for its still pristine jungles and waterfalls, and abundance of animals.

As Taketomi Town on Iriomote celebrates its 60th anniversary this month, residents are struggling for a balance with the realities of growth that has brought real estate agents, hotels, golf courses and shopping centers, with the commitment to maintaining the island’s natural beauty. They’re torn between the financial aspects of growth and the desire to keep the forests unblemished.

This month’s anniversary ceremonies saw 14 children tell “the story of the frontier of the island’s Sumiyoshi area”, exploitation of the region by a Miyakojima government project that cleared land for migration in 1948. Miyakojima officials sent manpower and equipment to harvest wood for post World War II reconstruction of the ravaged southern islands.

“It was too hard to clear the area,” recalls Masao Ikemura. “this area was deep jungle and we carried the wood by horse.” The 77-year-old resident says “there were no roads and no water supplies, no electricity, not much food, and no telephones.” He remembers the heavy workload to clear the land and make the island habitable for Taketomi Town to be created.

Today, Eicho Kawamitsu says “Our ancestors made this area, and we have their spirits.” The Sumiyoshi area community director says he wants to “make our area together, and protect our lives and develop the area properly.”

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