Star-sand beaches to pad along, waterfalls tumbling down emerald mountains, and not a soldier in sight…it’s no wonder that even Okinawans go misty-eyed when talking about the YAEYAMA ISLANDS (八重山諸島). Japan finally fizzles out at this far-flung spray of semi-tropical islets, 430km south of Okinawa-Hontō and almost 3000km from northern Hokkaidō, and those lucky enough to make it this far are in for quite a finale. The bad news is that the Yaeyamas are no longer accessible by ferry, meaning that you’ll have to take a flight from Naha or the mainland – but it’s worth it, especially if you’re into diving, hiking, kayaking or meeting “alternative” Japanese.

Most flights arrive at Ishigaki-jima, the most populous Yaeyama island by far. Travellers tend to base themselves here for convenience, but while Ishigaki has its charms, you’d be mad to come this far and not go that little bit further – a fifteen-minute ferry-ride away is tiny Taketomi-jima, essentially a freeze-frame of traditional Ryūkyū life, while a little further away is Iriomote-jima, almost entirely cloaked with jungle and about as wild as Japan gets. Even more remote are Hateruma-jima, to the south, and Yonaguni-jima, stuck out on its own between Ishigaki and Taiwan.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Japan features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Japan travel tips: 13 things to know before you go

Japan travel tips: 13 things to know before you go

With its glittering royal palaces, ancient temples and sacred shrines as well as sandy beaches, some of the world’s best skiing and beautiful national parks, …

14 Nov 2016 • Freya Godfrey insert_drive_file Article
Where to stay in Tokyo: an area by area guide

Where to stay in Tokyo: an area by area guide

As the biggest city in the world, it’s unsurprising that Tokyo is crammed full of different places to stay – and with each district boasting its own charact…

11 Nov 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
What happens when you blend English tradition with Japanese craftsmanship

What happens when you blend English tradition with Japanese craftsmanship

In a delicious meeting of two worlds, the most English of drinks has been combined with Japanese craftsmanship to create a premium craft gin, KI NO BI (“the b…

06 Oct 2016 • Rebecca Hallett insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month