Brooding darkly some 20km west of Ishigaki, Iriomote-jima (西表島) is an extraordinarily wild place for Japan. Rising sharply out of the ocean, some ninety percent of its uncharted, mountainous interior is covered with dense subtropical rainforest, much of it protected as the Iriomote National Park. Yaeyama rumour would have it that Iriomote often – or even perpetually – plays host to disaffected Japanese, living rough in the jungle. A more substantiated inhabitant, though equally elusive, is one of the world’s rarest species, the yamaneko or Iriomote lynx, a nocturnal, cat-like animal. The island and its surrounding waters are also home to a splendid array of flora and coral reefs shimmering with tropical fish. There are also plenty of opportunities for snorkelling, diving, kayaking and hiking through the rainforest.

Although it’s Okinawa’s second-largest island, fewer than two thousand people live here, most of them along barely developed strips on the north and south coasts. Ferries from Ishigaki sail to two ports on the island: ŌHARA (大原) in the south and UEHARA (上原) in the north. The latter is the better place to head for since it’s closer to Iriomote’s main scenic attractions and offers the widest range of accommodation.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Japan features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

6 reasons why Osaka should be on your radar

6 reasons why Osaka should be on your radar

Osaka is affectionately known as "Japan's kitchen". It's the birthplace of ramen noodles (which celebrate their 60th birthday in 2018) and is home to some of th…

26 Sep 2017 • Tamara Hinson insert_drive_file Article
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, …

07 Sep 2017 • 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…

08 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook