Yaeyama Islands

The Yaeyama Islands (八重山列島 Yaeyama-rettō, also 八重山諸島 Yaeyama-shotō, Yaeyama: Yaima, Yonaguni: Daama, Okinawan: Yeema) are an archipelago in the southwest of Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, and cover 591.46 square kilometres (228.36 sq mi).[1] The islands are located southwest of the Miyako Islands, part of the Ryukyu Islands archipelago.[2] The Yaeyama Islands are the remotest part of Japan from the main islands and contain Japan's most southern (Hateruma) and most western (Yonaguni) inhabited islands.[3] The city of Ishigaki serves as the political, cultural, and economic center of the Yaeyama Islands.[4]

The Yaeyama Islands are home to numerous species of subtropical and tropical plants, and mangrove forests.[3][5] The islands produce sugarcane and pineapples.[2][6] Coral reefs around the islands are ideal habitats for dolphins, sea turtles, and larger fish such as manta rays and whale sharks. Before being wiped out by humans, whales and dugongs were common as well, and Yaeyama once had the largest population of dugongs in the Ryukyu Islands. On Aragusuku Island, there is a Utaki which specially enshrines hunted dugongs with their skulls, but non-residents are not permitted to enter unless they receive special permission from inhabitants, and it is said that any aliens without permission will be driven out by force.

Yaeyama Islands
Native name:
Yaeyama-rettō (八重山列島)
Yaeyama map
Map of the Yaeyama Islands
Yaeyama Islands is located in Japan
Yaeyama Islands
Yaeyama Islands
Yaeyama Islands in Japan
LocationPacific Ocean
Coordinates24°21′47″N 123°44′47″E / 24.36306°N 123.74639°ECoordinates: 24°21′47″N 123°44′47″E / 24.36306°N 123.74639°E
ArchipelagoSakishima Islands
Adjacent bodies of waterEast China Sea
Total islands23
Major islandsIshigaki Island, Iriomote Island, Yonaguni Island
Area587.16 km2 (226.70 sq mi)
Highest elevation525.5 m (1,724.1 ft)
Highest pointMount Omoto
PrefectureOkinawa Prefecture
Population53,627 (March 31, 2011[1])
Pop. density91 /km2 (236 /sq mi)
Location of the Yaeyama Islands in Okinawa Prefecture


The islands form the southern part of the volcanic Ryukyu Islands. The administrative division of Yaeyama District covers all of the Yaeyama Islands, except Ishigaki and the disputed Senkaku Islands.

Inhabited islands[1]


The Yonaguni language is the indigenous language of the island of Yonaguni. The Yaeyama language is the indigenous language of the rest of the islands. Japanese is widely spoken as a second language.

The Yaeyama Islands are home to the production of traditional Okinawan textiles.[2]

Mushaama Festival

14 July: Mushaama Festival. On Hateruma Island, this harvest festival is celebrated during Obon. It features a parade of the local fertility god Miruku and his children (the local children), shishi ("lion") dances, and staff dances.


  1. ^ a b c 第1 指定離島・島しょ・人口 (PDF). 離島関係資料(平成24年1月) (in Japanese). 沖縄県企画部地域・離島課. January 2012. pp. 2, 8. Retrieved December 13, 2012. External link in |work= (help)
  2. ^ a b c "Yaeyama Islands". Encyclopedia of Japan. Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC 56431036. Retrieved 2012-12-04.
  3. ^ a b "八重山諸島" [Yaeyama Islands]. Nihon Rekishi Chimei Taikei (in Japanese). Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC 173191044. Retrieved 2012-12-04.
  4. ^ "Ishigaki". Encyclopedia of Japan. Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC 56431036. Retrieved 2012-12-31.
  5. ^ "自然環境の保全に関する指針 八重山編(陸域)" [Guidelines for conservation of the natural environment]. Okinawa Prefectural Government (in Japanese). Okinawa Prefectural Government. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  6. ^ "八重山諸島" [Yaeyama Islands]. Dijitaru Daijisen (in Japanese). Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC 56431036. Retrieved 2012-12-04.

External links


Hateruma (波照間島; Hateruma-jima; Yaeyama: Patirooma, Hateruma dialect: Besїma "our island", Okinawan: Hatiruma) is an island in the Yaeyama District of Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. Part of the town Taketomi, it is the southern-most inhabited island in Japan at 24°2’25" north latitude, 123°47’16" east longitude. Hateruma is one of the Yaeyama Islands, and is located 24 kilometres (15 mi) south of Iriomote-jima, the largest of the island group.Hateruma, which is composed of corals, has 12.7 km² of area and approximately 600 inhabitants.

The primary products of the island include sugarcane, pineapple, refined sugar, and Awanami, a highly prized type of the alcoholic beverage awamori. Its southern location makes it one of the few places in Japan where the Southern Cross can be observed.


Hatoma (鳩間島, Hatoma-jima; Yaeyama: Patuma; Okinawan: Hatuma) is a small island of the Yaeyama Islands, barely 1 kilometer in diameter. It is under the administration of Taketomi District, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. In local language, the island's name is pronounced Patuma.

Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park

Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park (西表石垣国立公園, Iriomote-Ishigaki Kokuritsu Kōen) is a national park in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. It is located on and around the Yaeyama Islands of the East China Sea.The park was established in 1972 as Iriomote National Park (西表国立公園) and included the islands of Iriomote, Kohama, Kuro, and Taketomi. In August 2007 the protected area was extended to include Ishigaki Island.The park is famous as the habitat of the Iriomote wild cat.

Iriomote Island

Iriomote Island (西表島, Iriomote-jima, Yaeyama: Irïmutii; Iriomote dialect: Irimutii; Okinawan: Iriumuti) is the largest of the Yaeyama Islands of Japan, and the second largest in Okinawa Prefecture after Okinawa Island itself.

The island has an area of 289.27 km² and a 2005 population of 2,347. The island does not have an airstrip, and most visitors — over 390,000 in 2006 — arrive from Ishigaki by ferry, a 31.4 km ride to Uwahara Port (上原港) on Iriomote's northeast coast or Ōhara Port (大原港) on the southeast coast. Administratively the island belongs to Taketomi Town, Okinawa Prefecture. Infrastructure is limited to a single coastal road connecting the hamlets on the northern and eastern shores.

Ishigaki Island

Ishigaki Island (石垣島, Ishigaki-jima, Yaeyama: Ishanagï, Okinawan: Ishigachi), also known as Ishigakijima, is a Japanese island west of Okinawa Hontō and the second-largest island of the Yaeyama Island group. It is within the City of Ishigaki in Okinawa Prefecture. The city functions as the business and transport center of the archipelago. The island is served by New Ishigaki Airport, the largest airport in the Yaeyamas.

Much of the island and surrounding waters including Mount Omoto and Kabira Bay are protected as part of Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park.Ishigaki Island, like the rest of Okinawa, is culturally influenced by both Japan and Taiwan due to its location, about 300 km off the north eastern coast of Taiwan.

Kaidā glyphs

Kaidā glyphs (Kaidā ji (カイダー字)) are a set of pictograms once used in the Yaeyama Islands of southwestern Japan. The word kaidā was taken from Yonaguni, and most studies on the pictographs focused on Yonaguni Island. However, there is evidence for their use in Yaeyama's other islands, most notably on Taketomi Island. They were used primarily for tax notices, thus were closely associated with the poll tax imposed on Yaeyama by Ryūkyū on Okinawa Island, which was in turn dominated by Satsuma Domain on Southern Kyushu.

Kohama Island

Kohama Island (小浜島, Kohama-jima) (Yaeyama: Kumoo, Okinawan: Kubama) is an island in the Yaeyama Islands group at the southwestern end of the Ryukyu Islands chain, and part of Taketomi, Yaeyama District, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. The island has an area of 7.84 km2 (3.03 sq mi), with a surrounding area of 16.6 km2 (6.4 sq mi). The island is located about 25 minutes by ferry from Ishigaki Island, which is the transportation and business center of the Yaeyama Islands.

The 2001 NHK drama series Churasan was set on the island. Shinobu Miyara, former member of Da Pump, is from Kohama-jima.

Kuroshima (Okinawa)

Kuroshima (黒島; Yaeyama: Ffusïma, Okinawan: Kurushima), also known as "Kuro Island", is an island in Taketomi Town, Okinawa, part of the Yaeyama archipelago. The island has the approximate shape of a heart symbol when viewed from the air, and is marketed as "Heart Island". The name means "Black Island".

The island has an area of about 10 km2 (4 sq mi) and a population of approximately 210 as of 2006. Kuroshima is a comparatively flat island, as the highest point is just 15 metres (49 ft) above sea level.

Cattle raising is a major economic activity and a yearly "cow festival" is held. Sometimes the island is marketed as "Island of Cows" as well, as there are more cows than inhabitants living on it. Tourist activities include diving and sunbathing.

Nakama River

The Nakama (仲間川, Nakama-gawa) is a river located on the southeast side of the island of Iriomote, one of the Yaeyama Islands of Japan.

New Ishigaki Airport

New Ishigaki Airport (新石垣空港, Shin-Ishigaki Kūkō), (IATA: ISG, ICAO: ROIG), also branded as Painushima Ishigaki Airport (南ぬ島石垣空港, Painushima Ishigaki Kūkō, "Southern Island Ishigaki Airport"), is a regional airport located in the Shiraho district of Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. The airport is located near the eastern coast of Ishigaki Island. It connects the island to major cities in Japan as well as destinations throughout Okinawa Prefecture and the Yaeyama Islands. New Ishigaki Airport was built to replace Ishigaki Airport, which with a shorter runway of only 1,500 metres (4,900 ft), could not accommodate larger jets.

Operations at Ishigaki Airport ceased at midnight on March 6, 2013, and New Ishigaki Airport opened on March 7, 2013.

Ryukyu Islands

The Ryukyu Islands (琉球諸島, Ryūkyū-shotō), also known as the Nansei Islands (南西諸島, Nansei-shotō, lit. "Southwest Islands") or the Ryukyu Arc (琉球弧, Ryūkyū-ko), are a chain of Japanese islands that stretch southwest from Kyushu to Taiwan: the Ōsumi, Tokara, Amami, Okinawa, and Sakishima Islands (further divided into the Miyako and Yaeyama Islands), with Yonaguni the westernmost. The larger are mostly high islands and the smaller mostly coral. The largest is Okinawa Island.

The climate of the islands ranges from humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa) in the north to tropical rainforest climate (Köppen climate classification Af) in the south. Precipitation is very high and is affected by the rainy season and typhoons. Except the outlying Daitō Islands, the island chain has two major geologic boundaries, the Tokara Strait (between the Tokara and Amami Islands) and the Kerama Gap (between the Okinawa and Miyako Islands). The islands beyond the Tokara Strait are characterized by their coral reefs.

The Ōsumi and Tokara Islands, the northernmost of the islands, fall under the cultural sphere of the Kyushu region of Japan; the people are ethnically Japanese and speak a variation of the Kagoshima dialect of Japanese. The Amami, Okinawa, Miyako, and Yaeyama Islands have a native population collectively called the Ryukyuan people, named for the former Ryukyu Kingdom that ruled them. The varied Ryukyuan languages are traditionally spoken on these islands, and the major islands have their own distinct languages. In modern times, the Japanese language is the primary language of the islands, with the Okinawan Japanese dialect prevalently spoken. The outlying Daitō Islands were uninhabited until the Meiji period, when their development was started mainly by people from the Izu Islands south of Tokyo, with the people there speaking the Hachijō language.

Administratively, the islands are divided into Kagoshima Prefecture (specifically the islands administered by Kagoshima District, Kumage Subprefecture/District, and Ōshima Subprefecture/District) in the north and Okinawa Prefecture in the south, with the divide between the Amami and Okinawa Islands, with the Daitō Islands part of Okinawa Prefecture. The northern (Kagoshima) islands are collectively called the Satsunan Islands, while the southern part of the chain (Okinawa Prefecture) are called the Ryukyu Islands in Chinese.

Shiraho Saonetabaru Cave Ruins

Shiraho Saonetabaru Cave Ruins (白保竿根田原洞穴遺跡, Shiraho Saonetabaru Dōketsu Iseki) is a paleoanthropological site located on Ishigaki Island of the Yaeyama Islands in Japan. Shiraho Saonetabaru is a limestone cave.It was discovered in 2007 when plans for the New Ishigaki Airport were being developed. Remains of human heads, feet and arms were found, in all 9 bone fossils, by the Okinawa Limestone Cave Association between 2007 and 2009, and three human samples were dated to between 20,000-16,000 years before present. In the ruins were also found bones from wild boar and birds (one animal bone calibrated at 12,000 BP), while during the three months in 2011 were discovered approximately 300 human bones from the stratum between 24,000-20,000 years old.In 2015, researchers from the University of the Ryukyus and University of Tokyo succeeded in radiocarbon dating three out of five of the bones tested. The three bones yielded the following dates: (20,030 to 18,100 years BP), (22,890 to 22,400 years BP) and (24,990 to 24,210 years BP).The investigation held between 2012 and 2016 found more than 1,000 human fragments from at least 19 human skeletons. The "No. 4" almost full skeleton was dated about 27,000 BP, being the oldest full skeleton discovered in East Asia and several thousand years older than the skeletons of the Minatogawa people. Due to the skeletons' postures, the site has been confirmed as the first graveyard in the Paleolithic age in Japan.

Shō Boku

Shō Boku (尚 穆, May 3, 1739 – February 19, 1794) was a king of Ryukyu. His reign began in 1752. Although a period of relative stability, he had to contend with a tsunami in 1771 that devastated the Miyako Islands and Yaeyama Islands. His reign also saw the Chinese envoy Chou Huang who wrote a sixteen volume topography of the islands for the Qianlong Emperor.

Southern Ryukyuan languages

The Southern Ryukyuan languages (南琉球語群, Minami Ryūkyū gogun) form one of two branches of the Ryukyuan languages. They are spoken on the Sakishima Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. The three languages are Miyako (on the Miyako Islands) and Yaeyama and Yonaguni (on the Yaeyama Islands, of the Macro-Yaeyama subgroup). The Macro-Yaeyaman languages have been identified as "critically endangered" by UNESCO and Miyako as "definitely endangered".All Ryukyuan languages are officially labeled as dialects of Japanese by the Japanese government despite mutual unintelligibility. While the majority of Ryukyuan languages have used Chinese or Japanese script for writing, the Yaeyama Islands never had a full-featured writing system. Islanders developed the Kaidā glyphs as a simple method to record family names, items, and numerals to aid in tax accounting. This system was used until the 19th century introduction of Japanese-language education. Even today, communication in the Yaeyama or Yonaguni languages is almost exclusively oral, and written communication is done in Japanese.

Taketomi, Okinawa

Taketomi (竹富町, Taketomi-chō, Yaeyama: Teedun, Okinawan: Dakidun) is a town located in Yaeyama District, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan.

The town includes all of the islands in the Yaeyama Islands excluding Ishigaki, Yonaguni, and the Senkaku Islands. This includes the islands of Iriomote, Taketomi, Kohama, Kuroshima, Hateruma, and Hatoma. Although Ishigaki is not part of the town of Taketomi, the town hall is located there.

As of October 2016, the town has an estimated population of 4,050 and the density of 12 persons per km2 (31/sq mi). The total area is 334.02 km2 (128.97 sq mi).

Taketomi Island

Taketomi Island (竹富島, Taketomi-jima, Yaeyama: Teedun; Okinawan: Dakidun) is an island in the town of Taketomi, within Yaeyama District of Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. Taketomi is one of the Yaeyama Islands. The population of Taketomi Island was 323 as of January 2012.

Yaeyama District, Okinawa

Yaeyama (八重山郡, Yaeyama-gun, Yaeyama: Yaima, Yonaguni: Daama, Okinawan: Yeema) is a district located in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. The district covers all of the Yaeyama Islands except Ishigaki and the disputed Senkaku Islands.

As of 2003, the district has an estimated population of 5,579 and the density of 15.37 persons per km². The total area is 362.89 square kilometers.

Yaeyama language

The Yaeyama language (八重山物言/ヤイマムニ, Yaimamuni) is a Southern Ryukyuan language spoken in the Yaeyama Islands, the southernmost inhabited island group in Japan, with a combined population of about 53,000. The Yaeyama Islands are situated in the Southern Ryukyu Islands, southwest of the Miyako Islands and to the east of Taiwan. Yaeyama (Yaimamunii) is most closely related to Miyako. The number of competent native speakers is not known; as a consequence of Japanese language policy which refers to the language as the Yaeyama dialect (八重山方言, Yaeyama hōgen), reflected in the education system, people below the age of 60 tend to not use the language except in songs and rituals, and the younger generation exclusively uses Japanese as their first language. As compared to the Japanese kokugo, or Japanese national language, other Ryukyuan languages such as Okinawan and Amami have also been referred to as dialects of Japanese. Yaeyama is noted as having a comparatively lower "language vitality" among neighboring Ryukyuan languages.Yaeyama is spoken in Ishigaki, Taketomi, Kohama, Kuroshima, Hatoma, Aragusuku, Iriomote and Hateruma, with complications of mutual intelligibility between dialects as a result of the Yaeyama Islands' large geographic span. The speech of Yonaguni Island, while related, is usually considered a separate language. The Taketomi dialect may instead be a Northern Ryukyuan language common to Okinawan dialects that later converged with the other Yaeyama dialects..


Yonaguni (Japanese: 与那国島, Hepburn: Yonaguni-jima, Yonaguni romanization: Dunan-chima, Yaeyama romanization: Yunoon-zïma, Okinawan romanization: Yunaguni-jima), one of the Yaeyama Islands, is the westernmost inhabited island of Japan, lying 108 kilometers (67 mi) from the east coast of Taiwan, between the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean proper. The island is administered as the town of Yonaguni, Yaeyama Gun, Okinawa and there are three settlements: Sonai, Kubura and Higawa.


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