2nd January 2019:
Early start, took a shinkansen to Fukuoka and subway to the airport. Flight to Ishigaki, where it was cloudy and raining on arrival. Not unexpected in the winter season, the temperature difference was notable: 20degC versus the ~5degC in Kumamoto. Mind you, we were now 1130km south of there, and a whole 1950km from Tokyo – and nearly 3000km from the most north westerly point in Japan! This place is pretty big…
Checked into Blue Cabin again, simple but comfortable, and the shisa (guardian lion creatures) were suitably bonkers alongside the New Years decorations.
Beers and tapas in a little wine bar called Umi-BAL while planning the next week. Plan currently is to visit Taketomi island, then Hateruma (most southerly point in Japan), then spend a few days on Iriomote. Yonaguni (most westerly point) probably won’t happen on this trip.
Walked on a bit and found Against the Grain – a Louisville Kentucky brewery that has opened up an outpost here in Japan. A very good saison and some edamame to finish off dinner. Absolutely chucking it down on the walk home, not sure that the optimistic forecasts for the days planned on Iriomote will come to pass…
3rd January 2019:
Late up. Raining, not as bad as last night, definitely trying to warm up.
Spent time at the port, figuring out the coming days. Very helpful tourist info guy, called and booked me one night on Hateruma, and sorted my car rental for Iriomote. Plan is to take the ferry on Sunday to Hateruma for one night, then Hateruma->Iriomote the next day.
Took a walk out to see some of the traditional Ryukyu buildings in the city. Some lovely examples, but equally some that need some serious TLC. Strolled round the markets, local beer at the market café, was very tempted to buy a beautiful blue noren (the curtain typically seen over restaurant doors in Japan) to hang inside the front door. Was a print of a shisa, the lionesque guardians seen all over Okinawa and the Yaeyamas. I have a pair on the mantelpiece from the trip last year.
Against The Grain again for a late lunch, local sausages and chips!
Ferry to Taketomi in the afternoon. Only takes 10 minutes, very powerful engined catamaran. Funky whale design glass bottomed boat in the harbour. Browsed a couple of posters listing some of the living things that could do me serious harm during my trip. Then spotted some feral cats hanging around, very cute. A small minibus arrived and the cats obviously recognised it – they made a beeline over to it, and the driver got out to give them their lunch!
Got the local bus (big minibus really), and drove along narrow coral sand streets between low walls made of coral – it was like stepping back in time.
Spotted that the bus driver’s change box had a logo for ‘The Prodigy’ on it – I commended him on his choice of music, so he promptly changed the soundtrack to ‘Invaders Must Die’!
He dropped me on the corner where I could walk 2 mins to the ‘Guesthouse Taketomijima and JeTaime’. Opposite was the ‘tower’ – highest point on what is a very flat island – only 30m above sea level! Worrying thing was that the tsunami level on this very flat coral atoll was also 30m – so basically if this place ever gets hit it is likely to be wiped clean. Sobering thought.
Guesthouse wasn’t….exactly… what I expected. A basic hostel room with bunkbeds, very basic facilities, and an outside loo – but that still had the funky electronic loo seat! Guess I shouldn’t be surprised, I’m in a room for two which would be about £16 each per night. I have a feeling I may only stay one night, there isn’t a lot here to justify staying longer. Walked out to the old pier at the west of the island, would have been a stunning sunset if it weren’t for all the clouds.
Dinner at a little place along the road that did excellent Taketomi soba noodles – chunks of pork rib meat that were just melt in the mouth.
First insect bite of the trip. Little bastard.