As the air gets colder, temptation to go cycling somewhere warm heats up. Why not make a daring escape to the southernmost part of Japan?
The Yaeyama Region lies in the southernmost and westernmost corner of Okinawa Prefecture. Once you set your mind to fly south for the winter its quite easy. Simply jump on a three-hour non-stop flight from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Ishigaki-jima (Ishigaki Island), the beautiful hub of the region. From there, island hop by sea or air and enjoy cycling around the diverse islands of Yaeyama.
Yonaguni-jima: Cycle twenty-seven kilometers around this mysterious island, home to some ancient underwater remains. From Nishizaki, the westernmost point in Japan, you can see Taiwan on a clear day.
Hateruma-jima: It’s thirteen kilometers around this island, where you’ll find a monument marking the southernmost point in Japan at its southern tip. Geographically, Okinotori-shima lies further south but no private citizens are allowed to go ashore there, so Hateruma Island is considered Japan’s southernmost point.
Iriomote-jima: The main gateways to the island are the port towns of Uehara and Ohara, which are 35 kilometers apart. An additional round trip to Shirahama will make the total distance 60 kilometers. Covered by jungle, Iriomote-jima has a totally different landscape from the other islands.
Taketomi-jima: With a circumference of only 5 to 7 kilometers, the small island is the site of a beautifully preserved, traditional Yaeyama village.
Kohama-jima: Fifteen kilometers around, the island has some ups and downs and you can look over neighboring islands beyond the sugar cane fields.
Ishigaki-jima: It’s 104 kilometers around this beautiful island known for its laid-back pace. Check out Cycling Japan’s Winter 2011 column (available online) for a detailed report on cycling around Ishigaki.