13 Feb 2019 in In immersion
Experience traditional island life at a remote Okinawan retreat.
From Ishigaki airport, it’s 30 minutes by bus or taxi to the city’s ferry port. Board the small passenger ferry and, in just 10 minutes, you’ll be transported to a place virtually untouched by time.
The tiny island of Taketomi is just 1 mile wide and 3 miles long, a subtropical paradise where Okinawan traditions are kept alive by the local population of just 360 people.
At the small ferry port, staff from HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island will be waiting to drive you to the resort, a collection of luxury villas built in the island’s signature style of wood and red roof tiles.
You’ll be guided to your private villa on an electric cart. The winding, white sand streets and stacked coral walls that separate the villas perfectly mirror the style of Taketomi’s three tiny villages (all situated on the same part of the island, a mile from the resort).
Make sure you enter your villa from the left: locals believe this is the entrance of people, while the right side is reserved for the Gods. You’ll notice a mischievous-looking shisa lion on top of your roof, a local architectural feature to ward off evil spirits.
Inside, huge sliding glass doors cover the whole side of the villa facing your private garden.
Many villas have a large free-standing bathtub set back from the living area – allowing you to enjoy a soak with a view on the garden!
From your villa, head toward the centre of the resort, where the lounge and dining buildings lie on one side of a 46-metre-long oval swimming pool, heated all year round and open 24/7.
Take a dip now if you like!
The Yuntaku Lounge is also open all hours, a place where you can help yourself to local snacks and drinks.
Every afternoon, a concert is held in here featuring beautiful, melodic singing to the strum of the Okinawan sanshin.
Often sung in the local dialect, it’s a great introduction to Taketomi’s unique culture.
Take a stroll through the resort’s garden, which includes rows of Taketomi potato and millet – an effort to preserve island traditions that are dying out with the older generation. Then head down to Aiyaru beach, just a few minutes away.
With most daytrippers gone, you’ll probably find yourself alone here. Take a moment to watch the waves rolling in, breaking gently against the clusters of coral.
Back at the restaurant, you’re in for a gourmet treat. The 8-course dinner combines Okinawan ingredients with French culinary techniques, including wine pairings.
The meal is full of gleeful surprises, such as succulent kuruma ebi shrimp steamed over hot coral in front of you.
Or island yam served as a gratin dauphinois with pork (an Okinawan speciality) marinated in shikuwasa, a citrus fruit somewhere between lime and tangerine.
In the evening, the lounge transforms into the Moonlight Awamori Bar – a chance to mix yourself a cocktail with local fruit and awamori, Okinawa’s take on sake. Take your glass outside and watch the sky by night: lighting is kept to a minimum to ensure the very best star-gazing.
Before the daytrippers hit the island, take a tour of the villages in a cart pulled by a water buffalo!
The first ride of the day is reserved for guests at HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island, and it’s a fun introduction to island culture. Your driver-guide will let you in on local secrets, including a rendition of an island folk song.
Breakfast back at the resort. For the full blow-out, choose the Ryukyu farmers’ menu, a dozen dishes of creatively-prepared pork, fish, yam and other specialities.
Alternatively, opt for a classic Japanese or Western breakfast.
Time to discover the island! The best way to get around is by taking one of the resort’s bikes, freely available to guests. The terrain is relatively flat, and nowhere is too far away.
Head to the two western beaches: Kaiji, known for its “star-shaped sand”, formed by tiny crustaceans in the sand; and Kondoi beach, where calm crystal-clear waters make it the island’s top spot for swimming.
Further north, the rocky outcrops of Misashi are a great place to see shoals of luminescent fish. Bring your snorkelling gear!
Alternatively, take a wander through the village or try your hand at weaving on a traditional loom at the Folk Craft Museum.
HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island can organize this for you, as well as anything from scuba diving to an outing on a traditional sabani fishing boat or lunch at one of the village’s restaurants.
Just how you experience Taketomi’s unique culture is entirely up to you.