Okinawa travel: 'Take me to Taketomi'
Okinawa's Taketomi Island is as charming as it is relaxing.
Remote but not too remote, touristy but not too touristy, traditional but not backwards.
With a population of just more than 300, it's an island that plays by its own time. And that time is about 50 years in the past.
No cars are allowed on the island, which means the traveler's only choice for transportation is foot, bicycle or ox-drawn cart.
Traditional Okinawan-style single-story houses line Taketomi's unpaved streets. They're protected with clay roof tiles and topped with Shiisa gargoyles. Gajumaru trees entwine coral-block walls.
The whole place is ringed with white-sand beaches and turquoise waters begging for a snorkel and fins.
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Easy access to paradise
One of the great things about Taketomi is how simple it is to get to.
After a two-hour flight from Tokyo to Okinawa Island, it's a 30-minute flight to Ishigaki Island. Then a 10-minute ferry ride from Ishigaki Port to Taketomi.
Finally, there's a 15-minute walk into the village at the heart of the island.
Renting a bike (1,500 yen/US$16 per day) is ther best way to get around. Several shops rent bikes -- you can’t miss them as you walk into town.
It takes an hour or two to explore the village’s tourist attractions -- Nagominoto Tower, Kihoin Temple and the Mingeikan craft center.
Another way to see the island is to take an ox-cart ride (1,200 yen) through the streets.
But the main reason to come to Taketomi is the beaches.
Families tend to congregate at Kondoi Beach -- it has showers and changing rooms -- but snorkelers prefer Hoshizuna-no-hama (“Star Sand Beach”), so named for the tiny star-shaped shells that can be found amid its sands.
Taketomi makes a great day-trip from Ishigaki Island, but you can spend the night at one of its many minshuku (bed and breakfast guesthouses), which are rustic by normal hotel standards.
Rooms run from 5,500-6,500 yen (US$60-70) per person, including breakfast.
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