Introducing Yaeyama Islands
At the far southwestern end of the Nansei-shotō are the islands of the Yaeyama group, which include the two main islands of Ishigaki-jima and Iriomote-jima as well as a scattering of 17 isles between and beyond. Located near the Tropic of Cancer, the Yaeyama-shotō are renowned for their spectacular beaches, superb diving and lush landscapes. The islands are also a haven for Japanese freeters (alternative lifestylers), which means you’re bound to meet an intriguing cast of characters during your travels here.
Much like the Miyako-shotō, the Yaeyama islands are experiencing a boom in domestic tourism, though few foreigners make it this far south. This is a shame as the Yaeyama group is arguably the top destination in the Nansei-shotō, and you could easily spend weeks indulging in the diverse sights and activities that the islands have to offer. Increased transportation links have also made the main island of Ishigaki easier to access than ever, and there’s an elaborate inter-island ferry network to help facilitate your island-hopping fantasies.