Okinawa, the southernmost Japanese archipelago, will become even more of a cultural draw to global travelers in March 2013.
Renovated Ishigaki Airport will reopen on March 7, welcoming international adventure seekers and cultural explorers to the surrounding Yayeyama Islands, where Okinawa’s tradition and culture still reign supreme. Near the airport is the new luxury accommodation, JUSANDI (pronounced yusandi), offering 5 suite villas on a private beach adjacent to the famous Blue Cave.
Located about an hour’s flight from Okinawa’s main island and 1,240 miles from Tokyo, the 32 Yaeyama islands are Japan’s paradise lost, rich with traditional Ryukyu culture, the original kingdom of Okinawa that ended only in the 19th century. The area is one of world’s top scuba-diving spots, thanks to crystal-clear waters and the atoll that surrounds Okinawa. On the east side of Ishigaki is the world’s largest blue coral leaves, a rare habitat of giant manta rays, and a brilliant starry night sky that showcases over 86 constellations out of the total of 88. Even the Southern Cross comes into view from January through June. The islands also boast mangrove habitats, where visitors can join unique kayaking tours that travel through natural mangrove forests.
In order to foster access to magnificent rich nature without disturbing the environment’s natural assets, development of the Yaeyamas focuses on eco-tourism and eco-friendly structures. Even the new Ishigaki Airport is designed to protect the local ecology and promote sustainable tourism on the islands. Thanks to their remote location, all Yaeyama islands boast most of Okinawa’s time-honored traditions, including traditional architecture, music, pottery, and a local cuisine that promotes longevity, which together inspire a new generation of artists.
In the second decade of the 21st century, visitors to the Yaeyama Islands will appreciate the efforts to balance international tourism with Okinawa’s natural beauty and unique culture that has been cultivated over the centuries. Best of all, Ishigaki’s new airport gives direct access from all major cities in Japan, including two international airports in Tokyo, giving greater opportunity for travelers to experience this hidden and well-preserved Okinawan paradise.