We visit a hidden gem in Okinawa that’s home to fewer than 250 people.

Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost prefecture, has over 100 islands, with some of the most remote in the beautiful Yaeyama archipelago. Popular tourist spot Ishigaki is located within the Yaeyama archipelago, and our reporter Kouhey has visited Ishigaki many a time, where he’s tried local delicacies like goat soup or tasty bread.

Having become quite familiar with Ishigaki, Kouhey decided to head somewhere different for his most recent trip down to Okinawa: a Yaeyama island called Kuroshima, or Kuro Island.

Kuroshima is also known as Cow Island, as its cows easily outnumber its people. With a population of just 220 people, there are thirteen cows to every person on the island.

Kuroshima is also known as Heart Island, as it is shaped like a heart, but even those who aren’t a fan of cows or love will find something to like about this charming island as, like many Okinawan islands, it’s overflowing with beautiful natural scenery.

Kouhey was keen to check out Cow/Heart/Kuroshima Island, and so hopped on a ferry from Ishigaki.

After a peaceful 30-minute ferry trip, Kouhey arrived.

▼ It really does look like a heart!

The circumference of the island is around 12 kilometers (7.4 miles), and with no public transport available, the only way for tourists like Kouhey to travel around is via rental bicycles. After hopping on his bike, Kouhey’s first stop was Iko Pier.

The journey from the port to Iko Pier took around 10 minutes, and the ride was quite peaceful and pleasant.

When he arrived, Kouhey was met with a gorgeous ocean view.

Not only was the view amazing, but there were no other people around, so Kouhey got to enjoy it all by himself. The pier was around 350 meters long, so Kouhey decided to walk the entire length to see what was at the end of it…

… and when he got there he saw an endless emerald ocean view!

Having had his fill of the scenic oceanfront, Kouhey hopped back on his bike and made his way to his next stop, Agaritsuji Village. As expected of the so-called Cow Island, the journey was filled with cattle grazing at the roadside.

He also cycled past general store Tama Shoten, one of the only pieces of proof he’d seen so far that people actually lived on this island.

Another three-minute bike ride and Kouhey arrived at Agaritsuji village. The red tiles on the roof and the stone walls surrounding the houses gave off a real vibe of Okinawa from times past.

Once he’d gotten his fill of the village, Kouhey was back on his bike, this time heading to Nakamoto Beach.

It took a bit of time to get to the beach from the village, but the journey was gorgeous and filled with views like the one below, so Kouhey enjoyed every second.

Of course, there were plenty of cows to keep him company along the way too!

Not only that, but the cows were hanging out with a bunch of white birds! Where else would you see such a scene but on a remote island like this?

With the image of cows frolicking with white birds burned into his memory, Kouhey arrived at Nakatomo Beach.

The view was spectacular here, too, and with no one else on the beach Kouhey felt like he was on his own private island.

The next stop on the island tour was a rocky mound called Puzumari. It was built during the Ryukyu Kingdom era (1429 to 1879) as a way to look out for any ships approaching the island, and is the highest point on Kuro Island.

From Puzumari, it was another bike ride to the Kuroshima Research Institute, a facility where sea turtles are studied. Kuroshima is unique as it is the only place in all of Japan where all three species of sea turtles (loggerhead, green, and hawksbill) lay their eggs.

With all the sightseeing spots done, Kouhey made his way back to the port. Along the way, he heard a voice coming from a megaphone…

… which was coming from a cattle market holding an auction nearby. Kuroshima cows are sold to all corners of Japan, and though Kouhey couldn’t go inside to watch, over 100 were sold at the auction, with successful bidders heading to the port with their cows shortly after.

And with that, Kouhey’s whirlwind tour of Kuro Island was complete, and he found himself at the harbour once more, ready to head home.

If you’re looking for a unique Okinawan trip, why not try Kuro Island? The houses and buildings maintain a traditional Okinawan vibe. Compared to popular tourist spots like Ishigaki, there are significantly less people around, so you can enjoy feeling like you’re on your own private island.

And once you’re done with Kuro Island you can hit up nearby Taketomi to see some equally beautiful scenes!

Source: Visit Okinawa Japan
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