- Daisuke Okui
Transportation by buffalo cart, Across the sea to Yubu Island (Okinawa)
What is Yubu Island?
Yubu Island is a small island of 2 km in circumference floating about 500 m off the east side of Iriomote Island. The island was originally formed by the accumulation of earth and sand that flowed out of the river of Iriomote Island. The history of human habitation began when people established their bases on Yubu Island, which was outside the infected area, to avoid malaria in Iriomote Island. Especially in the 20th century, many people migrated from Kuro Island and Taketomi Island. Buffaloes were also brought in for cultivation around this time, and their numbers increased.
However, the typhoon that hit the island in 1969 caused devastating damage, and the residents moved to the Mihara district of Iriomote Island on the opposite shore. What Shoji Iriomote, who remained on Yubu Island, aimed for was to turn the island into a botanical garden. He continued to plant tropical plants and completed the entire island as a subtropical botanical paradise. He also converted buffaloes, which were originally used for agriculture, into buffalo carts for tourists, and the island has now become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iriomote Island.
How to get to Yubu Island, access
From Ohara Port, the main port of Iriomote Island, it takes about 20 minutes by car or local bus to the buffalo cart terminal on the Iriomote Island side. From there, it takes about 10 minutes to cross the sea on a buffalo cart.
Crossing the sea on a buffalo cart
The scene that dominated Japanese TV commercials in the past, in which a buffalo cart travels through the sea lined with telephone poles, is still alive and well today. If the tide is low, you can walk across to the island, but part of the fun of Yubu Island is the slow ride on the buffalo cart. The driver will tell you stories about Yubu Island and the buffalo, and you will be treated to sanshin (Okinawan traditional three-stringed instrument) singing.
Places to visit on Yubu Island
The circumference of the island is about 2 km, and you can visit all the highlights of the island on foot. Please take your time and enjoy the island-wide botanical garden that is the fruit of Shoji Iriomote's dream.
The buffalo pond appears as soon as you enter the island. During the daytime, off-duty buffaloes can be seen relaxing. Sometimes you can see mothers raising their calves, which makes you feel relaxed. Incidentally, the buffaloes on Yubu Island are Asiatic buffaloes originally brought from Taiwan.
Butterflies flit about in large numbers in the greenhouse, which is filled with a variety of flowers. In particular, be sure to spot the giant sessile butterfly, which is one of the largest butterflies in Japan. It is also the prefectural butterfly of Okinawa, and it is said to bring good luck if you can find the golden cocoon of a Giant Giant Crow Butterfly. There are many other butterflies flying around.
Manta Ray Beach stretches on the east side of the island. The Yonara Channel, which runs between Yubu Island and Kohama Island on the east side of the island, is called "Manta Way" because manta rays often migrate there. On clear days, the view is spectacular.
Bougainvillea Garden is located on the northernmost side of the island. The bougainvillea is at its peak around winter, but you can enjoy the flowers all year round as they are kept in a greenhouse.
Various subtropical plants that Mr. Shoji Iriomote continued to plant can be seen on the island. You can enjoy plants and flowers throughout the year, such as coconut palms, mangroves, nanyosugi, and giant kelp, etc.