Yaeyama Islands

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Yaeyama Islands
Native name:
Yaeyama-rettō (八重山列島)
Yaeyama map.png
Map of the Yaeyama Islands
Yaeyama Islands is located in Japan
Yaeyama Islands
Yaeyama Islands
Yaeyama Islands in Japan
LocationPacific Ocean
Coordinates24°21′47″N 123°44′47″E / 24.36306°N 123.74639°E / 24.36306; 123.74639Coordinates: 24°21′47″N 123°44′47″E / 24.36306°N 123.74639°E / 24.36306; 123.74639
ArchipelagoSakishima Islands
Adjacent bodies of waterEast China Sea
Total islands23
Major islandsIshigaki Island, Iriomote Island, Yonaguni Island
Area587.16 km2 (226.70 sq mi)
Highest elevation525.5 m (1,724.1 ft)
Highest pointMount Omoto
PrefectureOkinawa Prefecture
Population53,627 (March 31, 2011[1])
Pop. density91/km2 (236/sq mi)
Ethnic groupsYaeyama (Ryukyuan), Japanese
Location of the Yaeyama Islands in Okinawa Prefecture
Satellite image of Iriomote and Ishigaki in the Yaeyama Islands

The Yaeyama Islands (八重山列島 Yaeyama-rettō, also 八重山諸島 Yaeyama-shotō, Yaeyama: Yaima, Yonaguni: Daama, Okinawan: Yeema) are an archipelago in the southwest of Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, and cover 591.46 square kilometres (228.36 sq mi).[1] The islands are located southwest of the Miyako Islands, part of the Ryukyu Islands archipelago.[2] The Yaeyama Islands are the remotest part of Japan from the main islands and contain Japan's most southern (Hateruma) and most western (Yonaguni) inhabited islands.[3] The city of Ishigaki serves as the political, cultural, and economic center of the Yaeyama Islands.[4]

The Yaeyama Islands are home to numerous species of subtropical and tropical plants, and mangrove forests.[3][5] The islands produce sugarcane and pineapples.[2][6] Coral reefs around the islands are ideal habitats for dolphins, sea turtles, and larger fish such as manta rays and whale sharks. Before being wiped out by humans, whales and dugongs were common as well, and Yaeyama once had the largest population of dugongs in the Ryukyu Islands. On Aragusuku Island, there is a Utaki which specially enshrines hunted dugongs with their skulls, but non-residents are not permitted to enter unless they receive special permission from inhabitants, and it is said that any aliens without permission will be driven out by force.


The islands form the southern part of the volcanic Ryukyu Islands. The administrative division of Yaeyama District covers all of the Yaeyama Islands, except Ishigaki and the disputed Senkaku Islands.

Inhabited islands[1][edit]


The Yonaguni language is the indigenous language of the island of Yonaguni. The Yaeyama language is the indigenous language of the rest of the islands. Japanese is now the native language of most of the population.

The Yaeyama Islands are home to the production of traditional Okinawan textiles.[2]

Mushaama Festival[edit]

14 July: Mushaama Festival. On Hateruma Island, this harvest festival is celebrated during Obon. It features a parade of the local fertility god Miruku and his children (the local children), shishi ("lion") dances, and staff dances.


  1. ^ a b c 第1 指定離島・島しょ・人口 (PDF). 離島関係資料(平成24年1月) (in Japanese). 沖縄県企画部地域・離島課. January 2012. pp. 2, 8. Retrieved December 13, 2012. External link in |work= (help)
  2. ^ a b c "Yaeyama Islands". Encyclopedia of Japan. Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC 56431036. Retrieved 2012-12-04.
  3. ^ a b "八重山諸島" [Yaeyama Islands]. Nihon Rekishi Chimei Taikei (in Japanese). Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC 173191044. Retrieved 2012-12-04.
  4. ^ "Ishigaki". Encyclopedia of Japan. Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC 56431036. Retrieved 2012-12-31.
  5. ^ "自然環境の保全に関する指針 八重山編(陸域)" [Guidelines for conservation of the natural environment]. Okinawa Prefectural Government (in Japanese). Okinawa Prefectural Government. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  6. ^ "八重山諸島" [Yaeyama Islands]. Dijitaru Daijisen (in Japanese). Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC 56431036. Retrieved 2012-12-04.

External links[edit]