The Yaeyamas include the islands of Ishigaki, Taketomi, Iriomote, Hateruma and others. Do you want to know the smallest populated island in Yaeyamas? It is Hatoma Island, located 5.4 kilometers north of Iriomote Island with a total area of slightly less than one square kilometer and a circumference is just four kilometers. The population as of the end of July, 2016 was less than 50.
The port is located on the south side of the island, just in front of the main populated area. There are no stores, but there are a few restaurants and about ten inns scattered around. Out of many old wooden buildings, there is one that is modern-looking. As the island gets crowded with seasonal tourists, one inn in particular, Pension Maitouze, is popular with women and family travelers because of its modern looks and cute name.
I have stress one point: the small inn is not a typical resort type hotel. Each unit is built individually and great if you prefer privacy. There are rooms for seven couples (pictured) and two large rooms for families.
I would also like to mention the yuntaku (“chatting”) space. The purpose of this area is for guests to socialize with each other over awamori (Okinawan sake). It has a wide roof and is furnished with a large table.
Each room is equipped with electronic mosquito repellent and air conditioning. There are no televisions, fans, Wi-Fi, soap, shampoo, conditioner, towels or toothbrushes. The refrigerator, bathroom, shower, the small kitchen and a washer (paid) are shared by guests in a common area, although larger rooms come with their own bathroom, shower and kitchenette.
One unique feature about Maitouze is that meals are served 300 meters away from the inn.
The dining space is a two-story wooden house that takes about 5 minutes to walk to from the inn. It fronts the ocean, facing south. You can enjoy your breakfast watching the shiny surface of the ocean and may want to enjoy snorkeling before lunch. The sun sets off to the right as you enjoy a romantic dinner. Watching the change of scenery on the ocean through each meal is unique and beautiful experience.
Guest meals are served on the first floor. The second floor terrace is BBQ chicken restaurant bar Yorimichi. At night, the terrace gets crowded with people from other inns. Many guests go upstairs after dinner and toast the night with beer.
Many island ingredients are used to prepare the meals. The main course at dinner is local fresh fish. The owne (a former fisherman) and his wife catch seasonal fish and cook them in different ways such as simmered, deep-fried, in soups or as sashimi. I liked the gurukun (bananafish) simmered or as sashimi for dinner and the fresh egg omelet for breakfast. They really filled me up.
Duck soba is available for lunch and it is so delicious! The owner bought a few French ducks a few years ago, and now there are 50 of them near the premises. This delicious soba noodle dish is available for non-guests as well.
Maitouze was built on the island in 1983. The rooms and the dining space are all in good shape and well-maintained despite their age. “I was working in Tokyo when I was young,” said owner Kenji Tsuji. “I came back to the island in 1982 and opened the inn the next year. The original building was located near the port, but I had it moved to the current location and have been renovating a little at a time since then.”
By the way, have you noticed the unique name “Maitouze”? There are two Tsuuji families on the island. His Tsuuji family is located in the front (maeno) area so the inn's name is a play on the words “front Tsuuji.” The last name Tsuuji originally came from Kyoto in the Kamakura period. “My ancestor worked in the Shuri area for the Ryukyu Kingdom as an interpreter between Ryukyu and China,” Kenji said. So his rare family name is part of Okinawan history. I was so impressed.
“The dining hall is also our living space,” Kenji continued. “I made sleeping quarters for guests separately thinking they would feel more relaxed a bit further away from us.” Maybe he's right. Maybe guests will enjoy socializing with other guests and the owner with a great ocean view more when they eat. Kenji tries to provide a lively and engaging stay for his guests.
At night. When the lights go out at the Yuntaku space, the darkness is total. Once, every few minutes, light from Hatoma's lighthouse passes overhead. When your eyes get accustomed to the darkness, you begin to notice the galaxy full of stars spreading over the sky. When you visit Hatoma Island, I recommend that you stay overnight so you notice the many small, happy things that appear around the clock.
Address: 46-2 Hatoma, Taketomi Town, Yaeyama-gun, Okinawa
Fees: 6,000 yen per night with three meals *tax included
Check in time: Depends on the boat schedule
Check out time: 9:30