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A Relaxing “Island Time” at [Nomin Minshuku (farmer’s inn) Mana] on Iriomote Island.
post : 2020.12.01 07:00
Iriomote Island is one of the Yaeyama Islands, and is about 45 minutes by high-speed boat from Ishigaki Island to Ohara Port. The island is known for its untouched wilderness, and is also popular for the many outdoor activities offered there, including canoeing, nature tours to see the waterfalls, and of course, fun in the ocean. Here, you’ll also find an inn where you can relax and experience island life as if you were staying on a farm.
"Nomin Minshuku (farmer's inn) Mana" is located in the Komi neighborhood in the eastern district, about a 15-minute drive from Ohara Port on Iriomote Island. When you enter its premises, you’ll be welcomed by a large banyan tree with impressive branches and leaves at the center of the courtyard, with a swing hanging from a branch of the tree. The scenery before your eyes is like something straight out of a picture book.
Accommodations for guests is offered in the guesthouse at the far end of the grounds, in a red-tiled house with a private atmosphere surrounded by rich greenery. The luxury of renting an entire house is exciting. As you take one step in from the entrance, there is a quiet, peaceful room with a comfortable, nostalgic atmosphere, and through the window, you can see the lush vegetation growing outside. There’s a feeling of openness because the ceiling is high, and the bookshelf and decorations on one side add to the overall ambiance and creates an out-of-the-ordinary setting.
There are two bedrooms in the guesthouse which can accommodate up to six people. There’s also a piano in the living room for the guests to play freely.
The owners, Kazuyoshi and Takako Ishihara, each had a career in Tokyo and lived their lives from one busy day to another. They began to question if this was the life that they wanted. After much thought, they moved to Nagano Prefecture in 1995 because they wanted to lead a lifestyle that gave them the freedom to live as they wanted, surrounded in nature. There, they worked at dairy farms and helped out with the work. After that, they moved to Iriomote Island in 1999, and started their farmer’s inn Mana in 2007.
The period from December to April is said to be the busiest time for a farmer. In addition to sugarcane, the Ishiharas grow and ship turmeric, roselle, and potatoes. (Roselle is processed and sold as jam.)
Kazuyoshi-san, who is currently the head of the local sugarcane production association, says with a big smile, "The sugarcane season is very busy and physically challenging, but I love this job." I was shown the sickle that Kazuyoshi-san uses when harvesting sugar cane. The handle of the sickle, which had been used heavily for four years, was deformed in the shape of Kazuyoshi-san’s hand.
"My tool becomes like a part of my body. If someone else were to used it, the blade would be broken in a day. The more I use it, the more it becomes a tool that’s exclusively for me." (Kazuyoshi-san)
Meals at Nomin Minshuku Mana is served at the Ishihara family's dining room, and enjoyed together with Kazuyoshi-san and Takako-san.
Kazuyoshi-san is in charge of the dinner preparations.
The menu of the day was local fish and vegetables boiled in oil, mini hamburger patties made with wild boar meat, miso soup with Yushidofu, Kana (seaweed) dressed with sauce, fried young Gurukun fish, tuna sashimi, and pickled roselle. All the dishes were excellent, made with ingredients unique to the island, and without additives. The wild boar was caught in the mountains of Iriomote Island by Kazuyoshi-san himself.
At the dining table, the Ishiharas have a lot of interesting stories to share about life on Iriomote from an islander's perspective. It was wonderful to learn about the way of life on the island, like living as farmers, wild boar hunting, and the local culture and festivals.
For breakfast, I enjoyed a feast of Takako-san's homemade bagels and homemade roselle jam, gentle-tasting Hechima and soy milk soup, salad with chopped roselle leaves, carrot Shiri Shiri stir-fry, and coffee from the beans roasted by Takako-san that morning. Everything was wonderful, and although simple, each dish delivered the true delightful tastes of each ingredient.
At the entrance of the inn is a small store called "Mana Shop", where you’ll find homemade, processed products such as roselle jam and powdered turmeric, as well as seasonings, natural foods, and snacks ordered by Takako-san. A local mother stopped by with her children to shop and to enjoy a little chitchat Takako-san.
In the back of the shop, you can experience Saori weaving. The warp threads hung by Takako-san are set on the two looms, and you can choose whichever loom you like. Colorful weft threads line the wall, and you can select your favorite colors and types available as you weave. The colors and designs can be decided according to the weaver’s mood at that time, and the appeal of Saori weaving is the casual and free concept of trying something new.
It's nice to try making your own original stole or shawl, or even a table center. The Saori weaving experience fee starts from ¥1,500 (+ cost of thread).
Why don't you visit "Nomin Minshuku Mana" where you can experience the relaxing life of the island in the great outdoors, and soothe your mind and body?
Nomin Minshuku Mana
Address: 202 Komi, Taketomi Town, Yaeyama, Okinawa
Closed: Irregularly (May close due to regional events)
Accommodation Rates: For 1 Guest: With Breakfast & Dinner ¥10,000
For 2 or More Guests: With Breakfast & Dinner ¥8,000 /person
*Not including tax.
*Rates are current as of October 2020.
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Akiko Mizuno