Okinawa Tourism Information:SonaiChikuiza:ASmallGiftShopattheFootofSonaidakeMountaininIriomoteIsland

Sonai Chikuiza: A Small Gift Shop at the Foot of Sonaidake Mountain in Iriomote Island

post : 2022.06.30 23:00

Iriomote Island is one of the islands that make up Okinawa Prefecture, and the dynamic beauty of the subtropics found here is truly breathtaking. The quiet community of Sonai is situated in the western region of the island, and this is where you’ll find Sonai Chikuiza, a gift shop with a warm, inviting atmosphere.

After traveling the world, she found Iriomote Island.

Mayumi Oku, the operator of Sonai Chikuiza, worked as an editor for a fashion magazine in Tokyo. After some soul-searching and reassessing what was truly important to her, she quit her job in 2016 and set out to travel the world to broaden her horizons. She traveled alone through various countries in Africa and South America.

While traveling, Mayumi-san got her diving license during her time in Egypt. Upon returning to Japan, she began to look for a place where she could put her diving license to use and found herself smitten with the rich nature of Iriomote Island. After relocating to Iriomote Island, she worked at a diving shop and became an active member of the community, getting on well with the local islanders. During one of the gatherings of people enjoying sports, she met her present partner, Masami-san, and they soon got married. Today, Mayumi-san is a hardworking mom and an operator of the souvenir shop, Sonai Chikuiza.

A relaxing spot for all those who visit.


Many years ago, Masami-san’s grandfather relocated the family to Iriomote Island from Amami Oshima, and since that time, the family has been involved in construction work on the island. Masami-san’s father, Shigemi-san, who had taken over the family’s construction business, retired in 2020. Sonai Chikuza was established so that he could enjoy his retirement to the fullest. This lovely little shop is located at the foot of Sonai’s natural landmark, the Sonai-dake Mountain (with an altitude of 287 meters).

When you climb Sonai-dake for a short distance, they say there is a large rock in a flat area. Since long ago, it’s been said that the rock was used as a seat for the gods to take a rest. Locally, this stone throne is called Chikuiza, and in the past, this area was also known as Chikuiza.

It was Shigemi-san’s wish to make the souvenir shop, Sonai Chikuiza, a place where visitors to the island can sit down and take a relaxing break, just like the legendary stone seat, the Chikuiza.


The large Engawa, the porch area of the building, was made slightly larger than those commonly seen in Japanese structures. The reason for this is also another one of Shigemi-san’s wishes.

“Before COVID, we used the Engawa as a stage and hosted live performances and other events. Many people gathered and we had such a lovely time. Once the pandemic settles down, we hope to work together with our family and people in the community to make this place a spot for people to come together once again.” (Says Mayumi-san.)

Merchandise that lets you feel the blessings of nature and the ties among the people.

At the shop, Mayumi-san offers a selection of merchandise where the visitors to Iriomote Island will feel the essence of the island, and items that the local Iriomote residents would want to buy as gifts. These items are carefully selected or made by Mayumi-san.


Mayumi-san’s Yamaneko Zakkaten series include draw-string pouches with initials embroidered on them. These charming cloth bags are stitched with wild birds such as the ruddy kingfisher and the white-breasted waterhen, which are wildlife found on Iriomote, and all are very close to the hearts of Mayumi-san and the local Iriomote people.

The stitching is done by machine, but Maymi-san works on the embroidery around the faces one by one. Because of that, each one has a unique expression and a distinct warmth of crafts made by hand. Besides these cloth pouches, Mayumi-san also offers other original Yamaneko Zakkaten items at Sonai Chikuiza, such as small towels and kids’ T-shirts with embroidered patches with motifs of the famous wildcat of Iriomote, the Iriomote Yamaneko, as well as the Ryukyuan ruddy kingfisher, Yaeyama Marubane stag beetle, the Yaeyama Hirugi mangrove, and other animals and plants found on Iriomote Island.

Other popular items at the shop are Yamaneko Salt (Shikwasa or calamondin citrus), made with fruits harvested and shared by local farmers after abundant harvests. The Hoshi-san-chi no Okome (black-purple rice) is also another favorite among the shoppers.

The items offered here are inspired by the daily lives of the people of Iriomote Island and will let you feel the vibrant wildlife of the island, the rich blessings of nature, and the strong bonds among the people.

Momokaka: Dining at Chikuiza

Within Sonai Chikuiza is not just the souvenir shop run by Mayumi-san, but also a restaurant called Momokaka. This restaurant is operated by Maasa Nasu, a cooking specialist, and offers traditional home cooking, desserts, and beverages from different parts of Asia. The weekly lunch plate will let diners enjoy authentic tastes from Thai, Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan, and other areas. The dishes are prepared with care and are not only delicious but also very pleasing to the eye.

(Photo courtesy of Momokaka)

Since the day I visited was Baozi Day, I ordered several steamed buns to go. The steamed pork bun had a delightful balance of taste and texture, with a tender sweetness to the chewy bun and the sweet and savory seasoning on the pork. The vegetable bun had a nice crunchy texture from the ginger, and although it tasted light, it certainly satisfied my appetite. The black sesame bun had a sweetness that was just right, and the gentle aftertaste made you feel warm and happy from the inside.

If you’re looking to take a little break while visiting, how about a stop at Sonai Chikuiza to enjoy the slow and comfortable rhythm of time that passes on the island? Here, you’ll find merchandise filled with blessings of nature, the wonderful ties of people, and a lovely lunch that will leave your heart and stomach completely satisfied.


[Sonai Chikuiza ]
Address: 896-1 Iriomote, Taketomi Town, Yaeyama-gun, Okinawa
Telephone: 050-58756723
Hours: 11:00 to 16:00
Momokaka: 11:00 to 16:00 (Dine-in or take-out available)
Closed: Sundays & Mondays

Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Akiko Mizuno