About the islands & flights

Welcome to Japan!

We try to capture the beauty of the Japanese remote islands through our photography to help tourism in these remote areas. The population flow into the over-populated big cities is still increasing, especially to Tokyo which is a big problem for Japan. There are 6,852 islands in Japan, and over 500 of them used to be inhabited before WWII. But now only 416 islands are inhabited. We have covered just a small selection on this website. So just to get you orientated, the map below gives a bit of a guide to the locations.

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There is a lot of beauty in Japan, from cultural beauty to natural beauty. And some not so beautiful areas. The housing of locals on many of the islands in Japan tend to fall into the not so beautiful category, for a few reasons. As with the many parts of Pacific Asia, Japan is often severely beaten by typhoons. In recent decades typhoons have been getting stronger and more frequent, so many people live in ugly concrete housing as they are more durable and easier to maintain than traditional housing. Many people believe that as they are surrounded by beautiful nature anyway, there is little point putting great effort into gardens due to the frequency of typhoons, and the low income status of many people on these islands makes it difficult to beautify their gardens. Places which receive government funding for cultural heritage, such as Taketomi Island, are different. Islands like this have income solely from tourism, whereas many other islands have other means of income, such as fishing or agriculture.

Discount flights within Japan

Special fares for foreign visitors

Note: JAL and ANA revised the pricing system of these special fares after the pandemic. Depending on the date, time and route, the prices of these special fares can be actually higher than early-bird/discount fares available to the general public on their websites. It’s best to compare first.
Those who are visiting Japan as tourists are entitled to special fares with ANA (All Nippon Airlines) and JAL (Japan Airlines). For example, one-way direct flight fares between Tokyo and Naha are as low as JPY14,000.

Domestic low-cost airlines

If you live in Japan and are not entitled to the special fares for foreign visitors, or you are searching for even lower fares, try the domestic low-cost airlines:
Note: Sometimes early-bird/discount fares from JAL and ANA can be cheaper than the following low-cost airlines.

Car hire in Japan

Note: On average, there are 50% less rental cars compared to the pre-covid era on most Japanese islands as they had to get rid of their cars during the pandemic in order to survive, so it’s best to book a few months in advance.
You can hire a car cheaply in Japan if it is reserved in advance through Japanese booking sites such as Times Car Rental, Tabirai, ORIX Rent-A-Car and the Japanese version of Rakuten Travel. An International Driving Permit (IDP) is essential if you do not hold a Japanese license. It must be the Geneva-convention type which has the Japanese translation page (please note that the Vienna-convention type does NOT have the translation page and will not be accepted in Japan). An IDP is an identity document that allows the holder to drive a private motor vehicle in any country that recognises IDPs. To be valid, the IDP must be accompanied by a valid driving license. The IDP must be arranged in your home country prior to departure, and usually lasts one year.

Nationals of Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium, Slovenia, Monaco, Estonia and Taiwan; You cannot obtain the Geneva convention International Drivers License (which is accepted in Japan), so you need to get a translation of your license through JAF (Japan Automobile Federation). You can do it yourself once you arrive in Japan by visiting a JAF office in person (which may take some time), or if in advance you will have to ask someone in Japan to do it for you. Please note that many islands such as Ishigaki Island do not have a JAF office.

General island tips

About wind direction – the best beach of the day

As with all islands — In order to have good water clarity with calm water (and an enjoyable day for everyone!), it’s wise to choose a beach sheltered from the wind, chosen according to the wind direction of the day. For example, when it’s a north wind, beaches facing south will have calm water with better water clarity (or beaches facing west/east if there is a cape sheltering the beach on the north side). The wind can also affect the feeling temperature significantly. For example, on Ishigaki Island in winter, 24°C/75°F with a 5 m/s north wind feels like 19°C/66°F on a beach facing north, whereas it feels like 24°C/75°F on a beach facing south.

About tides and off-the-beach snorkeling with coral

It’s good to be aware of the tidal schedule everyday, as the water level becomes very low at low tide and becomes unsuitable for off-the-beach swimming and snorkeling. It is best to snorkel at high tide, as damage can be caused to the coral with fins if the sea is not high enough. This applies to most islands of Kagoshima, Okinawa and Ogasawara (Tokyo).

About ocean garbage on beaches

Everyone loves visiting pristine clean beaches, however we strongly believe that it’s important that everyone experiences at least one heavily polluted beach, to understand the detrimental effect of single-use plastic. It’s also a really good lesson for kids to fully understand the impact of single use plastic, and our own daughter has become environmentally conscious from experiencing these types of beaches. The rubbish is washed ashore from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (For those who can distinguish Asian characters, you will notice that over 90% of ocean garbage on the southwest Japanese islands are from other Asian countries, however it’s important to be aware that a lot of ocean garbage from Japan is washed ashore on Hawaiian islands). If the beach looks clean, it means that it has been cleaned up by the municipality/volunteers, or all the ocean garbage got pushed deep inside the forest/bushes behind the beaches by typhoons, or the beach got lucky with the wind and current direction. As scientists have discovered, there is not a single beach without plastic garbage in the Pacific, and it is impossible now to escape microplastics. Where possible, please collect ocean garbage and dispose of it properly at your accommodation. Most accommodations receive ocean garbage bags for volunteer clean-ups, or you can receive bags from the city hall.

About pumice stones

An underwater volcano erupted in August 2021 near the Ogasawara Islands (1,000km off directly south of Tokyo Bay), which spewed large amounts of pumice stone into the ocean, which float on the water surface. Between November 2021 and January 2022, these floating pumice stones arrived on the coasts between the Japanese southwest islands and Taiwan. The islands of Kagoshima (such as the Amami Islands) and the northern islands of Okinawa (such as Okinawa Main Island) have been most affected. The local governments have been working hard to remove them, but it’s a long process so still many beaches (especially non-tourist beaches) have these ugly grey pumice stones disrupting the natural beauty of white sand beaches. Fortunately on Miyako Islands and Yaeyama Islands (like Ishigaki), mostly only the beaches facing north or east have been affected. Many of the beaches facing south or west didn’t get affected.

Outdoor day trips from central Tokyo

For those who are looking for outdoor day trip destinations from central Tokyo, check out our Tokyo Outdoor Day Trips for river hiking, stream trekking and kayaking.