Tonaki-jima Island: The 400 Residents Paradise
My trips to Tonaki-jima have been one of the most memorable journeys of my life. Not just that I already live on a Japanese tropical island, but going to an even more secluded spot in paradise- I couldn’t believe it was possible.
Tonaki-jima is located in the East China Sea and a part of the Ryukyu islands. Its size is only about 3.5km² and around 400 people call Tonaki their home. The inhabitants live on a small land strip in the center of the island, since three mountains cover most of the islands surface. The highest peak of them reaches about 170 meters. Crossing the island takes about 7 minutes, if you keep to the inhabited land strip. Walking around the whole island took me about one hour when I went there with my friends.
It was a fantastic trip, even though we got stuck on the island because of a storm. You can only reach Tonaki by a two hour boat ride. Every day there is only one trip to and from the island. So when we arrived and the weather got worse, the ferry was cancelled and there was literally no way off the island. It was quite the adventure and even though it was unexpected, it is a journey I don’t regret. The island life on Tonaki is quite unique. Quiet and slow-paced. People are friendly and very welcoming towards visitors. Life is simple there.
Tonaki only has one postman, a single tarred street, one traffic light, only AU reception, one elementary school, a community center, one vending machine and a Family Mart convenience store that is set up in a private house’s living room.
As we spent two days longer than planned on Tonaki and it was getting cold, we started making hot miso soup and rice in the little house we rented, gathered for games, good talks and went hiking to explore the beautiful island. From the peak of the highest mountain you can see the island Irisuna, which is only a few kilometers off of the coast of Tonaki and serves as a training area for the American military. We took an easy hike up to enjoy the gorgeous view of Irisuna and the ocean. The Tonaki mountains are covered in a thick jungle which is fun to fight through and as we climbed down, we discovered hidden beaches along the way and were back in time for a gorgeous sunset and warn bonfire by the water.
Tonaki is a place you retreat to. Just nature, Okinawan culture and you! An island that lets you breathe and take a break from your busy schedule and even packed sightseeing plans. If you are visiting Okinawa, make plans to come and see Tonaki-jima as well. It will be an experience you will never want to miss from your adventures.