The Yaeyama Islands (八重山列島 Yaeyama-rettō, also 八重山諸島 Yaeyama-shotō, Yaeyama: Yaima, Yonaguni: Daama, Okinawan: Yeema, Northern Ryukyuan: やへま Yapema) are an archipelago in the southwest of Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, and cover 591.46 square kilometres (228.36 sq mi).[1] The islands are located southwest of the Miyako Islands, part of the Ryukyu Islands archipelago.[2] The Yaeyama Islands are the remotest part of Japan from the main islands and contain Japan's most southern (Hateruma) and most western (Yonaguni) inhabited islands.[3] The city of Ishigaki serves as the political, cultural, and economic center of the Yaeyama Islands.[4] On maps dating to the 1700s, the Yaeyama Group of Islands appears as the "Majico Sima Group",[5][6] "Nambu-soto Islands",[7] "Nambu Soto",[8] and the "Taipin Islands".[9]

Yaeyama Islands
Native name:
Yaeyama-rettō (八重山列島)
Map of the Yaeyama Islands
Yaeyama Islands is located in Japan
Yaeyama Islands
Yaeyama Islands
Yaeyama Islands in Japan
LocationPacific Ocean
Coordinates24°21′47″N 123°44′47″E / 24.36306°N 123.74639°E / 24.36306; 123.74639
ArchipelagoSakishima Islands
Adjacent toEast China Sea
Total islands23
Major islandsIshigaki Island, Iriomote Island, Yonaguni Island
Area587.16 km2 (226.70 sq mi)
Highest elevation525.5 m (1724.1 ft)
Highest pointMount Omoto
PrefectureOkinawa Prefecture
Population53,627 (March 31, 2011[1])
Pop. density91/km2 (236/sq mi)
Ethnic groupsRyukyuans, Japanese



The name Yaeyama literally means "multilayered mountains", and is related to the native name Yaima in Yaeyama, which possibly comes from a reconstructed Proto-Ryukyuan form *jajama (pronounced *yayama with tone class A).[10]

Natural history


The Yaeyama Islands are home to numerous species of subtropical and tropical plants and mangrove forests.[3][11] The islands produce sugarcane and pineapples.[2][12]

Coral reefs around the islands are ideal habitats for dolphins, sea turtles, and larger fish such as manta rays and whale sharks. Before being wiped out by humans, whales and dugongs were common as well, and Yaeyama once had the largest population of dugongs in the Ryukyu Islands. On Aragusuku Island, there is an utaki or sacred place that specially enshrines hunted dugongs with their skulls, but non-residents are not permitted to enter unless they receive special permission from inhabitants, and it is said that anyone without permission will be driven out by force.

The islands have been recognised as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because they support populations of resident black wood pigeons and Ryukyu green pigeons, wintering ruddy turnstones, migrating grey-tailed tattlers, and breeding colonies of bridled, roseate and black-naped terns.[13]

Satakentia liukiuensis, the Yaeyama palm, is only species in the genus Satakentia, is endemic to the two islands of Ishigaki and Iriomote in the Yaeyama Islands.[14]



The islands form the southern part of the volcanic Ryukyu Islands. The administrative division of Yaeyama District covers all of the Yaeyama Islands, except Ishigaki and the disputed Senkaku Islands.

Inhabited islands





The Yonaguni language is the indigenous language of the island of Yonaguni. The Yaeyama language is the indigenous language of the rest of the islands. Japanese is now the native language of most of the population.

The Yaeyama Islands are home to the production of traditional Okinawan textiles.[2]

Mushaama Festival


14 July: Mushaama Festival. On Hateruma Island, this harvest festival is celebrated during Obon. It features a parade of the local fertility god Miruku and his children (the local children), shishi ("lion") dances, and staff dances.


  1. ^ a b c 第1 指定離島・島しょ・人口 (PDF). 離島関係資料(平成24年1月) (in Japanese). 沖縄県企画部地域・離島課. January 2012. pp. 2, 8. Retrieved December 13, 2012. From:
  2. ^ a b c "Yaeyama Islands". Encyclopedia of Japan. Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC 56431036. Retrieved 2012-12-04.
  3. ^ a b "八重山諸島" [Yaeyama Islands]. Nihon Rekishi Chimei Taikei (in Japanese). Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC 173191044. Retrieved 2012-12-04.
  4. ^ "Ishigaki". Encyclopedia of Japan. Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC 56431036. Retrieved 2012-12-31.
  5. ^ Stanford, Edward (1895). Stanford's Library Map Of Asia (New ed.). London: Stanford's Geographical Establishment. pp. 26–27. Retrieved 2 Aug 2023.
  6. ^ Geographicus. "1873 Roche-Poncié Nautical Chart Map of Taiwan / Formosa". Geographicus: rare antique maps. Geographicus. Retrieved 2 Aug 2023.
  7. ^ Stanford, Edward (1895). Stanford's Library Map Of Asia (New ed.). London: Stanford's Geographical Establishment. pp. 26–27. Retrieved 2 Aug 2023.
  8. ^ Stanford, Edward (1904). Stanford's London atlas of universal geography exhibiting the physical and political divisions of the various countries of the world (Third Edition, revised and enlarged. ed.). London: Edward Standford, Geographer to Her Majesty. p. 57. Retrieved 2 Aug 2023.
  9. ^ Postlehwayt, Malachy (1707-1767); Boulton, S.; Bolton, Emanuel; Seale, Richard William (1755). The Universal Dictionary Of Trade and Commerce Composite Map (of Asia), Second Part of Asia (Fourth Edition, note: published in 1774, date on map reads 1755 in Roman Numerals ed.). London: W.Strahan, J. & F.Rivington. p. I-VIII. Retrieved 2 Aug 2023.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics. "語彙詳細 - 日本の危機言語 (Detailed vocabulary - Endangered Languages of Japan)" (in Japanese). Retrieved 14 June 2024.
  11. ^ "自然環境の保全に関する指針 八重山編(陸域)" [Guidelines for conservation of the natural environment]. Okinawa Prefectural Government (in Japanese). Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  12. ^ "八重山諸島" [Yaeyama Islands]. Dijitaru Daijisen (in Japanese). Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC 56431036. Retrieved 2012-12-04.
  13. ^ "Yaeyama islands". BirdLife Data Zone. BirdLife International. 2021. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  14. ^ Dransfield, John; Uhl, Natalie W.; Asmussen, Conny B.; Baker, William J.; Harley, Madeline M.; Lewis, Carl E. (2008). Genera Palmarum: The Evolution and Classification of Palms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. ISBN 978-1-84246-182-2.