Iriomote Island is located about 200km east of Taiwan and known as ‘Galapagos of Asia. The aim of this project is to advocate and to protect the precious ecosystem and the unique cultural heritages of Iriomote Island to be preserved for the next generations. We will promote four key actions as the core themes of the project: “Let's learn about it.”, “Let's protect it.”, “Let's talk about it.”, and “Let's conserve it.”
“Let's learn how to walk with care for the natural environment and ecosystem of Iriomote Island and learn about its traditional life and culture.”
“Let's follow the rules and mind our manners to protect Iriomote's sea, mountains, rivers and the wildlife that lives there.”,
“Let's talk spread words about the wonders of nature on Iriomote Island, the present challenges they face.”
“Let's to conserve the abundant nature and unique cultural heritags of Iriomote for children who will be its guardians in the future.”
To pass on the abundant nature and unique heritage of Iriomote Island to the next generation.
One of the islands in the Yaeyama group in Okinawa Prefecture, Iriomote Island is located about 2,000 km southwest of Tokyo and some five hours away. The island's area is about 289 km2, and most of it is designated as a national park. Iriomote is home to rare and abundant nature and ecology, including a virgin forest with subtropical flora and fauna, such as the Iriomote wild cat, an endangered species with only 100 of the animals remaining, as well as Japan's largest mangrove forest.
Also, when speaking about the attractions of Iriomote, we cannot ignore the island's hundreds of years of traditional culture. Festivals are held at turning points of the seasons and are an important part of the culture of the people of Iriomote who have continued to coexist with nature. In particular, the Shichi Festival is also registered as an important intangible cultural property of Japan.
Photo (C) Iriomote Wildlife Conservation Center
Ethical tourism in Iriomote Island
While it has a population of about 2,400 residents, Iriomote Island is a popular tourist destination that has been attracting more than 300,000 people each year in recent years. In peak periods of visitors, the island began suffering from overtourism, and concerns mounted over increases in traffic accidents involving the endangered Iriomote wild cats and damage to the vegetation and ecosystems. Additionally, it is now well-known that Iriomote is a candidate for designation as a World Natural Heritage site in 2020. As such, it is expected that the number of tourists will increase after this registration, further prompting concerns about increasing overtourism. In order to protect and pass on the island's precious nature to the next generation, all of us as tourists must know, learn, think and act upon these real issues.
Be an ethical tourist!
Us 4 IRIOMOTE will continue to advocate for ethical tourism in Iriomote Island.
Leave No Trace (LNT) Tour in Japnan to promote conscious outdoor leadership education
Wilderness Education Association Japan（WEAJ） instructors of the field leader training group are riding around the entire nation in Kei class mini trucks promoting Leave No Trace (LNT) activities, a global outdoor eco-friendly program that the YMCA and Boy Scouts have also adopted.
YAMANEKO 530 Art Project
As a traveler visiting the island, in order to preserve
the beautiful nature and culture of Iriomote Island,
we need to act with compassion and consideration.
By participating in YAMANEKO 530 ART, you can
learn about the problem of which Yaeyama Islands
and the world facing. Join us and look back at
our life style that rely heavily on plastic products.
How to participate this project?
1) Pick small pieces of plastic waste at the beach
The quantity isn’t matter, Just bring as much as you can grab in your palm or pocket
2) Bring it back to the harbor and put it in
the YAMANEKO 530 ART BOX
Japan Tiger and Elephant Fund（JTEF）
To prevent traffic accidents with the cats, the teams patrol at night to remind drivers to slow down and to remove any roadkill from the roadway, which may end up attracting the wild cats.
Support by Us 4 IRIOMOTE:
Increasing staff for the night patrols and educating the local residents. Promoting guidelines that prevent car accidents and roadkill.
Only 100 cats
Iriomote cats live exclusively on Iriomote Island, with only 100 cats in the population. They are designated as a nationally protected animal of Japan and are also listed as a critically endangered species. The biggest threat to the cats are getting killed by cars. With the increasing number of people coming to the island, the traffic volume has grown and the number of road killed cats are increasing as well. In 2018, nine wild cats were killed in traffic accidents and it was the most ever recorded.
photo (C) Iriomote Wildlife Conservation Center.
Iriomote Island Eco-Tourism Association
A nonprofit organization that aims to create a place where people and nature can coexist, and it is conducting various activities to sustain a lifestyle where people can be closely interrelated with the abundant natural environment of Iriomote into the future as well.
Environmental awareness programs for local tour guide and children will be jointly organized with Us 4 IRIOMOTE.
Together with local residents
Preserving the natural environment and cultural resources of Iriomote together with local residents will serve to activate industries such as tourism, and create a good cycle for the local economy that will be returned to the local residents. This is an organization that works on environmental issues and passing on of cultural traditions while protecting what needs to be passed on and evolving with the times.