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Yobu Island, Okinawa

Water Buffalo Taxi – Iriomote Island to Yobu Island

Posted In: Ishigaki | Travel
For our anniversary trip to Ishigaki, there was one thing i was dying to experience, the Water Buffalo Taxi’s from Iriomote Island to Yobu Island. I had read about them in my New York Times. 36 Hours. Asia & Oceania book and my boss also told me it was a must! On our third day there we took a tour to Iriomote island, one of the other islands in the Yaeyama chain. Yobu is a tiny little island (with a circumference of only 2.15 kilometers) just off the east coast of Iriomote, separated by a small beach. After a typhoon in 1969, most of the residents relocated to Iriomote island and only one elderly couple stayed with a dream to “make the island a garden paradise”. Now it is just that! You can find 30 varieties of hibiscus, 10 types of palm trees, guava and papaya fruit trees, and more!

They have a little more than 40 Asian water buffalo on Yobu Island; all of which have unique names! “Training in pulling carts begin two or three years after birth and quick learners begin hauling passengers after just six months to a year of training. They live for 30 years and pull carts for 15-20 years”. (Yobu Island Brochure) They love water and spend most of their free time in the pond.

Our taxi ride back to Iriomote was extra special because our driver had a sanshin (an Okinawan musical instrument) and tons of lyrics to traditional Okinawan songs on the roof of his cart. In the taxi with us was a couple, a girl from China and a European guy (both of whom spoke japanese), as well as a japanese girl who translated as best as she could for us. The driver asked us where we were all from and then asked us to choose a song from the roof. We laughed because they were all written in japanese and of course we couldn’t read them. The couple chose one and he serenated us the rest of the way. He was the sweetest guy and tried really hard to communicate with us, but of course most of it was lost in translation. We left his taxi wishing we knew more japanese!! I added a clip below of his serenade 🙂