Water Buffalo Taxi – Iriomote Island to Yobu Island

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 🙂

Published by
Hi! I'm Laura, the girl behind Little Island Takara. I am a military wife and American expat living in Okinawa, Japan! Most days you will find me reading books, wondering what cafe to go to next or daydreaming of my next adventure.

The Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai) – Koh Samui, Thailand

Back in July 2016 I met my high school friend Tatiana in Thailand for a Thai Island Hopper East tour with Contiki. Our second day in Koh Samui was a free day, we decided to hire a…

Mountain Big Buddha + Beach – Koh Samui, Thailand

Back in July 2016 I met my high school friend Tatiana in Thailand for a Thai Island Hopper East tour with Contiki. On our first full day in Koh Samui, we took a jeep tour with…

5 Must Do Winter Activities
during Your Ski Vacation in Japan

As of 9:40AM we are on our way to Sapporo for the Yuki Matsuri or Snow Festival!! We have been talking about this trip for over a year now and cannot believe that the day is…

  • Part of me wants to laugh a bit because I find water buffalo so funny looking! This is an AMAZING post, and I would totally do this if I had the chance! What a fun experience. Gorgeous pictures too! Love the one with the lonely boat. 🙂

  • Evanda

    This looks amazing! Last year we went to this drive thru park and huge water buffalo would walk up to your window and open their mouths so you would throw them a treat.

  • Carola Murguia San Roman

    Laura, what a wonderful post and lovely pictures too! I am now dying to go to this little island (thank you!).
    I might have to get with you for some travel tips for the outer island. I need a getaway, hahaha.
    I hope you're enjoying your family's stay!