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Japan is the place to be for foodies. Many chefs, trendwatchers, stylists and food addicts all over the world are inspired by the Japanese delights.

JAPANESE CUISINE versus Okinawa cuisine

The traditional Japanese diet – known as one of the healthiest in the world – is based on a large variety of vegetables, tofu and fish. Rice is an important part and mostly eaten with pickles and soup.

Yaeyama food: Mainland Japan lunch plate mixed with Yaeyama cuisine influences

Yaeyama pumpkin croquet lunch plate. The base of the dish is mainland Japan cuisine, with Yaeyama influences & ingredients such as pumpkin croquet and goya

Mainland Japanese cooking methods generally use water, not so much oil. This differs from Chinese cooking, where the food is stir-fried with oil at a high temperature. In Japan, raw, simmered and grilled techniques predominate. Frying is rare on the mainland, but common in the Yaeyama islands. When fried food is served, such as tempura, a few pieces are enjoyed along with other dishes, so the overall balance of the meal is healthy.

In Japan it is believed that it’s best to eat a wide variety of food of different colours during every meal, which forms the basis of a healthy diet. Although Japanese food uses a relatively high amount of sugar, desserts tend to be either nonexistent or consist of a small piece of fresh fruit.

The Yaeyama cuisine is based on Japanese cuisine but has influences from other Asian cuisines. This is because of the history as independent Ryukyu kingdom, location and climate of the islands.


Typical food and drinks from the Yaeyama islands are umibudo (zeedruiven) and lots of other healthy seaweed, sweet potato, Awamori, fermented tofu, goya (bitter melon), brown sugar from the sugar cane fields, tuna tempura, Yaeyama soba, goya champuru, local craft beer, Yaeyama sata andagi (doughnuts), beef and gurukun (local fish). We can go on much longer.

Yaeyama food: Umibudo seagrapes seaweed

Umibudo seagrapes

During the fruit season (May to July) the islands are an oasis of tropical fruit with pineapples, passionfruit, mango, shikuwasa, watermelon, papaya, guava. Some of them even grow in the wild.

Yaeyama food: Wild guava

Wild (baby) guava

In late summer the colourful dragon fruit appears, which are a feast for the eye. They could be part of a tropical fairy tale.

Yaeyama food: Dragon fruit. A feast for the eye.

Dragon fruit. A feast for the eye.

Restaurants in the Yaeyama islands

The Yaeyama islands are a foodies paradise. Most of the restaurants and bars are concentrated in the center or largest village of the islands. Tasty lunch spots are spread around the islands.

Vegetarians in Japan

It can be hard to find 100% vegetarian restaurants throughout Japan, especially with a language barrier. But fortunately with Japans buddhist influence the Japanese cuisine offers many delicious vegetarian dishes.

Yaeyama food: tofu and cheese mixed dessert with herb dressing

Slightly sweet tofu & cheese mixed dessert with herb dressing

Don’t be surprised if some of the restaurants don’t have regular opening hours or are sold out because of their limited supply. That’s Japanese island life.

The Yaeyama islands biggest benefits, are their authenticity and small scale. There are many small restaurants and bars on the islands.

We tried & tested several restaurants in Ishigaki, Iriomote and the other islands of the Yaeyama archipelago.