Hateruma: Life on a Distant Island
Located 2,000 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, Hateruma is the southernmost inhabited island in Japan. With a population of about 500, it's known for its beautiful beaches and the local specialty, brown sugar. About 70% of the island's flat land is covered by sugarcane fields. When the cane is harvested in winter, the farmers work in teams, along with seasonal laborers from outside. Since the old days, the islanders have fostered this traditional spirit of cooperation. On this episode of Journeys in Japan, British photographer Alfie Goodrich meets the people of Hateruma, to see how they live on this distant subtropical island.


This beach is famous for its white-sand beach, and crystal-clear water, which changes color by the hour. Considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the country, this popular tourist spot is located close to Hateruma Port, where the ferries and high-speed boats dock.

Kyodo Baiten (Communal Stores)

There are no supermarkets or convenience stores on Hateruma. Instead, each of the 5 settlements has a shop that's funded and run jointly by the local people, selling food, daily necessities, prepared lunches and souvenirs. Tourists are welcome but are asked to use small change.

Sainantan Hiroba (Southernmost Point in Japan)

A concrete monument marks the southernmost point on the island, showing its coordinates: 24°2' 24" N, 123°47' 12" E. The cliffs here give breathtaking views of the distant horizon.


From Haneda Airport in Tokyo, flights to Ishigaki Island take about 3 and a half hours. From Ishigaki there are high-speed ferries to Hateruma Island, which take from 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the vessel and the sea conditions. In winter, the sea is often very rough, so it's important to confirm the sailing schedule ahead of time.