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  • Japanese: 西表島 (Iriomote jima)

Iriomote Island is one of the Yaeyama Islands, in the southern portion of the Ryukyu Islands archipelago. It is known for its natural beauty, and is home to the endangered Iriomote mountain cat, a closer relative to the common ancestor of all felines than most other extant cat species in the world.

The island is enveloped in subtropical natural fauna and flora; in the Meiji period, it became the site of coal mining efforts, worked not only by people from Okinawa prefecture, but from Kyushu and Taiwan as well. These efforts reached their economic peak in the 1930s, and many homes, schools, shops, bathhouses, theaters and the like were built on the island. Following the end of World War II, coal mining efforts were ceased, and USCAR made plans for development on the island, but these remained only plans and were never executed. The island suffered from droughts, and without monetary support from the mainland, by the 1970s, the population of farmers on the island dropped by as much as 30%.

Today, as much as 85% of the island is national property (mostly for natural protection).


  • Gallery labels, "Nature on Iriomotejima Island," Gallery 4 (Folklife), National Museum of Japanese History, July 2013.