The small island of Taketomi, with only 323 inhabitants, is known for having the most well-preserved culture of ancient Okinawa. People here live their lives based on traditions from the past. Knowing this, you may be surprised to hear that it’s home to a contemporary luxury resort, HOSHINOYA Okinawa, where the staff works to immerse guests in Japanese culture while providing a 5 star experience. The resort village is composed entirely of opulent ryokan-inspired villas. These were constructed to resemble the Heritage listed village of Taketomi, with its one story buildings with red tiled roofs, coral wall fences, narrow coral roads and rooftop shiisas, small lion statues with dramatic expressions meant to protect inhabitants from evil spirits and bad luck. Around the village property, Ishiganto, or inscribed stone plates embedded in the coral walls, also ward off ghosts from the guest villas.
Considering the lengths HOSHINOYA Okinawa goes to keep the undead away from their guests, it certainly feels like they’ve succeeded. Entering to the left of the stand-alone coral wall into the yard – to the right is for gods only – you remove your shoes and replace them with zori sandals for walking in the ryokan villa. The space itself introduces guests to traditional Japanese culture with tatami flooring, futon bedding, a gajoni living room with floor-to-ceiling windows, a neatly folded Yukata leisure wear suit and a table where a typical Okinawa treat awaits – a pancake rolled up like a long pinwheel and a sweet hibiscus drink.
Aside from the bedroom, the self-contained villa lacks walls, making it feel very open. A freestanding tub sits in the middle with a traditional Japanese herbal bath ready to be experienced. To create a true bathhouse effect, you can pull down the window screens in the front of the villa and open the sliding glass doors in the back, allowing the island breezes to gently massage you. Guests can also choose to relax at the property’s spa, which incorporates ancient curative techniques with natural Okinawa ingredients. Submerge yourself in a hot Japanese cypress bath, a fragrant soak of natural salts in a tub made of Japanese Cypress wood. Another locally inspired option is to have a treatment infused with shell ginger, a powerful antioxidant native to Okinawa. Additionally, a body wrap of natural seaweed combined with both Japanese and Chinese herbs moisturizes skin, stops fatigue and speeds the metabolism.
Okinawans are touted as the longest living population on Earth, with people often surviving beyond 100. The impressive life span is attributed to their healthy diet, rich in vegetables, grains and locally-sourced natural ingredients. At HOSHINOYA Okinawa’s fine dining restaurant this aesthetic can be experienced in Chef Tatsuo Nakasu’s “Ryukyu Nouvelle,” cuisine, invented to dazzle guests which incorporates Okinawa ingredients with French cooking techniques. The dinner menu is a degustation and changes daily. Beginning in November, Chef Tatsuo will offer ornate spiny lobsters, a taste experience unlike any other and never available in food markets, sourced in partnership with his suppliers. Dishes are stunningly presented and prepared, often surprising the palate with the unusual ingredients. In the morning, guests can enjoy an American breakfast or a traditional Okinawan breakfast of rice, vegetables, tofu, seafood and local meats.
People visit Taketomi Island to be a part of the culture along with experiencing its beautiful beaches, and HOSHINOYA Okinawa introduces guests to both (note: book excursions through the property to avoid the language barrier). On the grounds, enjoy a morning of Yonna Deep Breathing on the beach, listen to a sanshin (Japanese string instrument) concert or try before-bed Ti Nu Breathing by their heated pool under the stars. In this heritage village guests can take a buffalo cart ride, learn traditional weaving, create shell ginger handicrafts, visit a museum, go snorkeling or scuba diving or visit one of a handful of star-sand beaches.
If you’re seeking a relaxing retreat with a mix of elegance and culture, HOSHINOYA Okinawa can introduce you to the traditional side of Taketomi while ensuring a five-star experience.
Taketomi, Taketomi-cho, Yaeyama District
Okinawa Prefecture, Japan