Since visiting Yakushima Island, I have made it a rule to always stay at different hotels every night on the one island to enable me to see all around. I followed this same rule when I visited Iki Island. However, Iki Island is more compact than other large islands like Tsushima and Yakushima and the road on Iki Island has been developed very well to drive all over. It might be a good idea to stay at the same hotel to see around on Iki Island.
In Japan there are several ways to express hotels in Japanese. Minshuku is managed by a family and usually a farmer or fisherman provides their house as an accommodation. It is similar to Agriturismo style in Italy and B&B in England.
A ryokan is a more formal type of hotel to serve customers, and traditionally has tatami-mat rooms and communal baths. A ryokan is managed by an Okami, landlady, and Nakai, kind of butler and housekeeper. The way of service and size vary and there is no specific definition of them. You can find huge hotel sized Ryokans in famous hot spring areas and very small minshuku sized Ryokans in the countryside. I prefer to stay at Minshuku to communicate with the family and enjoy local produce.
My best Minshuku Inn on Iki Island was Akarui Noson. I always choose accommodations for my stay based on my checklist which includes; Nature, Local Foods and Communication. Akarui Noson matched all. Akarui Noson is located in the middle of a small hill a little away from the main port and airport. It was a 10-minute-drive from Ashibe Port. There was no noise of traffic, so I could keep the window open and listen to the outside sounds of nature.
When I was preparing for a walk, the landlady recommended to walk to higher ground to see the sea. I followed her advice and met a local lady who had lived on Oki Island for nearly 80 years. I chatted with her and heard how she had grown up here and raised a family while contributing to the community. She was still very active, riding on an electric wheelchair by herself.
The landlady of Akarui Noson was also lovely, warm and welcoming, which for me is just as important as great food. In addition, the room and bathroom were clean and the atmosphere felt homely and cosy.We had raw urchin, and sashimi of Turban shell which “Ama-san” had caught in the morning. “Ama-san” means professional divers in Japanese. On Iki Island, they call it “leotard fishing” which is to collect abalone and turban shells wearing leotard, not diving suit, to keep the volume of catch. I don’t think this is an offensive expression, but is more expressing the fact.The homemade rice was also delicious. It was sweeter than what I eat in Tokyo. The landlady had moved from the mainland and she said she was also surprised at how delicious its homemade rice was. I enjoyed farm-to-table foods here.
When I pick up an inn on Iki Island, I make my way to the hot spring area for a gorgeous Japanese Ryokan, checking myself in to the Hirayama Ryokan in Yumoto hot springs. If you are looking for a little luxury and to escape the noise of the city, the Yumoto area is the best place to visit.
Hirayama Ryokan is located 20 mins drive from Ashibe Port in the western part of Iki Island, and near to Katsumoto Port. I’m sure the landlady must consider every detail to make the ryokan comfortable. It focuses on luxurious spa retreats, dedicated staff and handmade dinner. I enjoyed eating my way through the ryokan’s offerings. The open-air bath and communal bath are always clean. Literally, there is no dust anywhere.
If you want to stay at a high-end hotel or ryokan, my recommendation is to always go to the countryside. The price is sometimes the same as in Kyoto or Tokyo, but you can have a high-quality dinner and a more spacious room.
Going to the public bath in the early morning is an old custom of fishermen to wash away the sweat and saltwater after finishing work. Some Ryokan and public bath facilities are open from the early morning in Yumoto hot springs.
I liked the inside bath of the New Choshu. I was the only female guest on that night and I could enjoy the bath and the view exclusively. New Choshu is located in front of Indoji Port. One couple was doing cast fishing there and it was really fun to see. When the wife threw about 20-30 meters, she got 5-6 horse mackerels at least. She looked so cool.
Tojingami Shrine is located next to the New Choshu Inn, and continuously people came to pray. It is said that a guy’s lower body drifted from China and locals buried him and built a small shrine for him. After ages, people come here to pray for the health of the lower body. Japanese are flexible to create a god, I thought. My room happened to face to the shrine and I saw people coming continuously and witnessed the huge influence of the shrine. Iki Island itself is really far away from the mainland, but Toujin Shrine is near from Iki airport by car, so it is worth a visit.
Pension Souvenir was the hardest Inn to find on Iki Island for me, but I had an unforgettable experience here. I tried to find it on a car navigation and maps app on my phone, but they couldn’t easily find it right way. I got lost on a dark mountain road but finally a white brand-new house appeared out of nowhere. I recommend to head to Nishiki-hama Beach from Iki airport which is the easiest and fastest way. Just a five–minute drive from the Iki airport, the inn is close enough for convenience but far enough to feel you are surrounded by nature.Furnishings are warm and inviting, giving you that instant homely feel as soon as you walk in the door. My seafront room was beautifully furnished and had its own bathroom.
They usually don’t serve dinner, but after I reserved they were planning to offer dinner to other guests who were coming to the Iki Cycle Festival. I was lucky to have dinner there. They recommend to have dinner at a barbecue house near the Nishiki-hama Beach or in the town. If you don’t get lost, the Inn is not far away from the town, so it would be a nice idea.
Breakfast with local fresh produce is available. When I returned to my home, I ordered new rice through the Souvenir. The cost includes shipping fee to transfer from Iki Island to the mainland, so it’s a little bit costly, but it is worth it to get the same kind of rice that I had eaten at breakfast. The sweetness is slightly different from what I usually have in Tokyo. After visiting Iki Island, I started to be able to tell the difference between types of rice. It’s just a daily food, but I could finally find there are some differences.
The owners started their inn after their early-retirement. When I talked with them, they passionately recommended anywhere I hadn’t visited before with full love of Iki Island. I said I think I had visited almost all tourist spots (I thought!), but they continued to suggest other places. Irukabana Point, in the south of Iki Island, is the place where I should go if I come back again.