Kitadaitō (北大東; ) is an isolated island in the open sea about 360 km east of the Okinawan mainland, in Japan. The outer part of the island is made of precipitous cliffs, while the inside is flat plains that lay in a basin surrounded by vegetation covered cliff side.
Kitadaito, literally "North Great East", is the northern half of the Daito Islands, with a population of around 540.
There are a lot of marshes in the interior of the island. A plethora of unique flora and fauna can also be found. However, there are no natural sources of water on Kita Daito. The island utilizes a de-salynization plant to convert sea water into fresh water. There is a wide-variety of animal and plant life on Kita Daito. The most famous of which are the Kita Daito Fly Fox, or Fruit Bat. There are estimated to be approximately 300 left on the island. Among the most diverse and thriving animal communities on Kita Daito are those of the insect and arachnid families. There are many different forms of butterflies, dragonflies, grasshoppers, crickets, centipedes (mukade), spiders, wasps, honey bees, ants, cockroaches, and moths on the island. Another interesting animal on the island is the island's poisonous toad which is rumored to be brought to the island from China.
Kita Daito's main industry is sugarcane (saitokibi) farming and processing. Sugarcane fields cover the majority of the island. Fishing is extremely popular with the local population. Athletic contests of all sort are also popular with the local population. Okinawan Sumo, Edo Sumo, Eisa Dancing, and Baseball are a few of the predominant activities.
Pretty much everybody in Kitadaito understands standard Japanese, but there's also a peculiar local dialect of Japanese closely related to the dialects of Hachijo and Aogashima. The dialect of Kitadaito is the only one in Japan descended from the "Eastern Dialect" of the Nara period, found in "touka" in the Man'yoshu.
- Welcome: おじゃりやれ Ojariyare
- You: おめー Omee (to superiors, as in Omee ga itsumo shokannooja, "You probably know it well"), おまい omai (to people of equal or lesser status), うぬ なれ unu / nare (rude words)
- Bad/Not OK: だめどーだーよー Damedoodaayoo
- Like this: こごんどー Kogondoo
- I know: しょきゃ Shokya
- I'm sorry: めーららい Meerarai
- Morning: つとめて Tsutomete
- Where are you from: どっかーおじゃりやろーどー Dokkaa ojariyaroodoo?
Hogen, the Okinawan language (called dialect) is also widely used.
The only way to get to Minamidaito is from Naha or neighboring Minamidaito either by plane or ferry.
There are two one-hour flights a day from Naha to Kitadaito, and one three-minute flight from Minamidaito to Kitadaito daily. Flights from Naha last about 70 minutes and cost ¥31,600 for a roundtrip (in 2011) or ¥24,900 for one way.
The flight between Minamidaito and Kitadaito lasts for 3 minutes or 15 minutes counting takeoff and landing, and is the shortest airline flight in Japan. At ¥8300 it is comparatively no doubt the most expensive too.
The ferry costs around ¥10,000 for a roundtrip (tickets on sale at Tomarin Bldg. 2F, Tomari harbor in Naha). There's only one sailing per week and it takes 15-17 hours each way: Naha Tomari Kita departure at 17:00, Kitadaito or Minamidaito at 08:00 the next morning.
The timetable is decided about a month before, check with Daito Line [dead link]. The homepage is in Japanese only; if you're not fluent, you can find the Naha departure day on the calendar looking for the "泊出港" characters).
In the center of the island most activities are within walking distance of the "Yakuba" or village office.
Bicycles can be rented at Hamayu-so Hotel. Virtually all parts of the island are accessible by bicycle.
- Phosphorus Ore Warehouse. Ruins of a warehouse that was once used to store phosphate mined on Kitadaito, in the prewar days.
- Kokuhyo (国標, "nation signpost"). The only signs in all of Japan indicating that the territory belongs to Japan.
- Nagamaku (長幕). A coral wall that proves the island formed as a coral reef.
- Cape Makkuro (真黒岬). The easternmost point of Okinawa.
There are many activities to enjoy while staying on Kitadaito Island. If you have the time, go diving during calm seas for octopus (tako) or giant clams with a local guide. Its a fun way to see the ocean life and get a tasty meal.
Another fun activity is cliff diving. There are three ports on Kitadaito, and when the weather permits the locals take the time to jump off the lower piers and swim in the ocean around there. If you bring goggles you will also be able to see a myriad of fish and other ocean wild life.
Kitadaito also plays host to several festivals. The largest festival is held in the middle of September and includes both Edo and Okinawan sumo plus a day devoted to portable shrines (omikoshi). The Daito islands are the only Okinawan Islands to include the shrines in their festivals, because their first inhabitants came from Hachijojima.
Some locals think local sushi is the best in the world, and if you taste it, you can understand their feelings. The fish is extremely fresh and everything is made from scratch.
The local drink is awamori, a type of strong distilled rice liquor. It is drunk with water and ice.
- Hamayu-so (ハマユウ荘), 152-9 Jinakano, ☏ . Impressive modern-style hotel run by the village. Includes two meals. ¥6000.
- Niroku-so (二六荘), 北大東村字港37, ☏ . Includes two meals. ¥4,000.
Don't go swimming at high tide or during a storm. The waves can get very rough and people have died doing so. Some as a result of drowning and others from being knocked against the lava rock that surrounds the island.