From Tokyo i decided to get a domestic flight from JAL to Ishigaki. In March the summer season is still to come so i didn’t know what to expect from weather. However once there i found a island that goes much further than beeing just a summer turistic destination.
Ishigaki is a Japanese island west of Okinawa and the second-largest island of the Yaeyama Island group. Belonging to the prefecture of Okinawa, Ishigaki is more close to Taiwan than Japan mainland and to arrive there you should take a flight.
As soon as i arrived i instantaneously falled in love with this laid back island.
These are my impressions about Ishigaki Island:
Once you arrive in ishigaki i suggest you to buy an Azuma bus pass for 1 (¥1000) or 5 (¥2000) days. You can do it as soon as you take the bus from the airport. Buses can take you to the island main spots but they not running so often. You should be carefull for not loose the last bus.
The best choice to discover the island is to rent a scooter. It is a small island with good roads and without heavy trafic so a scooter can be the perfect option.
You can count as well with ferries that can take you to all the surrouding islands.
I stayed in Blue Cabin Ishigaki. It is not the cheapest option but if you stay there during low season you can get a good price. For the high season i suggest you to check some of the many guest houses in Ishigaki.
Points of interest
Ishigaki is a little island but have plenty of things to see and experience. You can chill out in amazing blue water & white sand beaches, snorkl over beautifull corals, take photos from unforgettable landscapes or even hike through a rain forest.
Beside all this you can also discover the paradisiac islands that stand near Ishigaki.
Here are my recommendations:
- Kabira bay look out point it is a famous spot in the island that you shouldn’t miss. After taking photos to the fantastic seascape you can start walking north until Kabira Tabaga beach. A shoaling beach with cobalt blue water for you to swim and snorkel will be waiting for you.
- More than the Cape Hirakubozaki Lighthouse itself the high point of the trip are the idyllic secluded beaches on the way. You will be able to enjoy all the nameless small cove beaches which are often deserted even during peak seasons. Just choose one for yourself and not forget to wait for the magic sunset. You can find them with the help of Google Satellite some of them are easily accessible from the road side.
- If you like to hike you can experience the Ishigaki rain forest with a small treck until the upper waterfall of Arakawa Falls. You will be surrounded by nature and beautiful tree ferns as you hike up this rugged stream.
- Ishigaki it is a perfect spot for snorkeling. You should not forget your snorkel gear at home because you will need it. There are many spots for snorkel with diferent kind of corals including the worlds largest colony of blue corals. I suggest the Akaishi Beach, the Shiraho Coral Reef a famous blue coral snorkeling point, Kabira Tabaga beach and the Yonehara Beach which is the most known spot for turists.
- Beside all this points of interest you still have amazing surrounding islands to discover. From Ishigaki you can take a ferry to: Taketomi, Kohama, Iriomote, Kuroshima, Hateruma or Yonaguni.
Ishigaki is a paradise for seafood lovers with a a big variety of fresh seafood. You will have opportunity to eat delicious sashimis, seafood grills, fish soups not forgeting the umi budo (sea grapes) that fit great with an Orion beer.
Meat lovers can count with the delicious Ishigaki beef often compared with Kobe beef. The meat either grilled or sashimi (raw) will melt in your mouth and take you to heaven.
Soba lovers have the delicious Yaeyama soba that it is made with flour and it seems with ramen
Last but not least the tofu, which i had the oportunity to try and can say it was the the softest Tofu from all my Japan trip.
To try all this Ishigaki delicatesses you can count with many afordable restaurants where you will be able to eat for aceptable prices.
Here are my recommendations:
- Tofuno Higa (Ishigaki) – Here you can find the freshest and softest Tofu of the island. Not forget to arrive early before Tofu runs out.
- Yaeyama Katosoba (Kabira) – A delicious home made soba restaurant famous for their soba with Japanese tiger prawn from Ishigaki Island.
- Hitoshi (Ishigaki) – it surelly provides one of the best sashimi in town.
- Mirumiru Hompo (Arakawa) – Delicious ice-cream made with local fresh fruit.
I loved the Ishigaki nighlife. I was expecting to find the typical boring bars and clubs that you can find in all turistic places, but once there i had a good surprise.
Even out of the season there are in this small city plenty interesting places where you can spend a good time in the company of friendly locals.
Here are my recommendations:
- Cafe Taniwha (at least until 23h) – Much more than just a cafe, Taniwa It’s a community center where people chat, have a glass of beer or practice ukulele. In this place everyone is accepted just the way they are and you will find friendly people from all ages that will not leave you alone once you step in. An amazing place that you will not want to loose.
- Café & Bar Yamauchi Tsuruko (19h-23h) – It is a 23-square-meter tiny bar full of love. Yoshito and his huge smile will easily conquer your heart and together with his friends you can have a magic night on the rythm of his playlist or unexpected live performances. Yoshito it is a very talented Okinawa musician and a lovely guy which i enjoyed a lot to meet. If he will not be on tour just make him a visit, you will surely not regret.
- Pub & Records Get Happy!! (22h-2h) – This is the kind of place i was not waiting to meet in small Ishigaki. Thousands of LP records are waiting to be listen while you grab a drink on the bar. Mr. Kuroshima communicates to his guests through music and his playlist will let you on the chair until the end of night. A nostalgic not to loose place to finish your night.
- Scarecrow Jazz Bar (20h-1h) – The southernmost Jazz bar of Japan it’s a dream destination for Jazz fanatics from all over Japan. On top of where it now stands scarecrow existed a legendary Jazz bar called “Birdland“. Somehow this place with the help of Mr. Imamura keeps feeding the next generation of Jazz listeners and you should be along them.