Population: 45,000 (Most populated Island in the Yaeyama group)
Circumference: 140 Km (Second largest Island in Yaeyama)
Ishigaki Island is the political and economic hub in the Yaeyama group, Ishigaki town offers all the modern necessities for daily life; large supermarkets, hospitals, video stores, banks, gyms, bars and restaurants (both western and Japanese) etc. However, don’t expect to find any large malls to go wondering through on rainy days. Ishigaki makes up for this ten fold with an abundance of beaches and tramping areas to spend your free time.
Kabira bay is considered one of the most beautiful bays in Japan, with emerald green water dotted with small Islands (It is advised not to swim there because of the abundance of sea snakes). Sukuji beach is about 3km along the coast from Kabira, it’s great for swimming, barbecues and watching the sunset.
The northern side of the Island is less populated than the southern side. Most of the best beaches and places to do land based fishing are in the north. Yonehara beach is popular with the locals and tourists during summer, but you can always find a beach further along the coast to spend the day in private if you don’t like crowds. Uganzaki is an elevated point with one of the island’s lighthouses. From the viewing platform you get a great view of the coastline. Ishigaki is quite mountainous, if you are into tramping you can spend the day climbing to the summit of Mt Omoto or one of the other mountains on the Island.
As I mentioned earlier Ishigaki Island is part of the Yeayama Island group; Iriomote, Taketomi, Kuroshima, Kohama, Hatoma, Yonaguni, and Hateruma are some of the other Islands. All the Islands have their own unique flavor.
Festivals on the other Islands that are a “must see” are Kohama and Hatoma music festivals, Kuroshima cow festival, Iriomote’s “Miruku and Hoho” festivals. These are only some of the attractions during the year. All the Islands are easily accessible, ferries run frequently on a daily basis to and from Ishigaki. The ferry services are run from Tonoshiro port located in the town sector of Ishigaki.
Winter in Ishigaki can be rather challenging, it rains a lot and there are not many indoor activities during this time to spend your free time. But life is what you make of it, there are other ALTs in the same boat and I am sure that together you can come up with something fun to do.
Iriomote Island is the second largest Island in the Okinawa prefecture. It’s called the “Galapogas” of Okinawa because of its dense bush and abundance of wild life. Services to the Island run daily from Tonoshiro port and there is a free bus service on Iriomote provided by the ferry companies. A return fare costs 3400 yen and the trip one way takes about 40 minutes. Funaura, Uehara and Ohara are the three desembarkment ports on the Island. If there is a particular activity that you want to do, first find out which port is the closest, for example, if you want to go tramping to Mariyudo waterfall, or Kayak along the Siira mangrove river take the ferry to Funaura.
Places to eat out
Ishigaki is full of places to eat out. The following are some of our favorite places to eat or to have a bit of a “tip back”.
Conchiqlie is an Italian restaurant with a sea view located in Nagura, the meals are great and the prices are cheap. (First in first serve basis no reservations) Kappi is a Thai restaurant located in the town center (not far from the main post Office)²
Great food and reasonably priced. (If you plan to go with a group it pays to get there early to avoid waiting for a table)
Nishiki Izakaya is located in Misaki- cho and is popular with the locals. The staff are friendly and the food is great. (Misaki-cho is located in the town center) ²
Hokaidomu Jr is located close to misaki-cho. It’s an Izakaya style restaurant. Between 5pm and 8pm daily beer is 50 yen and a nigiri set 350 yen. (When ordering a beer, be sure to mention that you want a “biru special” if you don’t you may end up paying 500 yen instead of 50 yen)
Urube is a Reggae bar located opposite Best Denki in Arakawa. It’s really friendly with a good atmosphere. The barman speaks English well and the local clientele are friendly.
Blue Cafe is similar to Urube, it’s in Misaki-cho a few doors down from the Hotspar, good music.
Cafe Taniwha is close to Aiapani mall in the town center. Every weekend there is something happening, local musicians generally go there for a jam; Jazz concerts, tabura drum performances, belly dancing and Salsa dancing are just a few of the events.