Welcome to Ishigaki

Japan's Finest Beaches

South entrance to sunset beach

If you're looking for a beach holiday in Japan then there are few, if any locations, which can rival the beautiful coastlines which surround Ishigaki and its neighbouring islands in the Yaeyama archipelago.

Net-protected beaches, such as those found at Maezato and Fusaki, are particularly popular with families, but more adventurous individuals may chose to head out to more secluded spots where coral reefs can often be found just meters from the shore.

>> Beach Guide

Sightseeing

Hirakubo lighthouseWhat Ishigaki lacks in terms of man-made tourist spots, such as the shrines and temples which are ubiquitous throughout much of Japan, it more than makes up for in terms of natural beauty.

In 2009 the island received international attention when Kabira bay was awarded 3 stars by the Michelin guide. This came as no huge surprise among those who have visited Ishigaki, but if the truth be known there are other spots on the island, such as the capes of Uganzaki and Hirakubo along with the peak of Mt. Nosoko, which comfortably rival the beauty of the emerald green waters of Kabira bay.

>> Sightseeing Guide

Island Hopping

Island Hopping
 
Ishigaki is the perfect base for people wishing to explore the rest of the Yaeyama archipelago. The islands of Taketomi, Kuroshima and Kohama make for fantastic day-trip destinations, all of which can be explored by bicycle within a few hours. The guides below detail the best that each of these islands has to offer along how to get to and around them.
 
>> Kohama Guide               >> Kuroshima Guide               >> Taketomi Guide    

Nightlife

nightlifeAlthough it's beaches, sights and nature which attract hundreds of thousands of Japanese tourists to the island every year, Ishigaki has a surprisingly vibrant late scene which is based around the entertainment district of 'Misakichou'. Like most cities in Japan the doors of many bars stay open until the early hours of the morning as customers sip their way through Orion beer and bottles of awamori.

Many of the better establishments are tucked-away and often missed by foreign tourists but our guide should help to orient you for a quality night on the town.

>> Nightlife Guide

Getting to Ishigaki

PlaneMarch 2013 saw the long-awaited opening of Ishigaki's new airport, which is just north of Shiraho. The island is located around 2000km from Tokyo in Okinawa's deep south, with a direct flight from the capital taking about 3.5 hours.The good news is that if you live outside Japan you are entitled to huge discounts on domestic flights to Ishigaki, along with many other Japanese cities. Our guide gives you the lowdown on how to make the most of these fares.

>> Flights to Ishigaki

Festivals and Culture

Performer at the Hounensai FestivalAlthough Ishigaki is part of Japan its culture is distinct from that of the mainland. This culture manifests itself though Ishigaki's tradition festivals such as hounensai, haarii and angama (the obon period in which ancestors are welcomed back into their family homes).
 
The locals love their music, and numerous open-air concerts which marry traditional sanshin performances with modern acts take place throughout the warmer months.

>> Festivals and Culture

Local Dishes

Yaeyama sobaIn culinary terms the island has a lot to offer. Ishigaki beef is the pride of the island, and while being expensive, it is considered by many to be the most delicious in the world. Local 'Yaeyama soba' is not only cheap but it's one of the most popular dishes amongst Japanese tourists as its taste and texture differs from that of soba on the mainland. Of course, it would be a shame to leave Ishigaki without sampling a dish prepared with Okinawa's most famous vegetable - the bitter tasting 'goya'.
 
For fresh fish check out Akebono, one of the finest sushi / sashimi restaurants on the island. If you're looking for an 'izakaya' be sure to visit Meitei, a popular spot amongst locals, which offers a reasonably-priced, original menu.
 
 

Photo Diary

Stargazing

ishigaki observatoryThanks to a last-minute invite from a friend I finally got the chance to take part in an evening of stargazing at Japan's southernmost observatory. Definitely recommended even if you only have a passing interest in astronomy.

Flybys

planesYou don't have to be interested in aircraft to find the view of jets soaring above Maezato's main intersection impressive. This weekend I finally got around to taking some shots of my favourite 'man-made' sight on the island.

Giant Fruit Bat

fruit batToday Banna park had something special waiting for me in one of its forest clearlings - a giant fruit bat, something which I'd never come across in the daytime.
 
Despite having seen many bats at night in Ishigaki's city center, this was by far the closest that I'd ever managed to get to one of these incredible creatures. Fortunately it was willing to pose for a few shots.
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