Banna Park

"One of the most puzzling things about Ishigaki is why so few people seem to visit this lovely park which is located just a few miles to the north of the city centre. This nature-lovers paradise is inhabited by many species of butterfly and you may even be lucky enough to spot a crested serpent eagle or a ruddy kingfisher".

Banna Park, or 'Banna kouen', as it is known in Japanese, is a spacious nature reserve which is located just a few miles to the north of Ishigaki City. It is a place which can be enjoyed by absolutely anybody, and as such, it comes highly recommended. The park itself is positioned around what can broadly be described as a mountain (peaking at just 200m), and is divided into four zones and a 'Skyline' all of which are linked by paths and roads. A summary of the features of each square is included a below. A map which indicates the location of all zones can be found at the bottom of this page.

Butterfly. Banna Park.Banna park is host to many species of butterfly. 'Forest Passeo Square' is one of the best places to view them
Forest Passeo Square
One of the highlights of the park is Forest Passeo zone. While flowers are an attraction, the most impressive aspect of this zone is probably the sheer abundance and diversity of butterflies.
Sign boards display information about butterfly species which can be found in the park and even casual observers can expect to see a wide variety of colourful butterflies during a short visit.
This square, like others, consists of various grassed areas which are linked by pathways, wooden bridges and stairways. Observation towers and adventure playground features are also scattered throughout the Forest Passeo, making this a great place to spend a few of hours. 
Children's Square
Another feature of Banna park which makes it such an ideal destination for families is the children's square. This zone features a number of areas, such as one which offers two BMX tracks and another which has a large adventure playground, complete with imaginatively shaped climbing frames, huge slides and rope swings. Indeed, if you find yourself climbing around yourself, you certainly won't be the first adult to do so.
Banna park's adventure playgroundFamilies with young children will really appreciate the 'childrens' square which has a number of adventure playgrounds
Positioned on the north west edge of Banna park, this zone's open areas offer fantastic views of Ishigaki and as such this is a great spot for the entire family to enjoy an afternoon picnic in the sun. Vending machines containing drinks are positioned through out the park, but it would be wise to bring your own food if required. 
Observation of Nature Square
Trail to Skyline from Nature Square. Banna Park.A trail connects the skyline's southern observation point with the 'observation of nature' square
This square consists of numerous hiking trails and bridges which meander their way though the forest. There is also a nature trail which links this square to the emerald sea observatory which is positioned at the top of the Skyline zone. As such, this is the zone where you're most likely to get lost, however, there are sign posts dotted throughout the square which provide information in both English and Japanese.
As the name suggests, this zone is probably the best for observing wildlife, and while walking around the park you will be accompanied by a chorus of songs being sang by birds which range from the relatively familiar to the exotic. However, quality bird watching can be enjoyed anywhere in Banna Park, and sightings of Ishigaki's famous Kanmuriwashi eagle are not uncommon. Indeed, other squares with large open areas may be better suited to viewing this large bird of prey.
Stone Monument Forest Square
Stone Monument Forest.Rather clumsily titled, and probably the least interesting of all the squares, this zone consists of a number of paths which make their way though the edge of the forest where numerous stone monuments are on display. This is the first square that you'll see if you approach Banna park from Ishigaki city via road 208.
The entrance is clearly signposted, and this square also provides access to a road which leads to the Skyline zone's emerald sea observation point.
Birdwatching tower. Banna KouenThe egg-shaped bird watching tower offers a fantastic view of the island. To access it take the road up the mountain from 'Forest Passeo Square'
The 'Skyline' runs across the top of the mountain where three observation points and an egg-shaped bird watching hide provide excellent views of Ishigaki and the surrounding islands in all directions. A road named the 'Mountain Highway' runs from north to south across the top of the park which connects to both Forest Passeo square and Stone Monument Forest, however, it should be pointed out that this connection has been severed for much of 2009 due to roadworks. The trek from the nature square to the southern observation point is an enjoyable one which most people of average fitness could manage comfortably.
Getting Around
A bicycle is a great way to travel around the park as good quality roads and wide paths circle the mountain, however, this will naturally make some of the hiking paths less accessible.
Taking a taxi to the first zone and working your way round on foot until you reach the other side of the mountain is also a good option. If you have your own vehicle then there are parking places to be found throughout all zones (including a parking area in front of the main observation point in the skyline zone).

Beware the Habu Snake

Every so often signs are positioned which read 'Habu ni Chuui' in Japanese. These signs serve to warn visitors of the apparent presence of Habu snakes in the area, a particularly dangerous resident of the island.

Beware the Habu.'Beware the Habu'

While it is true that a bite from this snake can be deadly if a victim doesn't receive emergency treatment, bites from this snake are quite rare.

The habu isn't a particularly aggressive snake but it may attack if provoked or surprised. Basic precautions can be taken such as not verging from paths or grassed areas into long foliage where it is difficult to see where you are stepping. It is also wise to carry emergency phone numbers just in case a member of your group should be unfortunate enough to get bitten.
Wheelchair Friendly
It's good to see that the requirements of those who are wheelchair bound have been considered, with many of the observation platforms having smooth ramps leading to their tops (note that this unfortunately does not apply to the egg-shaped birdwatching tower, however, there is an alternative tower just a stone's throw away).
Banna park is located a few miles to the North West of Ishigaki City. Signposts indicate that the road to take to the park is road 87, which takes you to the north east entrance where the botanical gardens are positioned. However, if you're travelling from the city, particularly if you're on a bike, you may find it more convenient to take road 208, which passes by the west side of Banna park. This side also provides easier access to the road leading to the skyline observation point.

The following map illustrates the various 'squares' of interest.

  • Blue: Skyline
  • Dark Green: Observation of Nature Forest
  • Orange: Forest Passeo
  • Red: Stone Monument Forest
  • Yellow: Children's Square

View Banna Park in a larger map


Banna Park

Thanks, great website with useful info and excellent photos. We cycled around Banna park today, very peaceful with beautiful scenery and views. Went butterfly spotting and saw loads of different species. Highly recommend the cafe next to the butterfly garden, we had juice, very tasty beef stew, cake and coffee for 500 yen each, best value meal so far in Ishigaki!

Children Square / Insects museum

The children playground is still under reconstruction. It is supposed to be in March 2013. I passed by there a couple days ago, no sign of re-opening yet.

If you are interested in insects, check out the 「世界の昆虫館」 (world insects museum). It is rather a small exhibition room but it's really worth seeing (200yen entrance free required). You definitely want to talk to the person in charge, Yamada san, if you are a butterfly lover!!