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Nightlife on Ishigaki Island
Misakichou - Ishigaki's Entertainment District
Misakichou is Ishigaki city's entertainment district. It consists of a few streets which run parallel to each other, with the main one being easily identified by signs which read 'Ooritouri' ('Welcome') at each end. This street is lined with well-dressed snack bar girls trying to entice drunken youths and salary men into their establishments.
At a first glance this can give the false impression that you've wandered into a rather seedy area, but don't be put off, this is nothing like Tokyo's notorious 'Kabukichou' district. The limit of services offered is simply the privilege of sharing drinks with on of the girls at your expense (the punter pays for all drinks). Unsurprisingly these 'hostess bars' aren't exactly teaming with foreign tourists looking to throw their money away.
However, there's far more to Misakichou and the districts which surround it than hostess bars. There are many quality bars and Izakayas and if you're a newcomer to Ishigaki you should at least try to locate Misakichou, if for no other reason than to gain a point of reference.
In much of Japan the bar / club scene doesn't get going until late in the evening and in this regard Ishigaki is no exception. In the case of some establishments business can be very slow until midnight and it's not unusual to turn up at a bar at 10 or 11pm only to find that you're one of the only customers. For this reason most bars keep their doors open until around 5.00pm, even on week nights.
As is often the case in Japan the best bars are often tucked-away and hard to find unless you know exactly where you're going. While what follows is by no means a complete list of Ishigaki's bars, it does introduce some of the better establishments which the city center has to offer.
Amuritanoniwa offers food which rivals that of most restaurants on the island while still retaining a bar feel. If you're looking for a place to kick off the evening with a good meal and a few drinks then Amuritanoniwa comes highly recommended.
Chaka Chaka is a cosey bar which has a distinct reggae feel. This spot, which is popular amongst locals, is sometimes host to live D.J nights (typically hip-hop and reggae).
JAM is one of the best modern bars on Ishigaki island. It has a contemporary feel, offers quality music, and is run by a friendly bunch of guys from mainland Japan. Quality events with live DJs are frequently held at this venue which is found in the heart of Ishigaki's entertainment district.
Negril is one of Ishigaki's better kept secrets, but it's found just a few minutes walk from the center of Misakichou. Owned by Yuuko, a musician from mainland Japan, Negril has become a popular venue amongst islanders. Live D.J nights are held on the second Friday of every month.
It's worth visiting Smile Cafe just to meet Ken, a local surfer who has one of the biggest personalities on the island; a moment barely seems to go by when he's not laughing at something. English is limited, but it's worth taking the time to visit this warm and friendly bar which has a heavy surf-influence.
Taniwha is owned by a couple from Tokyo who moved to Ishigaki many years ago and set up the bar after having sailed the south pacific. Opens from mid-morning until midnight and serves a range of western-style meals. Taniwha is unlike most other bars in that it gets going earlier in the evening, particularly when it is host to a live event.
Mega Hit Paradise
Mega Hit Paradise may have one of the cheesiest names in the history of nightclubs, but if you're looking for a club experience on the island then it's worth considering. A word of warning however – this place can be really hit and miss. Some nights it can be banging from midnight until 5.00am, but on others it can be virtually empty. Our advice it to pop your head in at around 1.00am, and if nothing seems to be happening, move on. Decor is nothing to write home about either, with the club being little more than a big black room with loud music, some seats, and a bar. Drinks are reasonably priced and an entrance fee may or may not apply depending on the night. Mega Hit Paradise is located on the 6th floor of a building on Misaki Chou's main street, just a few doors down the road from JAM.
Awamori and Orion Beer
Orion Beer is Okinawa's local brew and if you order a draught beer ('nama biiru') on Ishigaki island it's almost certainly what you're going to be served. Although it may be nothing to write home about, those of you who are partial to beers like Asahi and Sapporo are unlikely to be disappointed. However, it is 'awamori' which Okinawa is famed for, and Ishigaki is home to a number of brands. Do be warned however, this local liquor which is made from rice contains at least 30% alcohol and the fact that it's dirt-cheap means that bar tenders tend to pour it rather more freely then they would in the case of more expensive drinks. It is typically served on the rocks or with water, but awamori-based cocktails are also available.
Under normal economic conditions a good night out in Japan can be enjoyed on a reasonable budget, however, the dramatic appreciation of the Yen against many currencies over the past few years has made drinking out rather expensive for many foreign visitors. Typically drinks start at around 500 for a glass of awamori or beer, but it's worth bearing in mind that in many bars this will only get you a medium-sized beer, which is closer to a half-pint than a pint. Cocktails tend to be priced from 600 yen, which is quite reasonable given the price of beer. Those of you who appreciate a glass of wine should be warned that red wine is usually served chilled in Japan.