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Island Ferry Services
Those feeling a bit more adventurous are likely to want to travel further afield to the beautifully rugged island of Iriomotejima which offers superb beaches, fine trekking and kayaking.
To the south of Yaeyama is Japan's southernmost point, Hateruma island, which is known for its crystal-clear coastal waters. To the far west lies Yonaguni, which is famed for its mysterious underwater ruins.
An organzied tour is one of the best ways to explore the Yaeyama island chain as they take the time and hassle out of having to plan your own trip. All of ishigaki-japan.com's visitors are entitled to a no-strings discount on a wide range of island-hopping tours (click here for details).
Ferry services to surrounding islands
|Destination||Services per Day||Journey Time||Price (one-way)|
|Taketomi||47 - 50||10 - 15 mins||¥580|
|Kuroshima||13 - 15||25 mins||¥1130|
|Kohama||29 - 31||25 mins||¥1030|
|Iriomote (Ohara)||26 - 28||25 mins||¥1540|
|Iriomote (Uehara)||16 - 17||40 mins||¥2000|
|Hatoma||5 - 6||40 mins||¥2310|
Note that the prices listed are for a single ticket. If a return is purchased then expect a modest discount. Ticket prices for both children and the disabled are particularly good value being subject to a discount of around 50%. Naturally prices may vary from time to time, but the trend over the last year or so has been downwards. A rough indication of how many services operate per day has also been provided below. Where two numbers are shown the lower of the two indicates the number of departures during the off-season.
There are three companies which offer regular ferry services from Ishigaki to other islands in the Yaeyama archipelago, Annei Kankou, Yaeyama Kankou and Dream Kankou. These companies seem to have arrived at exactly the same price point for all destinations (isn't is amazing what can be achieved in a truly competitive market...). Irrespective of how the prices are arrived at it must be said that they are reasonable and represent excellent value for those wishing to tour the outer islands.
Time tables are available in free magazines which can be found in the airport and throughout Ishigaki, but they tend to be a bit cryptic, particularly if you can't recognise the name of your desired destination in Japanese. However, services are so frequent to most islands that you should have no problem getting a seat on a ferry if you simply turn up at the terminal and purchase a ticket on the day of your departure.
Ferry to Yonaguni Island
Fukuyama Kaiun currently runs two services a week from Ishigaki to Yonaguni island. According to current information ferries depart from Ishigaki on Tuesdays and Fridays at 10.00am with the journey to Yonaguni taking around 4½ hours. Services from Yonaguni to Ishigaki depart on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10.00am. Given the length of the journey the service is very reasonably priced at ¥3460 for a one-way ticket (¥1730 for a child). An adult return can also be purchased for ¥6580. Last updated - 12th of March 2013. Please confirm times with the ferry company when making plans. Their Ishigaki office telephone number is: 0980-82-4962, although there may not be an English speaker on hand if you call.
Note that there are also flights from Ishigaki airport to Yonaguni island which depart once or twice daily, but they are considerably more expensive (priced at over ¥10,000 for a one-way ticket).
Plan for Cancellations
While catching a ferry is as easy as catching a bus on Ishigaki, with services being well organized and generally on time, it's worth noting that cancellations due weather and sea conditions are occur from time to time.
Services to Japan's southernmost island, Hateruma, are frequently cancelled due to sea conditions. It's advisable to plan for this and avoid tight schedules which involve travelling back to Ishigaki the day before your flight back to mainland Japan.
Ishigaki's outer-island ferry terminal is conveniently located just a couple of minutes walk from the town center. Be sure not to confuse it with the other port, which hosts larger vessels, including cruise ships.
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