Ishigaki City Center

Ishigaki city Ishigaki city as viewed from the 'Southern Gate Bridge'.
If Ishigaki does have a weakness in terms of tourist appeal it would have to be its city center, which is rather uninspiring. In a sense it is reminiscent of many of Japan's small cities in that it lacks the futuristic wow-factor of metropolises such as Tokyo and Osaka. Strip away the lights and technology and you're frequently left with rather unattractive towns, and unfortunately Ishigaki doesn't stray too far from the norm in this respect.
 
That said, you don't take a 2000km flight from Tokyo to a tropical island in search of a taste of city life. A trip to Yaeyama is all about discovering the archipelago's culture, beaches and nature, and in these respects it doesn't disappoint. The city may not offer much of interest in itself, but it's home to many quality bars and restaurants and is a perfect base for exploring both Ishigaki and its surrounding islands.

Orientation

If you're new to the town you may want to head for the 730 crossing as it provides a good point of reference. From here you'll be just a couple of minutes walk from the bus terminal, the outer island ferry terminal, the Misakichou nightlife district, shopping areas and the city's main post office branch (which has an ATM that accepts foreign cards).

730 monument crossingIf you're new to the city then the '730 Crossing' is a good spot to get your bearings.

Souvenirs

Shiisa souvenirsHand-painted 'Shiisaa' ornaments.

Ishigaki is a holiday town and its city center is lined with souvenir stores where you can find anything from star sand and shiisaa ornaments all the way up to a fine jewellery and hand-made sanshins (traditional three-stringed Okinawan guitars).

Euglena Mall

The Euglena Mall (up until 2011 known as the 'Ayapani mall') consists of a pair of shopping arcades that run parallel to each other, with the further south of the two being by far the most interesting. This is one of the best spots on the island for stocking up on souvenirs before heading back home, and the fact that it is covered makes it an ideal place to kill a few hours if the weather should take an unfavourable turn for the worse. In terms of aesthetics the mall feels a little drab and could definitely do with a facelift, however, given the variety of goods on offer this is unlikely to concern most souvenir hunters.

Yuugurena mall'Euglena Mall' and the streets which surround it are home to many souvenir stores.

Be sure to explore the streets which surround the mall, many of which are home to quality outlets – pop into shops such as Free Fowls, Rekio Gores, or Natural Uchuujin for some owner-designed T-shirts which make for great souvenirs. The mall tends to get busy after 4:00pm when tourists begin to return from their day-trips.

Shopping for Essentials

In terms of shopping for essential goods such as toiletries and groceries, options are rather limited. You'll find a couple of 'Coco' convenience stores which stock most essentials, but often at an inflated price. In terms of larger supermarkets you may want to head for 'Kanehide' or Arakawa's 'Max Value', which is located about 15 minutes walk west of the town center.

Misakichou

Misakichou is Ishigaki's entertainment district, being home to many restaurants, Izakayas, bars, clubs and even a bowling alley. It is located right in the center of town, just off the main street, and in terms of nightlife things start to get going pretty late (typically after midnight).

>> Ishigaki Nightlife Guide

Southern Gate Bridge

If you're looking for a spot to enjoy the sunset and a view of the city then head for the 'Southern Gate Bridge' which is located around 10 minutes by foot from the city center. The bridge connects Ishigaki to a man-made island which is often referred to as 'Cat Island' by ex-pats - owing to its huge feline population. Overlooking the ocean its pleasant park is a popular BBQ spot during the warmer months, and is occasionally host to live concerts such as the annual 'Star Festival'. Work is currently underway on a beach which should be completed during 2011.

Southern Gate BridgeThe Southern Gate Bridge connects Ishigaki with a man-made island. It's a great spot to take in a sunset.
 
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