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Ishigaki, Ryukyu Islands

Tour description

Ishigaki is a city in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, and includes Ishigaki Island and the disputed Senkaku Islands territory. Ishigaki City is the political, cultural, and economic centre of the Yaeyama Islands. At approximately 85 square miles (221 square kilometres) Ishigaki City covers all of Ishigaki Island. Ishigaki Island is part of the island chain comprising the Yaeyama Archipelago, and surrounded by coral reefs. Its highest point is Omoto, an approximately 1,726-foot-high (about 526-metre-high) mountain located on Ishigaki Island, and the tallest mountain in the Okinawa Prefecture. Together with Kabira Bay, Mount Omoto is a nationally-designated Place of Scenic Beauty. The uninhabited Senkaku Islands are located approximately 93 miles (about 150 kilometres) north of Ishigaki Island, and have an area of approximately 2.4 square miles (about 6.3 square kilometres).


The area now known as Ishigaki Town was founded in 1614. Torin Ji, a Buddhist temple founded in the same year, is located near the centre of Ishigaki Town. It houses several statues dating from 1737, which possibly represent the tutelary gods of Ishigaki Island. A neighbouring Shinto Shrine, Gongen Do, was destroyed during a massive tsunami that hit the island in 1771, and the present buildings date from 1787. Fuzaki Kannon Do, a small Shinto shrine dedicated to Kannon, the Shinto goddess of mercy, dates from 1742 and is located on a hill approximately 3.1 miles (about five kilometres). The shrine offers splendid views of Ishigaki, and the neighbouring island of Iriomote. Nearby is Miyaradunchi, a residential building dating from 1819. Its architecture with a hip roof consisting of red tiles is similar to samurai houses on mainland Japan, but there have never been samurai on the Yaeyama Islands. Ishigaki was originally founded in 1908 as Yaeyama Village, an amalgamation of the Ishigaki, Ōhama and Miyara magiri. In 1914, it was renamed Ishigaki Village, and grew to become Ishigaki Town in 1926. Ishigaki was elevated to city status on July 10, 1947.


Ishigaki is served by the New Ishigaki Airport and Ishigaki Port. The port area in Ishigaki is a lively spot to people-watch, or catch the ferry to a nearby island. In addition to ferry boats, the port is home to fishing boats, glass-bottom boats and larger cargo boats that act as the lifeline for the outer islands. Ishigaki's economy is also supported by its sugarcane and pineapple production, and a burgeoning tourism industry.


Much of the island and surrounding waters, including Mount Omoto and Kabira Bay, are protected as part of Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park. Kabira Bay is located on the north coast of Ishigaki Island, and is renowned for its white sands, emerald green and turquoise waters, black pearls and dense vegetation. Alongside Mount Omoto, it has been designated a 'Place of Scenic Beauty'. Ishigaki is also home to magnificent beaches with crystal-clear water, including Maezato, Fusaki, Sukuji, Sunset, and Yonehara, which features its own coral reef just metres from the shore.


Ishigaki offers ample opportunities to explore the culture, legacy and traditions of this picturesque island during visits to the Nantoh Folk Museum and Yaeyama Museum. This museum, located on Main St. in the centre of Ishigaki Town, features various types of boats and other items referring to the history and culture of the Yaeyama Islands. Historic landmarks include the Gongen Do Shinto shrine, Torin Ji Buddhist temple, Miyaradunchi, and the Tojinbaka Tomb. Kibira Village, located near the bay, is home to a traditional culture that was studied by American anthropologists in 1950-52. Ishigaki's culture can also be studied through opportunities to practice 'minsah'-weaving and 'shisa' statue-making. Annual cultural events include the Harri, Ho-nen sai, Obon and Tanedori festivals.  


From the peak of Mount Omoto to the crystal-clear waters of idyllic Kibira Bay, Ishigaki offers a splendid array of scenic and exciting sightseeing venues for outdoor enthusiasts. Land-based excursions include taking a water buffalo ride through the village of Taketomi on Taketomi Island, exploring the jungle of Iriomote Island by mangrove cruise or kayak and trekking, and jungle zip-line tours around the base of Mount Omoto. Guests can also enjoy a relaxing round of golf at the Risonare Kohamajima Country Club, located approximately 13.6 miles (about 22 kilometres) from Ishigaki City. Scenic and memorable water-based excursions include the beautiful beaches of Maezato, Fusaki, Sukuji, Sunset, and Yonehara, and fishing, sailing, and glass-bottom boat tours on Kabira Bay, and along the islands of the Yaeyama Archipelago. Ishigaki also features excellent surfing, kite-surfing, stand-up paddle-boarding, sea-kayaking, and superb snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities throughout the island and its surrounds.


Due to its compact size, Ishigaki can be easily explored in just a single day.


Going Ashore in Ishigaki


Pier Information

Depending on its size, the ship may be at anchor or dock at Ishigaki Port. Ishigaki's town centre can be reached via a 0.6-mile (one-kilometre) drive, or a five-minute walk on-foot. Metred taxis are available on the pier. Please make sure to establish a price before starting any journey.


Shopping

Shimizu offers abundant shopping opportunities, and features local shops, supermarkets, and shopping plazas and malls offering locally-made handicrafts, woodcarvings, jewellery, clothing, t-shirts, shoes, accessories, consumer goods, traditional shīsā dragon decorations, sugar cane candy, food items, and other souvenirs. Shopping venues include the Euglena Mall, located approximately 0.74 (1.2 kilometres) from the pier; Ishigaki Shopping Plaza, located approximately 2.48 miles (about four kilometres) from the pier; Ayapani Mall, a covered shopping arcade just west of the Post Office; Ishigaki-shi Tokusanpin Hanbai Centre, which sells only authentic Ishigaki-made products ranging from handicrafts to food items;      Tezukurikan Kōbō Uminchu, which sells Uminchu t-shirts; Yashiya, which sells sugar cane candy; and Koubou Tumeya, which sells traditional shīsā dragon decorations. Many souvenir shops also abound, particularly around the port. Most shopping venues are open from 9-10:00 a.m. to 6-8:00 p.m. The local currency is the Japanese Yen.


Cuisine

Ishigaki is home to Japanese, Chinese, French, Italian, Indian, American, and international cuisine. Ishigaki has a very different cuisine than mainland Japan. Due to the relative warmth of the surrounding sea and American cultural influence, food of Ishigaki is more meat-centred than the rest of Japan. For example, kitauchi bokujo, or Ishigaki beef, and tonsoku, or pigs' feet, are quite popular. The use of 'Spam' meat is also widespread, and featured in many different dishes. Fresh fruit is also popular, including pineapple from May-August, and mango from July-August. Other local specialities include: Yaeyama soba, or local hirugi noodles; Awamori, an Okinawan alcoholic beverage; kokuto, or brown sugar candy; and shiikuwasa juice, or hirami lemon juice. Popular local restaurants in-and-around Ishigaki include: Hitoshi Ishiganto; Scully's Organic Cafe and Dining; Hitoshi; Yuikaji; Oi Si Sa Gu; Akaishi Shokudo; Tofuno Higa; Sea Forest; Papoiya;  

Usagiya Ishigaki Main Store; Sumibiyakiniku Yamamoto; Umi Sora Café; Teppanyaki Omoto; Kunatsuyu;

Asahi Syokudo; Armoco; Ishigakiya; Tonkatsu Riki; Sayoko No Mise; Sumibi Yakiniku Takesantei; Shimano Tabemonoya Baikaji; Ishigakijima Kitauchi Bokujyo Hamasaki-honten; Sun Coast Café; Kamal; and Aquarius.


Outdoor Activities

Ishigaki offers a delightful array of scenic and exciting sightseeing venues for outdoor enthusiasts. Land-based excursions include taking a water buffalo ride through the village of Taketomi on Taketomi Island, exploring the jungle of Iriomote Island by mangrove cruise or kayak and trekking, and jungle zip-line tours around the base of Mount Omoto. Guests can also enjoy a relaxing round of golf at the Risonare Kohamajima Country Club, located approximately 13.6 miles (about 22 kilometres) from Ishigaki City. Scenic and memorable water-based excursions include the beautiful beaches of Maezato, Fusaki, Sukuji, Sunset, and Yonehara, and fishing, sailing, and glass-bottom boat tours on Kabira Bay, and along the islands of the Yaeyama Archipelago. Ishigaki also features excellent surfing, kite-surfing, stand-up paddle-boarding, sea-kayaking, and superb snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities throughout the island and its surrounds.


Private arrangements for independent sightseeing may be requested through the Shore Concierge Office on board the ship.

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Ishigaki, Ryukyu Islands