Where is Ishigaki island?
Ishigaki Island is the main island of Yaeyama Islands, the southernmost island chain of Okinawa, Japan. Geographically, it’s closer to Taiwan (280 km to Taipei) than it is to Naha (410km) and mainland Japan (2000 km away from Tokyo).
Why visit Ishigaki Island?
Ishigaki island is the economic and transportation hub of Yaeyama island chain, known for its magnificent natural scenery. Turquoise sea and white sands are only part of its allure, Ishigaki is also home to a diverse landscape, from mountains to mangrove forests and coral reefs that patch its coastline. Unpolutted by urban lights, Ishigaki is great for star-gazing. Out of 88 constellations, 84 are visible on a cloudless night.
Thanks to its relatively isolated location, Okinawan culture is well and alive in Yaeyama – from red-tiled traditional buildings, ‘Utaki’ shrine hidden in semi-tropical forests, to folk songs accompanied by sanshin (Okinawan tradition three stringed instrument). You’ll be able to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and slow down your pace to immerse yourself into nature and local culture.
Ishigaki is by no means a static island where time is frozen in the past. The American occupation since the end of WWII, returning to Japanese administration, the Okinawan lifestyle boom and the historic and recent influx of population from other parts of Japan, all left their marks on the island. That is also reflected in its food culture. for an island of its size, you’ll be surprised how many good quality restaurants, dinning bars (izakaya) and bars are there in downtown Ishigaki.
Though my blog is dedicated to introducing the food culture and restaurants in central Ishigaki, I have also compiled a list of my favorite spots in Ishigaki, you can check them out here:
- Top 10 attractions in Ishigaki: Natural Wonders
- Top 10 attractions in Ishigaki: Cultural and Historic Sites
For further information, please check the following two sites which I found very useful:
- Ishigaki-Japan.com (English & Japanese): an extremely informative guide written by a British engineer Richard, who lived on the island in 2008. His introduction on the beaches and mountain trekking are extremely helpful even for repeaters.
- Ishigaki Now (Chinese & Japanese): this site is part of the USIO Project -a collaborative effort of Ishigaki City government and design company based in Tokyo and Taipei to promote tourism and culture awareness. It has beautiful visual, and offers many good advice on how to enjoy Ishigaki in depth, unfortunately it’s only available in Japanese and Mandarin now. They also provide a nice photo gallery that’s downloadable on flickr and free for personal and website use.
Flying to Ishigaki
For domestic flights, there are several flights daily from Naha (for the duration of 1 hour), Tokyo, Osaka and other cities, operated by ANA, JAC (under JAL) and LCCs such as Peach and Solaseed Air.
For international flights, HK Express now flies throughout the year from Hong Kong directly to Ishigaki (approximately 2-3 hours). And there are direct flight from Taipei in high season (April to October), operated by Taiwan’s China Airlines.
For more flight information, check the official page of Ishigaki Airport (English).
Getting around Ishigaki Island
There are frequent shuttle bus available from Ishigaki Airport to downtown Ishigaki (route bus No.4 and No.10 or the direct bus operated by Karry Kanto), which takes around 30-40 minutes, and costs around 500 yen. Taxi costs around 2000 yen one-way, but it’s usually faster than the bus, usually in 20-30 minutes, you can get to downtown.
Ishigaki downtown is fairly compact, you can either walk or borrow a bike from your hotel. However, if you want to explore other parts of the islands, you can either get a rental car, take route bus (bus terminal station is 3 min walk from Ishigaki ferry terminal) or rent a taxi (price is usually fixed but sometimes negotiable). For detailed information on how to get around Ishigaki on the route bus, check Figuring out the Bus system in Ishigaki.
From Ishigaki to other islands of Yaeyama
You can take high-speed ferries at Ishigaki Ferry Terminal to almost all the inhabited islands of Yaeyama, all within an hour. Check the timetable and price for tickets at the Anei Kanko Ferry, Yaeyama Kanko Ferry and Ishigaki Dream Tours.
※ Ferry Timetable (English) from April to September.
There is also a ferry to the westernmost part of Japan, the Yonaguni island, two times a week; however, it is recommended to book (Fukuyama Ferry) the ticket in advance and note that the journey takes around 4 hours. Going there on a plane would be much more efficient (only around 30 min).
Since the ferry schedule is subject to changes in weather, please don’t take the risk of taking the last ferry, which might be canceled at the last, minute. Bon voyage!