Once Japan’s best-kept secret, Ishigaki is a favorite getaway for vacationers from Tokyo. On a cruise to Ishigaki, put on your snorkeling gear and swim among schools of tropical fish at Taketomi Island, or lace up your hiking boots for an unforgettable view from the top of Mount Omoto. History buffs will find plenty of Okinawan culture and tradition in downtown Ishigaki and beyond, whether you’re studying ancient human remains dating back 24,000 years at the Yaeyama Museum, or picking up a few Okinawan dance moves at the Yaema Village. On a Japan cruise, travel beyond the glittering city lights of Tokyo and Kyoto to experience thousands of years of Japanese traditions in Ishigaki and the surrounding islands.
Designated as a top beach in the Okinawa chain of islands and one of Japan’s most beautiful places, Kabira Bay’s emerald waters and sugar sand beach make it a must-see during your Ishigaki cruise. Lounge on the sand, or head out on a glass-bottom boat tour along the bay’s translucent waters. To protect the undisturbed coral and tropical fish, swimming is prohibited in Kabira Bay.
Get a sense of Ishigaki’s tranquillity while surrounded by incredible flora in Banna Park. Hike through the forest and discover the indigenous plant and animal species that lie within it. Bring the entire family to the playground to climb, swing, and whirl down massive slides. Marvel at the panoramic view of all of Ishigaki, the shimmering seaside, and Taketomi Island nearby.
Head to Ishigaki’s only open-air museum, Yaima Village, to explore the history of Ishigaki and what life was like during the rule of the Ryukyuan Kingdom. Stroll the grounds of the village, taking in the traditional architecture, preserved homes, and the squirrel monkey garden. Learn about Okinawan culture, music, dancing, and more.
As you take in the magnificent views of Ishigaki and the Pacific Ocean below at Tamatorizaki Observation Deck, you’ll have a new appreciation for Japan’s coastal beauty. Enjoy the view at your own pace, then pop into a nearby cafe for tea and coffee.
Hop on board a quick ferry ride to Taketomi Island, which is just south of Ishigaki. Home to less than 400 people, you’ll get a glimpse of traditional Okinawan life during your visit. Take a coastal drive on the way to Hoshizu, a beach that’s world-renowned for sand shaped like stars, or enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime ride on a traditional water buffalo cart.
Hikers and nature lovers won’t want to miss a climb up Mount Omoto, the highest peak on Ishigaki Island. It’s a 3.7-mile hike round-trip. Along the way, you’ll discover flowing waterfalls, lush vegetation, bamboo forests, and a breathtaking view from the summit.
Ishigaki is home to a growing culinary scene, and its dishes combine classic Japanese preparation and ingredients with local flair and Ryukyuan influence. The subtropical climate and island location mean that Ishigaki possesses a wealth of ripe, colorful fruits and fresh-caught fish year-round. Sample authentic Okinawan soba, which are thin noodles made of buckwheat. Stop in a kissaten, or tea-drinking shop, for coffee and desserts in a cozy atmosphere.
As part of the Yaeyama Islands, Ishigaki has a rich, storied history that makes it a unique addition to the Okinawa Prefecture. Before the island was incorporated into Japan, Ishigaki was ruled by the Ryukyu Kingdom, and its influence can be felt to this day in the island’s architecture, language, and culture. The Ryukyu Kingdom was a state of imperial China, and from the 14th century until the 19th, the island of Okinawa and the Sakishima Islands—which included Ishigaki and the Yaeyama Islands—were critical players in international maritime trade.
The Ishigaki cruise port is located on the southwest side of the island. Within the terminal/port, there is a station for quick snacks, a waiting room, and restrooms. While you’re here, snap a photo of the bronze statue of Ken Gushiken, a famous boxer from the Okinawa Prefecture.
The primary ways to navigate the island are via bus, boat, or car. Ferries visit nearby islands, and they run nearly as often as the island’s buses. Rental cars, taxis, and even bicycles are all modes of transit on Ishigaki. The sights of downtown Ishigaki are centrally located within a few blocks of one another, if you choose to stay close to the Ishigaki port. To reach most of the island’s top beaches, you’ll need to take a car or hop on a bicycle.
Searching for one-of-a-kind souvenirs from your time in Japan? Venture just beyond theIshigaki cruise port, where you’ll find a selection of shops in the city center, like the Euglena Mall, a popular shopping center. Shop for hand-crafted Japanese jewelry and accessories, t-shirts, and textiles. Don’t miss the chance to bring back a bottle of authentic Okinawan liquor, Awaramori-ya, a regional delicacy distilled from rice or millet.
The official currency accepted during your Ishigaki cruise is the Japanese yen (JPY). Since Ishigaki is a small island, it’s recommended you carry cash for outings at restaurants and shopping at local boutiques, which sometimes don’t accept credit cards. There are various ATMs throughout the island.
Often called the most beautiful place in Japan, part of Okinawa Prefecture, Ishigaki Island is where many Tokyoites come to escape the big city. They seek the warm weather, great food, and friendly people. Some stay and adopt the slower pace of life here and maybe open a small café. History buffs visit Yaeyama Museum, near the port, to see local human remains dating back 24,000 years. They also trek to Tōrin-ji, a 1614 Buddhist temple that survived the 1771 tsunami to become Okinawa’s oldest wooden building. Get out of town to experience the unspoiled beaches, dazzling waters, coral reefs, palm forests, pineapple plantations, and subtropical vistas that ring the island.