The balmy, subtropical climate draws countless visitors to its sandy shores, but Ishigaki offers much more than your typical island getaway. It is the cultural, political and economic center of the Yaeyama Islands, originally founded in 1908 as Yaeyama Village and becoming Ishigaki Town in 1926. Ishigaki was elevated to city status on July 10, 1947. A hilltop Shinto shrine which dates back to 1614 is the perfect place to start your exploration of this lovely town. Noted for its white-sand beaches and turquoise waters to which snorkelers flock for a glimpse of the island's famed manta rays, Ishigaki Island offers many opportunities to commune with nature. Ishigaki has palm forests, mangrove-lined rivers suited for kayaking, and jungle-covered mountains perfect for hiking adventures. Amidst such natural beauty, you'll find an abundance of cultural sites with ties to the island's rich history. The Yaeyama Museum displays historic artifacts as well as traditional cultural items, and a visit to the well-preserved Miyara Dunchi, built in 1819, is a rare example of a samurai-style residence. Be sure to leave time in your busy day to sample some of the sweet island pineapple and to shop for the island's famed black pearls, a most special souvenir.
Points of Interest
The beautiful, turquoise waters of Kabira Bay are one of only two cultivation sites of black pearls in Japan. A glass-bottom boat showcases the bay's colorful underwater world and coral reefs.
Honoring the memory of Chinese laborers killed during a sea mutiny in the mid-1800s, this ornately decorated monument raises awareness of this tragic occurrence, centered off the coast of Ishigaki.
Board a ferryboat to this petite island, the site of a perfectly preserved Ryukyu village where traditional red-roofed architecture, local crafts and transportation by water buffalo cart are a way of life.
Okinawa's second largest island's dense vegetation, lush mangrove forests and Iriomote National Park welcome outdoor enthusiasts to kayaking, hiking and beach adventures.
Take in panoramic views of the ocean and colorful reefs, Cape Tamatori, Ibaruma Bay and the majestic hills of Ishigaki's northern peninsula from the observation deck of this popular photo spot.
The ingenuity of the Ishigaki people is showcased in their traditional crafts and local delicacies. Create "minsa" textiles, enjoy a sugar cane treat and shop for exquisite black pearl jewelry.