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Ishigaki

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Ishigaki (石垣, [1]) is second-largest but most populated of the Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa, Japan.

Understand

Ishigaki has 45,000 of Yaeyama's 50,000 people and is thus the political, economic and transport hub of the islands. Most of these live in central Ishigaki, known for lack of a better name in Japanese as shigaichi (市街地 "city streets"), chushin (中心 "center") or just machi (町 "town"). The main districts are Ōkawa (大川) and Misakichō (美崎町) and the main roads are Sanbashi-dōri (桟橋通り), leading north from the port, Shiyakusho-dōri (市役所通り), running west-east along the coast, and Yui Road (ゆいロード), running parallel a few blocks north.

Other population centers on Ishigaki are Kabira (川平), by the bay of the same name on the northwest coast, and Shiraho (白保), at the southeast corner. Much of the island, particularly the central mountains and the scenic northeastern peninsula, is quite sparsely settled.

Get in

By plane

Ishigaki Airport (ISG) is the largest airport in the Yaeyama Islands. There are frequent connections to Naha and Miyako, some direct services to major Japanese cities like Tokyo, and daily flights to Yonaguni. There are buses to the port every 20 minutes. The fare is a flat ¥200 and the trip takes 15-20 minutes depending on the direction; there are both eastbound and westbound services, but both terminate at the port. You can also use the Free Passes for this (see Get around). A taxi to central Ishigaki will cost you around ¥800 but takes just 5 minutes or so.

By boat

Ishigaki Port (石垣港) is located at the center of the city near the bus terminal. There are two parts: the central Ritō-sanbashi (離島さんばし), for services to nearby islands, and a second unnamed pier at the southeast corner of the port for long-distance services to Yonaguni and slow boats to Hateruma. The port information office is next to Ritō-sanbashi pier 1.

As of 2008, following the liquidation of both Ryukyu Kaiun and Arimura Sangyo, there are no scheduled services to Taiwan, mainland Japan or islands outside the Yaeyama group. Star Cruises [2] operates cruises in the summer high season only from Keelung, near Taipei.

There are extensive services to the other islands in the Yaeyama group, including:

Prices and times above are one-ways on fast ferries and may vary slightly from company to company. Return fares are usually 10% cheaper. Slow boat service, if available, will be somewhat cheaper but connections are infrequent.

The major operators are Anei Kankō [3], Hirata Group [4] and Yaeyama Kankō Ferry [5]. There are free courtesy buses from the larger resorts to some ferries, enquire locally.

Get around

By bus

Azuma Bus operates services throughout the island radiating from the bus terminal on Sanbashi-dōri, just across the street from the port. The most useful services connect to the airport (¥200) and Kabira (¥700).

The best deal for transport on the island is the Airport Line Kabira Resort Line 5-Day Free Pass (空港線・川平リゾート線5日間フリーパス); no, it's not quite free, but ¥1000 gets you unlimited trips on both lines for 5 days and is cheaper than a single round trip to Kabira. Throw in another ¥1000, and you can get the Michikusa Free Pass (みちくさフリーパス) which allows unlimited travel on all routes.

By taxi

Taxis are the only other form of transport and it's common to see them slowly cruising the streets waiting for passengers. Flag fall is ¥390 and the meter ticks at alarming speed after 2 kilometers.

By car

There are many car rental companies in the island and many hotels offer car rental at a discounted price from ¥2000 to ¥4000 per day. Inquire at your accommodation. A drive between Ishigaki and the furthermost point of the island is about an hour and a half.

By bicycle

Many hotels offer bicycle rental at about ¥500 per day. Bicycles can be taken in most ferries to the islands at an additional price.

On foot

Central Ishigaki can be comfortably covered on foot, but you'll need another means of transport for the rest of the island.

See

Ishigaki is a little low on must-see attractions and somewhat tamer in terms of scenery than Iriomote. Most visitors hit the beaches of the northern coast and stay there.

Beaches

Ishigaki's beaches are among the most spectacular in Japan.

Other

Do

The transparent waters around the island are full of coral reefs, making scuba diving the number one activity on Ishigaki. In particular, Manta Scramble (マンタスクランブル), just off the island's north coast, is a legendary spot for manta ray spotting where groups of manta rays are almost guaranteed during Autumn. There are a large number of dive operators and rates are more or less standardized at around ¥12000 for two boat dives (not including gear rental).


Buy

Souvenir shops abound, particularly around the port. The closest thing to a dedicated shopping area are the two streets of the covered Ayapani Mall (あやぱにモール) arcade just west of the post office.

Eat

There are plenty of eating options in central Ishigaki, although many of the fancier places are open only for dinner. The stretch of Sanbashi-dori between the piers and the bus terminal has a good selection of reasonably priced Okinawan places, most of which offer affordable set lunches.


Budget

Splurge

Ishigaki's beef (石垣牛 Ishigaki-gyū) is meltingly smooth and well worth the splurge for meat lovers, although you'll generally be looking at around ¥5000 for something approximating a decent-sized steak. Sampling strips served as yakiniku or even raw sashimi is somewhat more affordable, but if the price seems too good, double-check that it's real Ishigaki beef, not a cheaper import.

Drink

Ishigaki has a surprisingly vibrant nightlife, mostly centered around izakayas offering the ubiquitous local firewater awamori. Also be sure to sample the local Ishigakijima Beer (石垣島地ビール) microbrew, now available in "marine" (lager), "kuro" (dark) and three other versions.

Misakichō Center-Dōri (美崎町センター通り) and nearby streets have a range of karaoke lounges and nightclubs of varying degrees of respectability. Outside the city, however, there is little to no nightlife of any kind and you'll be hard pressed to find even a restaurant open after 6.

Sleep

Ishigaki has a wide range of accommodation, ranging from expensive resorts for ¥10000+ to backpacker-oriented minshukus that can go as low as ¥3000 for your own room or ¥1000 for dormitory-type accommodation.

Budget

Camping: The campsite on Yonehara beach charges roughly ¥600 per person per day (as of June 2009). The campsite owner does not provide tents,and although some of Ishigaki's official tourism websites tell you that a camping licence is required, the owner of the campsite has actually bought the licences himself and provides them when you pay to camp. Camping on Yonehara beach is a very cost effective option for staying on Ishigaki. Some camping equipment is available at the 100 Yen Shop (upstairs at Maxvalu on Sanbashi Dori) and the 5 day bus pass is definitely recommended if you're going to be camping for a long time, since there aren't many shops near to Yonehara beach and the best supermarkets are on the other side of the island.

Splurge

Contact

There's an internet cafe in Ayapani Mall, in the arcade that's farther from the port.

There is also free internet in the public library (though its only available from one terminal)

Vanilla Deli, directly across from City Hall also has free internet for patrons.

Cope

The Ishigaki City Hall Tourism Division (市役所観光課) as well as the Ishigaki City Hall International Section (国際交流係) have good information in English for tourists. The International Section also employs a coordinator of international relations, fluent in both Japanese and English, who is available to assist non-Japanese tourists in local knowledge and hotel reservations. The hours for the city hall international section are (excepting holidays) 8:30am-4:30pm Monday thru Friday. Both the tourism division and the international section are located on the second floor. The Hirata tourist company located near the ferry terminal also has English information. Try to pick up copies of the free Ishigaki Town Guide or Yaeyama Navi pamphlets, both useful packs of information with lots of maps to show you around. Note that both are in Japanese only and any listings inside are essentially paid ads, so not everything is listed. City Hall and many restaurants, shops and lodgings usually have one or both available.

The only foreigner-friendly ATMs on the island are in the Ishigaki and Kabira post offices, open daily from 9 AM to 7 PM only and not open on national holidays.

Get out

WikiPedia:Ishigaki

Related Information



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A list of contributors is available at the original article on Wikitravel. Additional modifications may have been made by users at TRAVEL.COM [10].

Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply.

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