Philip Hamilton-Grierson discovers the gentle pleasures of Ishigaki in the country’s far south.
Ishigaki is the second largest of the Yaeyama Islands, the westernmost part of the Okinawa chain of islands. It is the most populated of the Yaeyama Islands and also the main transport and commercial centre. Ishigaki’s climate, white-sand beaches and relaxed island atmosphere makes it the ideal place to relax after a tour of Japan. For the more active, there is kayaking and cycling, or coral reefs, neighbouring islands and a fascinating culture to explore.
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With year-round temperatures of around 20 degrees and some beautiful beaches, Ishigaki is an ideal place to relax after a tour of Japan. Hiring a car is the best way to explore, and the island is small enough to drive around in a day and visit different places of interest. Off the east coast near Shiraho Beach, there are some pristine coral reefs and excellent snorkelling, or head to Kabira bay on the north coast for a glass-bottomed boat ride across the clear waters. The white-sand Sukuji beach nearby is another popular spot. Mount Omoto in the centre of the island offers an adventurous 2-hour hike to the summit for some superb views, or visit Ishigaki City which is home to most of the islands shops and restaurants, and the small Ishigaki City Yaeyama Museum which has exhibits on the history and archaeology of the Yaeyama Islands.
Taketomi is a tiny island of just 5.4 square kilometres, located just 4 kilometres south of Ishigaki and accessible via a 10-minute ferry ride from Ishigaki port. The atmosphere is very laid back, with transport on the island either by rental bike or water buffalo taxi, although many areas can be explored on foot. There are a number of fine beaches here, some traditional Ryukyu-style buildings with their distinctive red-roof tiles, and a folk craft museum displaying local textiles.
Truly exclusive and exceptionally luxurious.
Very high class accommodation with superb facilities and service.
High standard accommodation, service and facilities.
Good standard accommodation, service and facilities.
Clean and comfortable with en suite bathrooms but limited facilities.
Very modest with shared bathrooms and minimal facilities