Tropical Japanese Island Features Stunning Views

Day 51, 2024 Grand World Voyage

Friday, Feb. 23, 2024; Ishigaki, Japan

Konnichiwa, Japan!

Having missed this most-southern Japanese port of Ishigaki in 2018 due to weather, I was eager to explore its beautiful beaches. The watercolor painter in me longed to see the many shades of color for which its clear waters are known.

The heavily overcast skies put the kabosh on those colorful water views. But we still enjoyed a day on this tropical island that is a favorite for Japanese tourists looking for warmer winter weather. It’s actually much closer to Taiwan than to Tokyo, and draws visitors from throughout the area.

Our half-day ship’s excursion headed north from Ishigaki city to Kabira Bay, where on a sunny day the blue, turquoise and emerald-green water contrasts against the white sand beaches. Today still brought beautiful views from the walkway above the bay, despite the lack of bright sunshine.

Several glass-bottom boats headed out to cruise over the coral reefs. Ship passengers could book excursions on the boats or arrange them on their own once off the ship.

I came across Kabira Kannon Temple hidden in the park, with stone lanterns lining the walkway to its entrance. Not enough time to sketch, but I’ll plan to add it to my sketchbook later from my photographs. Legend has it that centuries ago a ship left behind a small boy who was exploring on shore. The boy prayed for the ship to return, and eventually a strong northerly wind forced it back into the bay. After the boy grew up to become a monk, he returned and built the temple.

The park conveys beauty through presenting a wilderness area that has been judiciously groomed, with winding paths and an observation deck with beautiful views. Small statues resembling guard lions or dogs are called Shisa and are everywhere. They are a remnant of the Ryukyu Kingdom that ruled this and nearby Okinawa for hundreds of years.

Our visit ended with a stop at a shop featuring jewelry created from black pearls cultivated in the bay.

Keeping with the natural theme, we stopped at Banna Park and its observation deck overlooking Ishigaki City. We didn’t have time to explore the nature reserve, and frankly the views were mainly filled with urban sites that could have been almost anywhere. I did find the architecture of the overlook platforms interesting, as well as the sight of our ship in the distance.

Our last stop was the Euglena Mall with its shops opening onto covered walkways. My Google Translate app came in handy to identify the many sweets and other packaged food offerings.

This area is just a few blocks from the ferry terminal, the dropoff spot for a shuttle from the ship. We ran into many other passengers and crew members enjoying a day on shore.

Our favorite baristas! From left, James, Elaine, Jane, Jo, Eloise, Clay and Jen
Edmund and Josephine always have fun ashore.

As this is our first stop in Japan, our morning began with a mandatory face-to-face immigration meeting. In Hawaii, the officers who came onboard for U.S. immigration mainly just waved those of us with U.S. passports through without a second glance. Japan was much more thorough. I slowly moved in the line to one of 15 stations set up in the dining room, where an official studied my passport, took my digital fingerprints and photograph and then affixed a stamp in my passport. I hear it took a couple of hours for all passengers to pass through, but we were long gone, our ship’s excursion giving us an early priority.