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Discover Ishigaki, the center of Yaeyama islands

Date Posted: 2012-07-07

Editor’s Note: Okinawa’s beautiful southern islands were introduced to readers in the June 28th issue. This week, a glimpse at events and accommodations on Ishigaki Island.

Summer is festivals season, and an adventure to Okinawa Prefecture’s southernmost islands is both relaxing and pleasurable. The God of the Sea Festival is a big event on Ishigaki Island, with fishermen called Uminchu paying homage to the sea gods.

The fishermen’s goal is securing safety at sea, while at the same time seeking bountiful harvests. The Haarii Festival involves, of course, the traditional dragon boat rates using small Sabani, a type of boat. Rival groups of fishermen vie for opportunities to compete against one another, with local groups joining in just for fun.

This month’s Harvest Festival, the Honensai, kicks off about mid-month and runs to the beginning of August. As with fishermen looking for good luck, the harvest festival thanks the gods for the year’s blessings at harvest, while asking for another good harvest next year. The Honensai take place in each of the small villages on Ishigaki, including Arakawa, Tonoshiro, Ishigaki and Okawa.

Each village has its own parade, with villagers carrying large, intricately decorated flag poles topped with special ornaments called Hatagashira. Dances are performed in each district and village.
Travel to Ishigaki Island is easy. Both All Nippon Airways and Japan Transocean Air have regular flights from Naha. The one-way flight time is just under one hour. Ryukyu Air Commuter also flies to Ishigaki, but not directly from Naha Airport.

The basic fare is ¥23,000 (about 290$) one way but, there are many discount deals available especially for those who purchase their tickets earlier typically around 50% off when the tickets are purchased more than a month in advance, and sometimes even much more.

There are plenty of resorts, hotels and inns available in Ishigaki with prices varying greatly depending on the class of accommodations and season. Below are two examples.

The Nagura Village hotel is a condominium-type hotel located only 100 meters from a beach with much nature surrounding it. You can play on the beach, go shellfish gathering, watch gorgeous sunsets over the ocean just from the front of your room. The hotel is barrier-free throughout, and open design in all rooms. Relaxing Asian-style interiors and Jacuzzis are featured in all rooms.

ANA InterContinental Ishigaki Resort claims to be Japan's southernmost beach resort hotel. Overlooking the tranquil waters of Maesato Beach in Ishigaki city, the expansive grounds of ANA InterContinental Ishigaki Resort invite relaxation—whether your time is spent lounging by the pool in the lush garden, indulging in a deep seawater spa treatment, or enjoying golf, tennis or marine sports. Rich cultural traditions, abundant coral reefs, delicious regional foods and the natural warmth of the people make Ishigaki a getaway destination that draws visitors back time and again. The hotel is just 3km away from Ishikagi Airport.

Travelers should check prices and special offers on Okinawa Tourland Hotel Booking website, http://eng.tourland.co.jp.

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