Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Okinawa day 1: Ishigaki Island

We arrived at New Ishigaki Airport at half nine in the morning and went to pick up our hire car. Ishigaki* is is main island of the Yaeyama Islands and was our base for the three days. The other Yaeyama Islands have a more rural atmosphere whereas Ishigaki has plenty of shops, bars, hotels and restaurants. There is also a frequent boat service to the other islands.

Our first stop was Tamatorizaki Observation Point which offers great views of Cape Tamatori and Ibaruma Bay. Unfortunately at the time we went is was quite cloudy but we still had nice views of the mountain, beach and sea.

Next up was Yonehara Palm Tree groves, where there is a short path through a palm tree forest. There was a wide variety of really unusual looking trees as well as the native Yaeyama Palm, a designated natural national monument. At the entrance to the forest there were some people making black sugar, a food Okinawa is famous for. There was also a small palm tree museum with a variety of artifacts such as a piggy bank made out of a coconut!

On our way back from the museum it started to pour down so we decided it was time to find somewhere for lunch. We went to a place called Carib cafe with a Caribbean atmosphere inside. I had a delicious garlic chicken dish.

It was still raining slightly but we went to Kabira Bay and went on a boat with a glass floor so we could see the coral reef and the tropical fish. We didn't see loads but I did see Nemo and some of his friends!

My favourite part of the day was Yaeyama museum. Due to the rain I didn't take many photos but it was a lovely place which I really recommend to anyone visiting Ishigaki. It was set out like a small village and inside each 'house' there was an activity you could do. We visited near closing time so we only had time to do one activity which was calligraphy. In Japan the first calligraphy of the year is very important. We both chose to write the kanji for horse since this year is the year of the horse. Mine didn't turn out too well but it was the first time I have ever tried calligraphy. There were also plenty of historical and cultural items on display such as clothing and pottery.

After checking into the hotel we went out to look for a place to eat. We found a great little restaurant with a menu of local Okinawan dishes. The name of the restaurant translates as kitchen of the cheerful old lady! I ordered soba champuru which was absolutely delicious and my Dad had soki soba. It was a really good day and a great introduction to Okinawa lifestyle and culture. I was looking forward to the next day when we would visit Iriomote, the jungle island.   .

The view from Tamatorizaki viewing point.

Making black sugar.

Yonehara Palm tree grove.

Yonehara palm tree grove.

Yonehara palm tree grove.

Palm tree museum.

Yaeyama museum.

First calligraphy of the year, mine is the one on the right.

Soba champuru

Soki soba

Kitchen of the cheerful old lady.
*Japanese lesson #2: Ishigaki-jima
石 ishi- stone
垣 gaki- wall
島 jima- island

Part of Nicole`s link-up, Treat Yo`self, over at Treasure Tromp.

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