Where Traditions are Woven with the Heart and Inspired by the Sea

9:00 Depart from Ishigaki Port

The main island of the Yaeyama Archipelago, Ishigaki Island is the economic and transportation hub of the region. Renowned for its incomparable natural beauty, this enchanting island is also a treasure trove of unique crafts and culinary delights. Spend a memorable day with your loved one in the beautiful setting of Ishigaki Island and discover what makes it so special and endearing.

↓ About 10 minutes by taxi

9:10 Minsah Kogei Kan (Craft Center) (about 1.5 hours)

Your itinerary into the heart of Ishigaki culture starts from Yaeyama Minsah, a traditional textile produced in Ishigaki and Taketomi Islands. Characterized by alternating five- and four-square shaped Kasuri patterns, Minsah is a plain-woven cotton fabric that was originally used to make narrow belts given by women to men as a token of their betrothal. The distinctive five-and-four patterns have in fact a romantic meaning conveyed by the pun “itsu (5) no yo (4) mademo suenagaku”, which expresses the women’s wish that their love would last forever. The Minsah Kogei Kan offers you the chance to learn about the history and manufacture of this unique textile and to experience it up close. At the workshop located on the first floor, you can observe each step of the weaving process and, if you want to feel like an artisan, even try your hand at it. Exhibits relating to the history of Yaeyama Minsah are on display on the second floor, as well as the works of famous artists. At the shop, you will find bags, neckties, and many other skillfully crafted Minsah items that will surely make a perfect Okinawan gift, or a beautiful reminder of your eternal love.

↓ About 15 minutes by taxi

10:30 Ishigaki-yaki Pottery Studio (about 1.5 hours)

If there is something that truly defines Ishigaki Island, it is the mesmerizing blue color of the waters that surround it. A relatively new craft that combines glass and pottery, Ishigaki-yaki is a black-glazed ware speckled with silver spots (called Yuteki Tenmoku) that incorporates a rich-hued blue surface. This blue glaze that resembles the shades of the Okinawan sea is the result of combining mineral ore with translucent glass. Acclaimed worldwide for its exquisite beauty, Ishigaki-yaki has been showcased at events and exhibitions throughout the globe. You can admire this enchanting craft at the Ishigaki-yaki Pottery Studio, which features a gallery and a workshop to make your own original creations. Its founder and owner learned the technique of fusing glass and ceramic material from his father and seeks to capture the diverse nuances of Ishigaki into his artwork. Each piece here is unique, so if you fall in love with something you should buy it on the spot. If you wish to join the workshop, a teacher will thoroughly explain the entire process, from shaping the clay to drawing the patterns. Let your soul speak through your hands to make a one-of-a-kind piece of art. The result will be more than a simple souvenir: it will be something you will treasure for a lifetime.

↓ About 15 minutes by taxi

12:15 Smoked Ishigaki Beef Steak KABIRATEI (about 1 hour)

The abundant nature of Ishigaki not only inspires local crafts, but also provides delicious ingredients for world-class gourmet. Raised under the warm sun of the island, the black cattle of Ishigaki graze in wide, open spaces and produce top-grade beef known for its tender texture and excellent flavor. Considered one of the best brands of wagyu (Japanese beef), Ishigaki Beef was even served to the leaders of the G8 countries during the 2000 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit. Treat yourself to a meal fit for a prime minister at KABIRATEI, which offers creative dishes made with premium cuts of Ishigaki and Misaki Beef. Specializing in instant-smoked cuisine, KABIRATEI will surprise you with steaks served under a glass dome filled with aromatic smoke, which gives the meat an incredibly deep and luxurious flavor. As the dome is lifted, the smoke billows out to reveal your steak, in an artful presentation that will surely enhance your culinary experience. For a different dimension of flavor, also try their pork and chicken steaks and get your phone ready to take some amazing snaps to share with friends back home.

↓ About 10 minutes by walk

13:30 Takamine Distillery (about 40 minutes)

Tradition can take many forms and sometimes you can find it distilled into a cup. Round off your day in Ishigaki in the best way possible with a taste of awamori, Okinawa’s signature liquor. Set in a location with a spectacular view of Kabira Bay, Ishigaki’s most iconic spot, Takamine Distillery has been making awamori the traditional way since 1949. Each and every bottle at this quaint brewery is crafted by hand from start to finish, exclusively utilizing spring water from Mt. Omoto, Okinawa’s highest mountain. Traditional brewing techniques such as the direct flame distillation and the manual kneading of the koji mold make sure the Takamine products retain their trademark excellence. Observe the distillers from the viewing gallery to see how much dedication and care they put into their work. Several kinds of awamori can be found at the shop, all available for sampling. Try their kusu, a 3-year-old awamori that will tantalize your senses with its rich, mellow taste, and do not forget to raise a toast to your memorable Ishigaki trip.

↓ About 30 minutes by taxi

14:45 Return to Ishigaki Port

Posted on March 31th, 2021
Text by Silvia Telloni
Based in Tokyo with Okinawa in her heart, Silvia Telloni translates and writes in Italian, English and Japanese.

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