Ishigaki, Japan FEB 23 2024

After three rough days at sea, we arrived at our first Japanese port, the island of Ishigaki. The island is located surprisingly close to Taiwan. 

Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands of which 416 are inhabited. It has 18,486 miles of coastline. It has four writing systems and the main language is Japanese. The currency is the Japanese yen. Ishigaki has a population of 48,000 and is 86 square miles in size.

We decided not to take an excursion but instead explore on our own. We were very pleased to find that Ishigaki provided free shuttle bus service from the port into town.  A very nice, large, clean bus.

First we had to have a face to face meeting with the Japanese immigration authorities on the ship and turn in our declaration forms. We received stamps in our passports and colored stickers on our ship cards and we were then free to go off the ship. After stepping off the ship we once again had to show our passports and ship cards to more Japanese officials in the terminal. They also had people standing with large signs with pictures of all the things we could not take off the ship including meat, vegetables and fruit. No way people could later say they didn’t know the rules. Some people try to take fruit and sandwiches off the ship from the buffet area to snack on. It is prohibited in all ports but usually they get away with it. In Japan they do random checks of bags taken off the ship. We were all warned if caught, you face a very large fine and even the ship can be fined.

The ship always provides us with a map of the area which also shows the location of the ship, how to say “Take me back to the ship” in the local language, and the ship’s emergency phone number. 

We had studied the map and selected a few places within easy walking distance. It was the Emperor’s birthday, a big holiday in Japan. Some things were closed such as banks. We had a little trouble finding an ATM that would work with our bank cards so we could get some Japanese currency. We could have gotten it on the ship but knew the exchange rate was better off the ship. We finally found an ATM that worked, most machines appear to be for local bank accounts.

We enjoyed the sights walking through town. Throughout Japan you will find “shisas” on rooftops and entrance ways of homes and businesses. It is believed they protect you from evil. The left shisa has a closed mouth and the right shisa an open mouth. The open mouth wards off evil spirits and the closed mouth keeps good spirits in.

We visited the Tourinji Temple and Gongendo Shrine. The original was built in 1614 and was washed away in a tsunami in 1771.  It was then rebuilt and has been restored several times.

Inside the Closed Temple

Gongendo Shrine


It is always interesting to walk in a food market and compare it with what we have back home.

The Euglena Mall was a fun, colorful place to walk through.

We caught the shuttle bus back to the port where an official boarded the bus to check our passports and ship cards. Once in the terminal there were more Japanese officials to once again carefully check our passports and ship cards to be sure the names matched.

Next up: Okinawa, Japan

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