We took a 2 week cruise on Holland America’s MS Westerdam ship starting from Yokohama and stopping at Naha and Ishigaki in Okinawa, Hualien and Keelung in Taiwan and Kagoshima, Aburatsu, Kochi, Osaka and Shimizu in Japan before returning to Yokohama.
After an overnight sail from Naha, Okinawa we arrived into Ishigaki, Okinawa. Ishigaki Island is the commercial hub of the Yaeyama Islands, in Japan’s southwestern Okinawa Prefecture. It’s known for beaches and sites for snorkeling, diving and surfing. Within Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park lies the Shiraho Reef’s rare blue coral.
We walked into the town which was somewhat rundown and quiet. We found the small Euglena Mall which had a smattering of small tourist shops, a few small restaurants and cafes and a small wet market.
We then walked from Euglena Mall to visit the Gongendo Shrine and the Torinjii Temple. The Gongendo shrine was built in 1614 (and reconstructed in 1786) and one can clearly see the many influences from mainland Japan, China, Okinawa and other parts of Asia in the design and motifs used. It has been listed as a National Important Cultural Property.
Next to this shrine was the Torinji Temple. The Torinji temple was founded in 1614 and was the first temple in Yaeyama. The entrance is guarded by two ancient wooded sentries, which have survived the various hurricanes and tsunami which have afflicted the island over the years.
At lunchtime we wanted to sample the famous Ishigaki beef so we found the excellent Papoiya Steak Restaurant. The steak was without doubt the best I have ever had …. better than Kobe wagyu beef. It was served up with a nice starter salad, vegetables and soup and helped along with a lovely local beer. This was the highlight of our visit to Ishigaki.
Ishigaki beef is a Japanese Black cattle, bred and fattened in Yaeyama District, Okinawa, Japan. Ishigaki beef has a long history, but it became very popular in Japan when it was served as main dish in the 26th G8 summit held in Nago, Okinawa in 2000. Most Ishigaki beef is consumed in Okinawa because of limited availability; only 600-800 cattle are produced every year.
We wandered back through the streets of Ishigaki after the wonderful lunch and then caught the transfer bus back to the ship.
Returning to the ship late afternoon it was time to explore the ship before dinner. We visited the library which was a new feature on this ship.
In the evening as we sailed from Ishigaki towards Taiwan we went to the Rolling Stone Lounge after our dinner and watched a fantastic soul/blues band – the lead guitarist was especially brilliant and when he played a Stevie Ray Vaughan blues number I realised just how good he was.
Passionate Photographer …. Lost in Asia
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