Ishigaki, a wee island closer to Taiwan than mainland Japan, gives off a Hawaiian or Floridian vibe. The downtown is charming and walkable, there’s a Club Med, and there are at least as many novelty t-shirt shops as inhabitants. It’s an accessible semi-tropical destination for tourists, mostly Japanese, but it’s still possible to find a deserted beach, at least in the off-season.
If you make the drive to Uganzaki, on the northwestern knob of Ishigaki, it’s either because you’re a surfer or you love lighthouses. We don’t surf and lighthouses, like, they’re fine, but we came in search of a sandy strip of beach.
Take the left fork on the road that looks like nothing on the way to the lighthouse (these are not intended to be actual directions), walk down a Jurassic Parkish path…
…and you’ll find just that. We had the whole beach to ourselves with the exception of a far-off fisherman, who was doing quite well for himself. We also picked up some sick (read: free) coral chopstick rests, and now our suitcases won’t close.
But then we thought, this beach is fine and everything, but wouldn’t it be better if the sand were made of millions of tiny stars? A 15-minute ferry ride away is Taketomi, an island so small that Ishigaki feels like the fat friend even though she’s totally tiny. Much pains have been taken to preserve the quaint feel of Taketomi; the roads are mostly unpaved, and all the houses have traditional red-tiled roofs.
But the main draw is the star sand beach. They’re actually the exoskeletons of tiny sea creatures, and the fanny-packed tourists go nuts for them.