Ishigaki: A Look to the Future *RERUN
Ishigaki, in Okinawa Prefecture, is a stunning, sub-tropical island that lies some 2,000 kilometers southwest of Tokyo. This past spring, the mayor introduced a policy to drastically reduce the number of visitors from outside to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Though the restriction was lifted it has dealt a heavy blow to tourism, the island's main industry. Eric van Rijn, who lives on Ishigaki and works in tourism, visits fellow islanders as they try to make a fresh start after the initial corona shock.

Hari festival

Hari, held in early May according to the lunar calendar, is a festival where people working in fisheries pray to the deities of the sea for maritime safety and abundant catches. Boats, representing districts, also race. Hari was introduced from the Okinawa Main Island over 100 years ago. It has grown into a major event, attracting scores of tourists. This year, however, the race was canceled. But the ritual, the essence of Hari, went ahead as scheduled.

Yasura-kuitsu (Hiking trail)

This path once connected settlements in the east and the west of the island. It fell out of use after the eastern settlement was abandoned. Local residents, who are keen to pass on the memories of the path to the next generations, are reopening it for tourism.

Yonaguni-uma

Yonaguni-uma is a horse native to Yonaguni Island, which belongs to the Yaeyama Island chain, along with Ishigaki. The small, sturdy breed has been used in farming and transportation. There used to be about 500, but in the 1970s, their number dropped to about 60, prompting efforts for preservation. A stable on Ishigaki offers Yonaguni-uma horseback riding tours.

Access

From Tokyo, it's a 3-hour direct flight to Ishigaki.