Ishigaki, Japan

The Exotic Japanese Tropics

Waiting for Passengers II
Glass-bottom boats docked at Kabira Bay, where visitors are prohibited from bathing in the warm water.
tropical shade
Two generations of Ishigaki inhabitants on the white sands of Kabira Bay.
Yayama pineapples
Small pineapples displayed at an Ishigaki store.
Japanese tropics
Panorama of the coralline coast of Ishigaki, one of the islands of the Yayeama group.
Shisa Guardians
One of several sculptures of shisa guardians grouped in Ishigaki.
marine curiosity
Glass-bottom boat passengers survey the coral bed of the sea off Kabira Bay.
circle photo
A group of Japanese friends are photographed at the edge of the calm and warm sea of ​​Kabira Bay.
horticultural works
Owner of the Hirata business group works in one of its greenhouses.
amphibious tour
Japanese friends during a short amphibious ride along Kabira Bay.
Ishigaki is one of the last islands in the stepping stone that stretches between Honshu and Taiwan. Ishigakijima is home to some of the most amazing beaches and coastal scenery in these parts of the Pacific Ocean. More and more Japanese who visit them enjoy them with little or no bathing.

It is in its Yaeyama island group, Japan stalks the Tropic of Cancer. And on clear days, from Yonaguni, the Japanese island that ventures the most to the southwest, you can even see the Taiwan, Republic of China “rebel” crossed by him.

Moments after landing in Ishigaki, we confirmed that this was by far the most developed and inhabited territory in the archipelago.

In the Japanese ends of the North Pacific

Once handed over to their natives, these faraway places have recently suffered a tree of Japanese domestic tourism, fueled by curious vacationers who opt for domestic destinations over Japan's most adored foreign beaches: Boracay, El Nido and others in Philippines, waikiki, on Hawaii, among others.

The foreigners who come here can almost be counted on the fingers of one hand. This explains why we feel more observed in three or four hours in Ishigaki than in several months spent in northern Japan.

Visitors to Yaeyama start, like us, by landing in Ishigaki. From there, it takes ultra-fast ferries or short flights to the satellite islands, almost all of them lavish in their bucolic, wild and peculiar maritime settings. Before that, it is customary to walk around and bathe your feet. We didn't have ours well settled on the island.

Even so, if it gave, we were willing to make a recreation worthy of the name. Kabira Bay deserved it and more. Strange as it seemed to us before, Japan did have the irresistible marine nooks like that.

Glass Bottom Boats, Kabira Bay, Ishigaki

Glass-bottom boats docked at Kabira Bay, where visitors are prohibited from bathing in the warm water.

Kabira Bay's Emerald Green Surprise

At Kabira Bay, we found waters protected from the great ocean by a front of forested sandbanks. Translucent waters, tinged with bright greens and blues by a bed of coral origin and by the plunging sun. Waters where graceful shoals of manta, dolphins, whale sharks and conventional sharks glide, some of the species most feared by divers.

Kaori Kinjo, the guide who accompanied us in Ishigaki and the rest of Yaeyama that we would visit, assures us that this was the best place to “perceive” the configuration and colors of the bay. It does so in English, quite clearly. Although, in a good Japanese way, I feel that you are not qualified and feel some shame.

So, for most of our stay, Seiko Kokuba, a full-time translator, is at your service.

Kaori Kinjo was originally from the Japanese Prefecture of Tochigi. A few days later, there we would be dazzled by the Nikko's secular temples and the Shunki Reitaisai Spring Festival.

At one point, he moved to the tropical south of Japan. There he found well-paying work at Okinawa's large Aquarium, until 2005, the largest in the world. Seiko Kokuba already lived in the Philippines where he worked at an NGO and learned to speak half English, half the Tagalog dialect, as the Filipinos do.

He had the ambition to go to study in the UK but the family could not sustain that dream. Instead, he moved to India and was there practicing his English. born and raised in Tokyo, married a man of Okinawa and settled in Ishigaki, where Japan is always in summer.

A Bay Little or Nothing to Bathe

We arrived mid-morning. It is damp, oppressive heat. Still, we don't see a soul in the water, just the occasional groups of friends or families strolling on the chalk sand, the occasional barefoot with their pants rolled up, with the warm China Sea reaching them at most. knees.

Girlfriends walk in Kabira Bay, Ishigaki, Japan

Japanese friends during a short knee-deep water ride along Kabira Bay.

We asked the cicerones why nobody bathed in those dream waters. Only half of the answer surprises us. “Well, there are two reasons: one is that most Japanese people still haven't fully surrendered to Westerners' bathing leisure.

The other, the main one, is that, on the one hand, there are nurseries of hypervaluable black pearl oysters in the bay and the producers want them to be protected, even if those waters are part of the vast National Park Iriomote-Ishigaki.

Also, for safety's sake, the operators of these pleasure boats that you see lined up down there are also a little overturned so that people bathe along the routes that the boats use all the time.

Waikiki, Hawaii: the Bathing Destination of Choice

In good Japanese fashion, no visitor breaks the rules. To compensate, such a fleet of glass bottom boats is always ready to show visitors the coral bottom and fauna of the China Sea.

We listen carefully. We take into account the grounds and the vastness of the bay. As inveterate bathers that we are, we assume the ethno-egoism and that everything sounded above all like enormous waste.

As for the first explanation, that of contempt for going to the baths, it could even be like that in Japan. But the year before, we had passed through Waikiki, a bathing extension of the Hawaiian capital Honolulu.

There we saw the pine cone beaches of Japanese whiter than the sand of Kabira Bay, having fun clinging to buoys and lying on inflatable mattresses, in the middle of the North Pacific. There were so many Japanese bathers that from there we brought the impression that, almost 80 years after the boldness of Pearl Harbour, the Japanese had returned and had seized Hawaii.

The Possible Compensation of the Glass Bottom Boat

As frustrating as the prohibitive sign we bumped into at the entrance to the sea sounded, like the Japanese, we too were covered by the restriction. Kaori and Seiko feel some frustration in the air. As a reward, they inform us that they have arranged a tour on one of the glass-bottom boats that show the bay's bottom.

It wasn't quite the same thing, but as a gift horse you don't look at the teeth, considering that we would take it mainly as a cultural experience, we boarded there in the midst of a group of families and friends excited about evasion.

The boat starts by moving for about 15 minutes at a considerable speed. At a pace, even so, much faster than that of the childish Japanese narration that illustrated the nautical tour.

When we reach an area with shallow water, corals and ideal transparency, it goes into a kind of slow motion. All of a sudden, the bottom glass turns into mobile aquariums.

Glass Bottom Boat Action at Kabira Bay, Ishigaki, Japan

Glass-bottom boat passengers survey the coral bed of the sea off Kabira Bay.

Passengers lean over parapets decorated with captioned images of the fauna and flora they are supposed to see there, installed above the glass bottom.

From time to time, one or several bright fish appear in the framing of the corals and fill the boat with life and suck- suck, the unavoidable term for whenever the Japanese are confronted with something cool or that amazes them.

Short Vacations to Japanese Fashion

Some of the passengers on board will be typical salarymen with ten or twelve days of vacation, possibly the first ones spent at the beach. They enjoy the deep sea, the trumpet fish, the clownfish and the like with an almost hypnotic awareness symptomatic of the liberation from the business, corporate and suit and tie worlds in which they have been spending too much time.

The boat takes another turn around the other side of the sandbars, still inside the great coral reef that surrounds much of Ishigaki. It returns to the bay through the central channel through which we had left and anchors with its sharp prow on the wet sand of the coast. Passengers disembark one by one, each surrendered to the sultry delight of the island.

Truth be told, even just recently discovered by the Japanese and visited by very few gaijin (foreigners) Ishigaki gives so much more. Both the diving sites and the beaches around the island are world class.

Ishigaki, Japan

Panorama of the coralline coast of Ishigaki, one of the islands of the Yayeama group.

The rugged interior hides wild trails that wind and rise and fall from sea level to 526 meters of Mount Omoto-dake, the highest point on the island.

Around Ishigaki

Kaori and Seiko collect them from the boat. They take us to an elevated viewpoint from which we can admire almost the entire island, in the good manner of those of French Polynesia, surrounded by a ring of emerald-green reef well demarcated from the deep ocean.

The settings, the warm and humid atmosphere have long attracted the island group of Yaeyama and Ishigaki in particular a minority of Japanese alternative lives, those who never fit into the quasi-slave labor system of the big Japanese cities or, at one point, against he rebelled.

Some, as Seiko did, descend mainly from the mother island Honshu – by far the most modernized in Japan – in search of a sentimental, existential caress, of a freedom that their compatriots do not even realize exists. In an exceptional case, one evasion turned out to be far more radical than the others.

Yasuao Hayashi's Ultimate Refuge from the deranged Sect Aum

In 1997, twenty one months later and more than 3000km from the scene of the crime, to the astonishment of the natives and residents, Yasuao Hayashi was captured in Ishigaki. He was the oldest member (37 years at the time of the attack) of the group from the Ministry of Science and Technology of Aum Shinrikyo, the malevolent sect that carried out the sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway.

In the tropics, however summer it may be, it gets dark early. The day was drawing to a close. Eager to return to the familiar peace of their lives, Kaori and Seiko signaled to us that it was time to return to the city.

On the way, we stopped at an unobstructed agricultural property. The duo of guides informs us that they would like to show us the conglomerate's vegetable garden (also for tourism for which they worked).

Pineapples for sale at Ishigaki, Japan

Small pineapples displayed at an Ishigaki store.

We entered. We follow them. We are amazed by extensive plantations of very yellow pineapples. We move to a greenhouse zone.

From the Quinta do Grupo Hirata to the Sossego Nocturno at the Rakutenya Inn

In one of them, dressed in a green bean t-shirt, blue-green trousers tucked into white galoshes and still equipped with gloves, a man in his fifties works, eventually sixty but well preserved. “He is the owner of Hirata!, transmits Kaori to us, before introducing him. "There's a beautiful farm here!" we brag about it, in English, with Seiko's immediate translation. …..

Owner of the group Hirata in a greenhouse of the group, Ishigaki

Owner of the Hirata business group works in one of its greenhouses.

The interlocutor smiles, bows gratefully and shows us the lush courgettes he was dealing with. We exchange a few more polite phrases until the owner of the place recommends the maids to show us the rest of the plantations.

Kaori rushes the task. Then, it takes us to the urban core of Ishigaki, arranged around the port. We return to the Rakutenya guest-house that had welcomed us on arrival in Naha, the capital of Okinawa.

Shisa Guardians, Ishigaki, Japan

One of several sculptures of shisa guardians grouped in Ishigaki.

The owners, a couple of Japanese hippies, one of those who fulfilled their Japanese dream in the south, welcome us to the inn, installed in a wooden and coral stone house built in 1930, partly in the characteristic architectural style of Okinawa and the Yaeyama Islands, one of hundreds that we would see in one of the following destinations: the delicious little island taketomi.

Before, we still explored Iriomote, the last Japanese frontier when it comes to tropical adventure. They were both other stories.

Iriomote, Japan

The Small Tropical Japanese Amazon of Iriomote

Impenetrable rainforests and mangroves fill Iriomote under a pressure cooker climate. Here, foreign visitors are as rare as the yamaneko, an elusive endemic lynx.
Okinawa, Japan

Ryukyu Dances: Centuries old. In No Hurry.

The Ryukyu kingdom prospered until the XNUMXth century as a trading post for the China and Japan. From the cultural aesthetics developed by its courtly aristocracy, several styles of slow dance were counted.
Okinawa, Japan

The Little Empire of the Sun

Risen from the devastation caused by World War II, Okinawa has regained the heritage of its secular Ryukyu civilization. Today, this archipelago south of Kyushu is home to a Japan on the shore, anchored by a turquoise Pacific ocean and bathed in a peculiar Japanese tropicalism.
Tokyo, Japan

The Emperor Without Empire

After the capitulation in World War II, Japan underwent a constitution that ended one of the longest empires in history. The Japanese emperor is, today, the only monarch to reign without empire.
Tokyo, Japan

The Endless Night of the Rising Sun Capital

Say that Tokyo do not sleep is an understatement. In one of the largest and most sophisticated cities on the face of the Earth, twilight marks only the renewal of the frenetic daily life. And there are millions of souls that either find no place in the sun, or make more sense in the “dark” and obscure turns that follow.
Kyoto, Japan

The Kyoto Temple Reborn from the Ashes

The Golden Pavilion has been spared destruction several times throughout history, including that of US-dropped bombs, but it did not withstand the mental disturbance of Hayashi Yoken. When we admired him, he looked like never before.
Miyajima, Japan

Shintoism and Buddhism with the Tide

Visitors to the Tori of Itsukushima admire one of the three most revered scenery in Japan. On the island of Miyajima, Japanese religiosity blends with Nature and is renewed with the flow of the Seto Inland Sea.
Nara, Japan

The Colossal Cradle of the Japanese Buddhism

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Kyoto, Japan

An Almost Lost Millennial Japan

Kyoto was on the US atomic bomb target list and it was more than a whim of fate that preserved it. Saved by an American Secretary of War in love with its historical and cultural richness and oriental sumptuousness, the city was replaced at the last minute by Nagasaki in the atrocious sacrifice of the second nuclear cataclysm.
Nikko, Japan

The Tokugawa Shogun Final Procession

In 1600, Ieyasu Tokugawa inaugurated a shogunate that united Japan for 250 years. In her honor, Nikko re-enacts the general's medieval relocation to Toshogu's grandiose mausoleum every year.
Takayama, Japan

From the Ancient Japan to the Medieval Hida

In three of its streets, Takayama retains traditional wooden architecture and concentrates old shops and sake producers. Around it, it approaches 100.000 inhabitants and surrenders to modernity.
Ogimashi, Japan

A Village Faithful to the A

Ogimashi reveals a fascinating heritage of Japanese adaptability. Located in one of the most snowy places on Earth, this village has perfected houses with real anti-collapse structures.
savuti, botswana, elephant-eating lions
Savuti, Botswana

Savuti's Elephant-Eating Lions

A patch of the Kalahari Desert dries up or is irrigated depending on the region's tectonic whims. In Savuti, lions have become used to depending on themselves and prey on the largest animals in the savannah.
Hikers on the Ice Lake Trail, Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
Annapurna (circuit)
Annapurna Circuit: 7th - Braga - Ice Lake, Nepal

Annapurna Circuit – The Painful Acclimatization of the Ice Lake

On the way up to the Ghyaru village, we had a first and unexpected show of how ecstatic the Annapurna Circuit can be tasted. Nine kilometers later, in Braga, due to the need to acclimatize, we climbed from 3.470m from Braga to 4.600m from Lake Kicho Tal. We only felt some expected tiredness and the increase in the wonder of the Annapurna Mountains.
Architecture & Design

the last address

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Boat Trips

For Those Becoming Internet Sick

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Ceremonies and Festivities
Pentecost Island, Vanuatu

Naghol: Bungee Jumping without Modern Touches

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Entrance to Dunhuang Sand City, China
Dunhuang, China

An Oasis in the China of the Sands

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Singapore Asian Capital Food, Basmati Bismi

The Asian Food Capital

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Bolshoi Zayatski Orthodox Church, Solovetsky Islands, Russia.
Bolshoi Zayatsky, Russia

Mysterious Russian Babylons

A set of prehistoric spiral labyrinths made of stones decorate Bolshoi Zayatsky Island, part of the Solovetsky archipelago. Devoid of explanations as to when they were erected or what it meant, the inhabitants of these northern reaches of Europe call them vavilons.
Spectator, Melbourne Cricket Ground-Rules footbal, Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne, Australia

The Football the Australians Rule

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very coarse salt
Salta and Jujuy, Argentina

Through the Highlands of Deep Argentina

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Obese resident of Tupola Tapaau, a small island in Western Samoa.
Tonga, Western Samoa, Polynesia

XXL Pacific

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ice tunnel, black gold route, Valdez, Alaska, USA
Got2Globe Photo Portfolio
Got2Globe Portfolio

Sensations vs Impressions

Estancia Harberton, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

A Farm at the End of the World

In 1886, Thomas Bridges, an English orphan taken by his missionary foster family to the farthest reaches of the southern hemisphere, founded the ancient homestead of Tierra del Fuego. Bridges and the descendants surrendered to the end of the world. today, your Estancia harberton it is a stunning Argentine monument to human determination and resilience.
Santa Maria, Sal Island, Cape Verde, Landing
Santa Maria, Sal Island, Cape Verde

Santa Maria and the Atlantic Blessing of Sal

Santa Maria was founded in the first half of the XNUMXth century, as a salt export warehouse. Today, thanks to the providence of Santa Maria, Sal Ilha is worth much more than the raw material.
Boats on ice, Hailuoto Island, Finland.
Winter White
Hailuoto, Finland

A Refuge in the Gulf of Bothnia

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Visitors to Ernest Hemingway's Home, Key West, Florida, United States
Key West, United States

Hemingway's Caribbean Playground

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Garranos gallop across the plateau above Castro Laboreiro, PN Peneda-Gerês, Portugal
Castro Laboreiro, Portugal  

From Castro de Laboreiro to the Rim of the Peneda – Gerês Range

We arrived at (i) the eminence of Galicia, at an altitude of 1000m and even more. Castro Laboreiro and the surrounding villages stand out against the granite monumentality of the mountains and the Planalto da Peneda and Laboreiro. As do its resilient people who, sometimes handed over to Brandas and sometimes to Inverneiras, still call these stunning places home.
Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Autumn Homes
Sheki, Azerbaijan

autumn in the caucasus

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Braga or Braka or Brakra in Nepal
Natural Parks
Annapurna Circuit: 6th – Braga, Nepal

The Ancient Nepal of Braga

Four days of walking later, we slept at 3.519 meters from Braga (Braka). Upon arrival, only the name is familiar to us. Faced with the mystical charm of the town, arranged around one of the oldest and most revered Buddhist monasteries on the Annapurna circuit, we continued our journey there. acclimatization with ascent to Ice Lake (4620m).
Ross Bridge, Tasmania, Australia
UNESCO World Heritage
Discovering tassie, Part 3, Tasmania, Australia

Tasmania from Top to Bottom

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Heroes Acre Monument, Zimbabwe
Harare, Zimbabwewe

The Last Rales of Surreal Mugabué

In 2015, Zimbabwe's first lady Grace Mugabe said the 91-year-old president would rule until the age of 100 in a special wheelchair. Shortly thereafter, it began to insinuate itself into his succession. But in recent days, the generals have finally precipitated the removal of Robert Mugabe, who has replaced him with former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Bay Watch cabin, Miami beach, beach, Florida, United States,
Miami beach, USA

The Beach of All Vanities

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Djerba Island of Tunisia, Amazigh and its camels
Djerba, Tunisia

The Tunisian Island of Conviviality

The largest island in North Africa has long welcomed people who could not resist it. Over time, Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs called it home. Today, Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities continue an unusual sharing of Djerba with its native Berbers.
Executives sleep subway seat, sleep, sleep, subway, train, Tokyo, Japan
On Rails
Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo's Hypno-Passengers

Japan is served by millions of executives slaughtered with infernal work rates and sparse vacations. Every minute of respite on the way to work or home serves them for their inemuri, napping in public.
Dali, China

Chinese Style Flash Mob

The time is set and the place is known. When the music starts playing, a crowd follows the choreography harmoniously until time runs out and everyone returns to their lives.
Casario, uptown, Fianarantsoa, ​​Madagascar
Daily life
Fianarantsoa, Madagascar

The Malagasy City of Good Education

Fianarantsoa was founded in 1831 by Ranavalona Iª, a queen of the then predominant Merina ethnic group. Ranavalona Iª was seen by European contemporaries as isolationist, tyrant and cruel. The monarch's reputation aside, when we enter it, its old southern capital remains as the academic, intellectual and religious center of Madagascar.
Flock of flamingos, Laguna Oviedo, Dominican Republic
Oviedo Lagoon, Dominican Republic

The (very alive) Dominican Republic Dead Sea

The hypersalinity of the Laguna de Oviedo fluctuates depending on evaporation and water supplied by rain and the flow coming from the neighboring mountain range of Bahoruco. The natives of the region estimate that, as a rule, it has three times the level of sea salt. There, we discover prolific colonies of flamingos and iguanas, among many other species that make up one of the most exuberant ecosystems on the island of Hispaniola.
Full Dog Mushing
Scenic Flights
Seward, Alaska

The Alaskan Dog Mushing Summer

It's almost 30 degrees and the glaciers are melting. In Alaska, entrepreneurs have little time to get rich. Until the end of August, dog mushing cannot stop.