There are a few vegetarian restaurants in Ishigaki. I’ll help you find them. Unfortunately their representation is scarce. Which is, I think, slightly against the expectations of Buddhist country Japan.
Why is Okinawa different?
The Okinawa islands, the Yaeyama islands included, differ from main island Japan. Okinawa is Japanese and it’s not at the same time. The main reason is their different history.
Okinawa was once an independent country, ruled by the Ryukyu kingdom. The Ryukyu kingdom traded with China and other near countries. It’s also the only area with a subtropical climate in Japan. Dialects, traditional festivals, music, religion are all influenced. Hundreds of years passed, but Ryukyu culture is still strongly present in daily life.
Okinawa and Asian food culture
That’s why Okinawa or Yaeyama food fuses with Chinese, Taiwanese and pacific culture. During the Ryukyu kingdom times, Chinese influence was very strong. Pork is a main ingredient in Chinese food as well as in Yaeyama food culture.
Okinawa and American food culture
There is another important historical influence. After the second world war Okinawa was administrated under the US. The remaining US army bases, present today, keep some American culture alive on the island. We see burgers, spam and taco rice. Locals create their own twists with it. Young Japanese love the Hawaiian beach and surf style as well. Hawaii, burgers and surf vibes all come together on Instagram and in the streets of Okinawa and Ishigaki.
Tourism demand and food culture in Okinawa and Ishigaki
Nowadays not only historical happenings effect local restaurant menus. Also tourism demand. Asian tourists from neighboring countries are increasing in Okinawa and the Yaeyama islands. They love to try Ishigaki gyu and local pork soba noodles. Ishigaki gyu is local beef and considered expensive and luxurious. It’s served in a local bbq restaurant or as sushi.
But there is hope too. More vegetarian options arrive in Okinawa and the Yaeyama islands. I’d love to see more vegetarian restaurants using local ingredients and dishes.
How to say that you’re vegetarian in Japanese?
Okinawa food has a little bit less choice for vegetarians compared to main island Japan. Nevertheless restaurant owners are usually helpful to serve you an adjusted menu.
If you eat fish, it’s no problem to enjoy Okinawa cuisine. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, it’s best to learn a few sentences in Japanese such as:
Sumimasen, o niku tabemasen = I’m sorry, I don’t eat meat
O sakana tabemasu = I eat fish
O tamago tabemasu = I eat eggs
These are not the most extensive sentences. But simple enough to make the restaurant clear you don’t eat meat. The friendly waiter will usually show you what their possibilities are.
Vegetarian restaurants in Ishigaki
We have a few options for vegetarian restaurants in Ishigaki.
Joo Chiat cafe in Kabira Ishigaki. A lovely lady cooks delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner with a mix of local and Singapore dishes. She lives half in Ishigaki and half in Singapore. The restaurant usually opens in June, July and August gradually extending her servings from one to three times a day. Please check first. Usually she has a vegetarian option on her menu. I think she’s willing to adjust the dish for you into vegetarian if needed.
Poco a Poco is a vegan friendly lunch restaurant in Ishigaki city
Vagabundo is a Mexican vegan friendly restaurant with a connection to Poco a poco
Ananda kitchen is an Indian style vegetarian lunch restaurant in Ishigaki city
Try some of our tried and tested restaurants as well for local flavors. Please remember that soups and dashi dipping sauce usually contain respectively pork/chicken and dried tuna flakes.