Traditional food and music on Ishigaki
For an evening of good food and musical entertainment on Ishigaki island, head for Funakura no Sato. This traditional restaurant sits on the edge of a flower-filled complex near the outskirts of Ishigaki city on the island's western coast.
The eatery is open for both lunch and dinner, offering set menus featuring Ishigaki specialties. When we went in the evening, the meals we ordered consisted of dishes such as mimiga (thinly-sliced pigs' ears that have been boiled and then mixed with a miso or peanut sauce), rafute (the soft belly of the pig that has been boiled until it practically melts in your mouth) and umibudo (sea grapes from the waters off the Okinawa islands). One unique dish that was included in our course was a type of jimami-dofu (a really creamy peanut-based tofu) that had been soaked for quite some time in the local awamori liquor. It packed quite a punch! Each set meal is also accompanied by soup and a bowl of rice mixed with vegetables, as well as the usual plate of pickles.
Funakura no Sato offers a special set menu featuring nuchigusui, or longevity cuisine. This is a selection of the dishes (a number of which do feature in the other set meals) that many feel contribute to the long life span of many natives of the Ryukyu Islands. However, this course needs to be ordered at least a day in advance, a fact that can be hard for non-Japanese readers to discern from the Japanese-only website. If you really want to sample this cuisine, it's best to call ahead (or have a Japanese speaking friend or hotel concierge call) to see if it can be prepared for you.
While lunchtime provides a cheaper dining experience, it's fun to drop in to Funakura no Sato for dinner, when live music is performed nightly between 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm. On the evening we went, we were treated to several ballads (many of which our fellow diners knew) sung by the sanshin player as well as a few traditional dances. The dancing is very inclusive and diners are encouraged to take part. All of the kids in attendance were given percussion instruments so they could clap along to the music's beat. The musicians don't play for the entire two hours, so you'll have plenty of quiet breaks in between.
There is a small parking lot just past the entrance to the restaurant complex. Alternatively, a taxi from nearby downtown Ishigaki should take no more than ten minutes.