We tried so hard and got so far, but in the end…it turned out to be a disaster.

You can often find our Japanese-language reporter Kouhey escaping from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo to somewhere a little bit more remote. In fact, his escape of choice is pretty much as far away as possible while still being in Japan–the Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa Prefecture.

The Yaeyama archipelago includes the westernmost inhabited island in Japan–Yonagumi Island–and the southernmost inhabited island in Japan–Hateruma Island. However, since Ishigaki Island’s Ishigaki City is the largest city in the Yaeyama Islands and is the only island among them with modern convenience stores, it can be inferred that Ishigaki Island is home to Japan’s westernmost and southernmost convenience stores. As it so happens, the only convenience store chain on Ishigaki Island is Family Mart, making it home to Japan’s westernmost and southernmost locations of the chain. Kouhey thought it would be fun to pay each of those locations a visit to see if there was anything unique about them.

▼ A typical Family Mart branch in Okinawa

First, though, he has some insider info for readers. Family Marts throughout Okinawa Prefecture in general have a relatively large number of goods that differ from stores on the main Japanese island of Honshu. They’re even managed by a different company–Okinawa Familymart Co., Ltd.–in contrast to FamilyMart Co., Ltd. for the rest of the country. The former company is not under the jurisdiction of the latter, either. Rather, it’s affiliated with the Ryubo Group, which manages the popular Ryubo Department Store based in Okinawa.

As one example of its uniqueness, Family Marts in Okinawa have their own brand called Faminchu which features local specialties such as Okinawa soba and other small dishes. It seems that different branches also offer slightly different lineups of things like fresh bread, pizza, and even sashimi.

▼ An advertisement for the Faminchu line of foods at a Family Mart in Okinawa

Kouhey decided to begin his quest by identifying Japan’s southernmost Family Mart. In order to locate the exact branch, he first searched for Family Marts on Ishigaki Island using Google Maps. A cluster of them popped up, all concentrated on the southern part of the island.

He enlarged the results and saw that the southernmost one looked to be the Ishigaki Yashima branch (石垣八島店).

This one is located along Japan National Route 390, which is both the southernmost and westernmost of national highways in Japan. That seemed fitting! Kouhey promptly headed over to take a peek.

Upon stepping inside, it looked like a typical Family Mart in terms of size and layout.

In the bento and small dish corner, however, he found the locally popular and standard Okinawan Family Mart product asa suba, with asa meaning “morning” and suba being the local dialect for “soba,” or “wheat noodles” (unlike the typical meaning of “buckwheat noodles” in the rest of Japan).

He also spotted the Okinawa-exclusive pork and egg onigiri

…as well as nankotsu soki [stewed pork spare ribs with the cartilage] soup in retort pouches.

In terms of drinks, there was Genki Cool, a lactic acid beverage made on Ishigaki Island…

…and even Awamori Coffee and Pineapple Awamori. Awamori is a distilled alcoholic beverage from Okinawa that’s made from long grain indica rice. You wouldn’t find these in a Family Mart on Honshu.

In the magazine corner, he was also delighted to find an issue of Yaima, the Yaeyama Islands’ monthly lifestyle information magazine which he used to subscribe to.

OK, now one of his missions was complete. It was time to search for Japan’s westernmost Family Mart location. He once again pulled up Google Maps and identified it as the Ishigaki Hamasaki 2-chome branch (石垣浜崎二丁目店).

It looked to be within a ten-minute drive of his current location, so he hopped in his car and headed over. As soon as he arrived, he realized that he’d actually been here before. It was located in an area with plenty of hotels for tourists, and he’d just happened to have stayed in one of those a few years back. It felt pretty cool to recognize it!

Upon entering the store, he immediately spotted asa suba again.

In addition, there were the Okinawa-exclusive onigiri…

…and a flight of three Ishigaki Island highballs for comparing.

And so, Kouhey had finally conquered the southernmost and westernmost Family Marts in all of Japan–or so he thought. It wasn’t until he got back to Tokyo and was busy preparing this original article that he pulled up Google Maps again and something caught his eye.

▼ Huh?

▼ No way! You’ve got to be kidding me!!

That’s right–there are actually other Family Mart locations that are even farther to the the west than the one he had visited! #FAIL.

It turns out that Kouhey simply hadn’t scrolled far enough to the left on his phone’s Google Maps to spot these other branches. Therefore, the real westernmost Family Mart in Japan is the Ishigaki Makira branch (石垣真喜良), circled in red with an arrow above.

How shameful. He’ll have to redeem himself the next time he visits Ishigaki Island…but for now, his coworkers will be sure to think up plenty of suitable punishments for his grievous mistake.

Images: SoraNews24, Google Maps
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