Japan’s Secret Islands

Do you know that the Japanese archipelago consists of 6,852 islands in total? Of course, most people only know about the 4 big “islands” – Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu.

But there are so many small islands around, each with its unique characteristics, landscape and culture! Here are some of the ones we’d love to visit!

[Last updated 7 Jan 2015]


 

  • Iyo Oshima (伊代大島), Seto Inland Sea 
    Picture from Paysan FB Page.
    Picture from Paysan FB Page.

    We all know how Japanese are foodies at heart – we’ve seen on TV how they will hunt down the famous restaurants, and we’ve seen on the streets the long lines. But who would have thought about traveling to an island just for BREAD?
    On the small island of Iyo-Oshima, in the Seto Inland Sea, is the famous bakery Paysan (pronounced Pay-san). Originally located in Hyogo prefecture, this bakery run by a couple prides itself on brick-oven baked bread. Trust me when I say tourists in the area will stop at this island on their way between Honshu and Shikoku for the freshly-baked bread.

  • Tebajima (出羽島),  Tokushima 
Photo from shikokunomigishita.jp
Photo from shikokunomigishita.jp

Tebajima is a small island located in the Pacific Ocean near Tokushima. What used to be known as “the Fishing Village of Japan” has in recent years become a favourite hot-spot among surfers and sea-sport enthusiasts. Perhaps the increase in the number of young visitors have revived this quiet fishing village.

Walking down the small narrow lanes between the old houses, take in the traditional sights and sounds of old Japan. With the limited guesthouses and visitors staying over, the lucky few who do can enjoy a tranquil morning walk along the coast, chatting with the fishermen on their way home.

  • Shodo-shima (小豆島), Kagawa
Photos from shodoshima.or.jp
Photos from shodoshima.or.jp

Literally known as “Little Bean Island”, Shodo-shima is famous for its olive plantations, creating an unique Mediterranean feel on this small Japanese island. Not surprisingly, seafood carpaccio using the fresh seafood and olive oil, is a common dish on this island.

Shodo-shima is also famous among the locals as the setting for famous novel and movie “Twenty-four eyes”, set in the Showa period. Today, it seems that the town has retained the flavor of the Showa period with its quiet villages, tranquil paddy farms, and old soy-sauce breweries which filled the old town with the aroma of soy sauce.

  • Kinkasan island (金華山) , Miyagi
Kinkasan
Photo from kinkasan.jp

 

One of the three holiest sites in Tohoku region, Kinkasan island is home to Koganeyama Shrine and its guardian god, the god of good fortune. It is no wonder that many worshippers make the journey to this island every year, with the hopes of striking it rich!

The population on the island is small, consisting mainly of the priests of the shrine, deers and monkeys. In addition to the shrine, there are also a few hiking trails around the island, and to the small hilltop, offering views of the Pacific Ocean.

  • Tsushima Island (対馬島), Nagasaki
Photo from yurapuka.net/tsushima/
Photo from yurapuka.net/tsushima/

This island is located between Japanese mainland and the Korean Peninsula. Due to the heavy traffic of international ships in the surrounding waters, the region is heavily monitored by the nation’s Self-Defense Forces.

For the nature-lover, this island is perfect for kayaking, fishing, hiking and bird-watching. You can also enjoy the humble but flavorful country fare. Traditionally, the meals here are prepared with the freshest ingredients from the surrounding seas and the locals’ backyards, including delicious squid, home-grown chicken, and freshly harvested vegetables.

  • Kinkasan (金華山), Miyagi
Photo from kinkasan.jp
Photo from kinkasan.jp

One of the three holiest sites in Tohoku region, Kinkasan island is home to Koganeyama Shrine and its guardian god, the god of good fortune. It is no wonder that many worshippers make the journey to this island every year, with hopes of striking it rich!
The population on the island is small, consisting mainly of the priests of the shrine, deers and monkeys. In addition to the shrine, there are also a few hiking trails around the island, and to the small hilltop, offering views of the Pacific Ocean.

  • Okinoshima (沖の島), Fukuoka
Okinoshima (沖の島)
Photos by Junya Nakai http://www.flickr.com/photos/shimatosyo/

This little island is one of Japan’s 100 most treasured and beautiful islands. It boasts of beautiful natural landscape, especially along the coasts where you can see sea caves and corals. Unsurprisingly, it is a haven for marine sports such as diving and fishing especially in the summer.

This quaint island is also famous for the stone walls and steps the locals have built to withstand strong winds. The famous stone steps will take you through the village, giving you a peek into the locals’ lives. 

  • Aogashima (青ヶ島), Tokyo
Aogashima (青ヶ島)
Photo from http://www.vill.aogashima.tokyo.jp

Get lost in the vastness of the great Pacific Ocean on the small remote island of Aogashima. With nothing but the deep blue stretching on for the next 1,000km, Aogashima is the southernmost inhabited island in the Izu archipelago. The limited accessibility (only regular ferry from Hachijo Island but subjected to the unpredictable weather of the seas) also makes it one of the most remote islands of Japan. Perhaps, a good place to “escape” to?

Although there are only 170 people living on this densely-forested, volcanic island, you’ll be surprised to find many small shrines, alters and tokens dedicating to the Shinto gods all throughout the island!

  • Ikuchijima (生口島), Ehime
Photo from JNTO
Photo from JNTO

Located in the Seto Inland Sea, Ikuchijima is a small island perfect for a day-trip to get away from the city. It is famous for Kosanji, a huge Buddhist temple complex, but perhaps the more interesting thing to do would be to grab a bike and cycle around the island. Spare some time to wander in the citrus groves, admire the outdoors contemporary sculptures, and get a suntan at the beach. Also, keep a look out of the rows of dried octopus that is a local delicacy.

  • Minami Daito (南大東), Okinawa

Minami Daito

Located 360km away from Naha, Okinawa, this tiny island in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean is the home to sugarcane. Still a virgin destination on the tourist map, Minami Daito relies heavily on the sugar industry. That said, there are beautiful sightseeing spots such as the underground limestone caves as well as the dramatic coastline. It’s a great place to just escape the hustle bustle of city life and enjoy the quiet village life!

  • Hachijojima (八丈島), Tokyo
Photo from Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau
Photo from Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau

This is a subtropical island that is only 1hr’s flight away from Haneda. The weather is just like Okinawa, and even in winter, the sea water is warm, attracting many divers. The best time to visit would be in spring, when the Freesia flowers are in bloom. You can enjoy trekking, hotspring and also a delicious fish from the surrounding seas.
From Sep to Nov, the Hachijojima Fish Festival will be held every weekend where you can savour autumn delicacies and local fish cuisine while enjoying the Hachijo taiko drum performances.

  • Ogasawara Archipelago (小笠原諸島), Tokyo 
Photo from www.visitogasawara.com
Photo from http://www.visitogasawara.com

The Ogasawara Archipelago is located quite “in the middle of the Pacific Ocean”! Situated 1,000km away from Tokyo, the only way to get there is by a 25.5hour ferry ride from the capital.

Far from the cities, the archipelago is a paradise for nature-lover, with a culture that will remind one of Hawaii or the Micronesia islands. You can go hiking, dolphin-watching, whale-watching or simply take a back seat and enjoy the laid-back life.

  • Nishino Shima (西ノ島), Shimane 
Photo from JNTO
Photo from JNTO

This island is part of the Oki Islands which was granted the Unesco Global Geoparks status in Sep 2013 due to its long geohistory.
Nishino Shima is one of the four inhabited islands in Oki Islands.The spectacular cliffed coastline, and the 257m-tall Matengai Cliff are iconic of Nishino Shima. In fact, it offers one of the best coastal walking trails in Japan. This is also one of the few places where you’ll be able to find horses on the coastal plains.

  • Yagishiri Island (焼尻島), Hokkaido 
Photo from www.facebook.com/yagishiri
Photo from http://www.facebook.com/yagishiri

Imagine grass plains, blue skies and herds of sheep grazing grass leisurely. No, it’s not New Zealand. It’s Yagishiri Island, a small island located 23km from the Hokkaido coastline.

This island is known for its green pastures, unspoilt forests, and farms for Suffolk sheep! You may even get the opportunity to go into the farms for a wander if the farm-owner allows! It is also recommended to rent a bicycle and cycle around the coastline (only 10km), stopping by to chat with the locals and enjoy the sunset.


 

So here is the end of our list, hopefully in time to come, we will be able to visit these beautiful islands and experience the Japan island-life for ourselves!

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