If you are looking for a destination with few international tourists and beautiful nature in Japan, you should consider the Oki Islands in Shimane. While there are around 180 (small) islands, only 4 of them are inhibited. The islands you can visit have amazing natural scenery and interesting history. Let’s have a look at the sights on Okinoshima* and Nishinoshima, the two most populated islands.
*it’s good to note that there are two islands called Okinoshima in Japan. The island in Fukuoka is uninhabited and cannot be visited because of its holiness.
Geology of Oki Islands
Okinoshima was once a part of the Eurasian Continent. About 5 million years ago, volcanic activities made part of the island a caldera. During the ice age of 20,000 years ago, the water level was 130 meters lower than now. Because of this, the islands were connected to Shimane Peninsula. The distance between Shimane and Okinoshima is about 50 km, but the depth of the ocean is only 70 meters.
Okinoshima consists of two parts, Dozen (front island) and Dogo (back island). Dogo is the biggest island among the 180 islands of Okinoshima and the population is about 15,000. But Dozen, especially Nishinoshima Island which has only about 3,400 inhabitants, attracts more tourists because of its natural beauty and interesting history.
Attractions of Nishinoshima Island
Let’s see what beautiful natural formations and historical sights there are to visit in Nishinoshima.
This dynamic 257-meter high cliff is a must-see place. Walk along the clifftop amongst the grazing cows and horses while admiring the views of the inner sea and the coastline. If you are adventurous, you can follow the hiking trail down to the bottom of the coast. It takes 60 to 90 minutes one way.
Tsutenkyo Arch at Kuniga Coast
This impressive rock arch has been carved by the power of the wind and waves over time. This is a great place to explore the rocky coast, have a picnic or an afternoon nap. You can hike up to Matengai Cliff from here. It takes 60 to 90 minutes one way.
Enjoy amazing views of the stunning Kuniga Coast from this lookout. Cows and horses graze in the fields nearby. This is a great place for taking photos, having a picnic, or watching the sunset.
Kuroki Gosho Imperial Residence Site
Historical documents state that Emperor Godaigo was exiled to the Oki Islands in 1332. Some say it was to here, Kuroki. Walk around the area and discover where the Emperor lived. Visit the museum and learn more about the exiles and history in Nishinoshima.
This was once one of the highest-ranked shrines in Shimane and even in Japan. It is dedicated to the deity of fishing and is a popular spot for both locals and tourists. Because of this deity, it used to be a catching site for squids. Tons of squids gather on the beach in front of the shrine every year and people can catch them easily. If you look for small openings in the precinct, you may find some hidden squids.
Access: 50-minute bus ride from Yonago Station (JR Line) to a stop called Daisenji (大山寺)