About the Oki Islands
Located in the Sea of Japan 40 – 80 km north of Shimane Peninsula, the Oki Islands are a collection of many uninhabited islands and four inhabited islands: Dōgo Island, Nishinoshima Island, Nakanoshima Island and Chiburijima Island. Designated as a UNESCO Global Geopark, the islands are also part of the Daisen-Oki National Park.
Okinoshima Town is on the largest island (Dōgo Island) and lies slightly away from the other three inhabited islands. Nishinoshima Town, Ama Town and Chibu Village, lying respectively on Nishinoshima Island, Nakanoshima Island and Chiburijima Island, lie closer to each other and are collectively known as the Dōzen Islands.
Designated as a UNESCO Global Geopark, the Oki Islands are known for their abundance of natural beauty and a unique culture that offers a different experience from the main islands of Japan. Here, visitors can step back, connect with nature, and develop authentic connections with the island people who truly act as stewards of the island’s ecosystems and natural resources, cultural assets and traditions, and communities and economies.
The Oki Islands offer many outdoor activities. Surrounded by exceptionally clear waters, Oki is the perfect place for marine activities such as sea kayaking and snorkeling. The rugged coastline and landscape formed by volcanic activities in the past offer scenic routes for hiking and cycling. Cows and horses are kept on the islands, and sometimes they can be found grazing along the scenic hiking routes.
The Oki Islands were in large part created by volcanic activity and subsequent erosion caused by wind and waves. The mostly rocky coastline is dotted with interesting rocks and small islets, creating a very picturesque scenery, perfect for a walk. Sea kayaking or packrafting is an easy way to access many beautiful views and marvel at the complex coastline. Highly transparent waters allow the visitors to observe marine animals, and give the illusion of gliding over the sea. Sea kayaking tours are available in Nishinoshima Town and Okinoshima Town. Packrafting tour is available in Ama Town only.
With their complex coastlines, the Oki Islands are a place where some of the most stunning natural sights can only be seen from the sea. For those who prefer a more relaxed experience, we recommend joining one of the sightseeing boat tours. From a slow-paced exploration of the fishing port scenery to thrilling adventures taking you inside sea caves and under natural sea arches, the dynamic coastal views will take your breath away. See this article for information about the sightseeing boats available on each island.
The hiking routes on the three Dōzen Islands here feature panoramic views of the sea and the numerous islands of the archipelago. Some highlights include hiking down from the cliff top to the coast through a vast green pasture at Kuniga Coast, visiting a shrine hidden on Mt. Takuhi, walking through small, cosy settlements on Chiburijima Island, and discovering how the unique terrain of the islands influenced the history and the daily lives of the local people.
One might imagine islands to offer only views of coastal landscapes, but 500–600 m tall mountains and deep forests are popular hiking destinations in Okinoshima Town (Dōgo Island). There are five hiking routes with different levels of difficulty: Mt. Daimanji, Washigamine Ridge, Tokage-iwa (Lizard Rock), Mt. Takada, and Shirashima Coast. The tours’ highlights include climbing the highest peak of the island from where breathtaking scenery can be seen, walking through a natural forest of Japanese cedars, and discovering the unique ecosystem of the Oki Islands.
The Oki Islands, though small and remote, have played a significant role in Japanese history, and traces of that past can be found in the islands’ culture.
It is said that in the past there were more than 300 shrines in Oki, and more than a hundred still stand today. The types of shrines found here demonstrate that the islands were once a very prosperous place.The most notable are the 15 shrines recorded in Engishiki Jinmyōcho, a list of important shrines compiled in the year 927. Four of them were given the high ranking of myōjin taisha—shrines dedicated to important deities.
Ancient mythology also suggests the significance of the islands, as according to the creation myth of the Japanese archipelago, the land of Oki was created third, after Awajishima and Shikoku.
With the huge number of shrines in the Oki Islands, there are countless festivals and observances, just like the rest of the country. However, the ones here on the islands are not quite the same. All four of the inhabited islands have their own personality and unique cultural identities.
Communication and trade between the islands and other regions in Japan helped in shaping the unique identity of the islands. A lot of the folk songs and dances introduced from mainland Japan are still sung and performed today, such as Kinnyamonya of Ama Town. Kabuki of Chibu Village is the only kabuki performance on the islands. Other unique local traditions and culture include a Shinto festival with cantering horses of Okinoshima Town and a dance ritual dedicated to good harvest of Nishinoshima Town.
Another thing you just should not miss out on when visiting the Oki Islands is the local food. Just like other regions in Japan, the Oki Islands have four seasons, each with its distinctive seasonal delicacies. The food culture is slightly different between the four islands, but common practice is that local people eat what is currently in season, leading a healthy life in rhythm with nature.
As expected, there is plenty of fish, shellfish and seaweed. Thanks to the flat terrain and abundant water springs, rice and Japanese sake are produced on the islands, too. Another delicacy is beef from wagyu cattle, raised without stress in the rich natural environment. To find out more about what thelocal cuisine has to offer, take a look at this article about the 10 local flavors of the Oki Islands.
Notice about English information on the islands
The Oki Islands are a small archipelago, and while the island people and staff at the tourist information centers are very welcoming, many are not English speakers, and you might find it difficult to communicate in languages other than Japanese. English speakers are present in some of the tourist centers, hotels, and restaurants but please be aware that they might not be available at the time of your visit. We recommend preparing thoroughly before your visit and researching the necessary information, either on our website or by inquiring by e-mail. We apologize for any inconvenience.