Summer in the Oki Islands: Places to Go and Things to Know
We have gathered a few tips for visiting the Oki Islands in summer and here’s some inspiration for your trip.
It’s summer time! Summer (June–August) is the peak tourist season here in the Oki Islands. There are energetic summer festivals, splendid fireworks, the transparent blue sea and so much more! We have gathered a few tips for visiting the Oki Islands in summer and here’s some inspiration for your trip.
Activities and Tours
There’s no better way to beat the summer heat than heading to the blue sea! Surrounded by exceptionally clear waters, Oki is the perfect place for marine activities such as sea kayaking and snorkelling. There are guided sea kayaking tours in Okinoshima Town and Nishinoshima Town, snorkelling & sea scooter tours in Ama Town and if you are looking for an adventurous and environmentally-friendly experience here on the islands, the trekking and packraft ecotour in Ama Town is something you shouldn’t miss.
Of course, we also have a good collection of beaches! The beaches are open from mid-July and the season lasts for about a month. Watatsu Beach is a beach in Chibu Village and is popular among local families with children. In Ama Town, there is Rainbow Beach, which is just right by the port. Sotohama Beach is the only natural sandy beach in Nishinoshima Town. Nakamura Beach in Okinoshima Town is a wonderful place to chill and you can also enjoy delicious food at a small restaurant right next to the beach.
While you are out cooling yourself from the summer heat, please keep in mind that swimming outside beaches or designated swimming areas is not recommended, and there are no surveillance staff at beaches in Chibu Village even during swimming season. It is also a good idea to check with the tourism associations on each of the islands and see if the beaches are closed due to jellyfish or other safety reasons.
For more ideas on where and how to keep cool during the summer heat, our recommended activities and spots, check this article.
Seasonal Food: Turban Shells (sazae)
Sazae (turban shell) is another Oki specialty. Locally sourced, sazae can be enjoyed year-round on the islands; but sazae-karē (turban shell curry) is a must-have during the summer months! The mild and gentle flavour of the Japanese curry is brought to another level, when cooked with the subtle sweetness (umami) of the sazae. You can also buy a souvenir boxed-curry to share with friends and family back home! There is a good collection of them and they all taste different!
Sazae-don (turban shell on rice) is another local specialty. This don-buri (rice bowl) is topped with sazae and various other ingredients. Many restaurants on the islands serve this dish, and each restaurant has a different recipe!
For a deeper dive into the island cuisine and our recommendations for summer season, check this article.
Seasonal Flowers: Hydrangea
Here on the islands, we also have the rainy season, which is known as tsuyu. It’s rainy and the sky is grey, but the soft and gentle colours of the hydrangeas will make your day. Many places on the islands are decorated by beautiful hydrangeas, such as Shirashima Coast Lookout in Okinoshima Town, Yurahime Shrine in Nishinoshima Town, Oki Shrine in Ama Town and Hotel Chibu-no-sato in Chibu Village.
Festivals and Events
Other than super-duper sunny days, summer in Oki will not be complete without these events and festivals! From kagura Shinto dance and kabuki performance by local youngsters to energetic mikoshi parade and dazzling fireworks displays, there’s lots to see and enjoy!
*Please note that in 2022, the events may be postponed or cancelled in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Make sure to inquire at the tourism office beforehand.
Goreei-furyū Festival , Okinoshima Town (5 June)
This yearly festival at Tamawakasu-mikoto Shrine is one of the biggest and most well-known festivals in the Oki Islands. Locals and visitors gather to catch a glimpse of the majestic ritual, “Uma-ire-shinji”. It is the “entrance of the sacred horses” and this ritual is the highlight of the festival. The “sacred horses” (horses carrying the deities from the areas they represent) gallop up the narrow path leading to the worship hall, one after another, at the signal of a big drum. Other rituals, such as horseback archery and rice-planting ritual, also take place. The venue will be packed with spectators, but this is a good opportunity to experience local culture, so don’t miss it!
*Important: This is a religious ceremony. Do not touch the horses and the people that are with them. They are believed to be the servants of the deities that are carried by the horses.
Kinnyamonya Festival, Ama Town (August)
Held annually in August, Kinnyamonya Festival is the biggest event in Ama Town. Locals and visitors dance to the local folk song “Kinnyamonya”, with shamoji rice spoons in their hands. The event is held at Hishiura Port, and food stalls selling delicious local specialties line the venue. At the signal of the MC of the event, the dancers gather and parade around the venue, with the sound made by wooden shamoji rice spoons clapped together echo the area! The participants dance with their group, and there is a group called “Tobiiri”, which means “free-for-all”; just jump in and show off your best Kinnyamonya dance moves! After the parade, a fireworks display decorates the night sky at Hishiura Port.
A note on events and festivals:
A lot of the festivals here in Oki have been passed down from ancient times, shaping the identity of the islands, and giving each of them a unique character. Most of the festivals here have a religious background, and another characteristic of the festivals is that compared to urban areas, participants are mostly local residents. If you would like to learn more about the festivals and culture surrounding the events, or are afraid of breaking unspoken local protocols, we recommend hiring a tour guide! The guides will provide more insight and give you tips on how to enjoy your time here on the islands.
The Weather and What to Wear
Surrounded by sea, the islands are slightly cooler than other coastal areas in the San’in region during the summer months; but we do get baked by the summer sun. The average temperature in June measures up to 20.1℃. In July, the average temperature rises to 24.2℃ and 26℃ in August, but it can go up to 29℃ and occasionally climbs above 30℃.
To battle the sizzling hot summer heat, take a break at local cafés, grab a quick drink and maybe refuel yourself with a delicious afternoon snack. The ferry terminals are all equipped with free Wi-Fi; you can chill there and share the lovely pictures you have taken in the Oki Islands on social media while enjoying the view of the port!
To protect your shoulders and arms from the sun’s rays, we recommend wearing long-sleeved shirts in light colours. Breathable tops are also highly recommended, especially during the rainy season, as they can keep you cool! Hats, sunglasses, sunscreen lotions and handkerchiefs (or small towels) are must-haves. It is also a good idea to have some insect repellent with you to keep mosquitos away from you.
If you are going to hit the beach or paddle into some sea caves with a kayak instructor, make sure to pack your swimsuit and marine shoes. Rash guards are also recommended as they can protect you from potential scrapes, sunburn and dangerous sea animals or plants.
Accommodation and Transport
With the limited number of accommodation facilities on the islands, rooms can go out very quickly, especially during the school summer holidays. If you are planning to visit the islands, please make your booking well in advance! Same goes for rental cars and bicycles, as those also tend to get fully booked in high tourism season.
Special Note about Obon
Obon is an annual Buddhist event observed in August and one of Japan’s most important festivals. It is believed that the spirits of family ancestors return to their earthly home during this period. Obon is an important period for Japanese people, so some accommodation facilities close to allow owners and employees to spend this time with their families. For this reason, it may be quite difficult to find accommodation on the islands during this period. Also, many islanders return to the islands to visit their family home, so the fast ferry Rainbow Jet is easily booked up and the ferries can get very crowded. This also means the restaurants will be more crowded than usual!
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Author: Cleo Wong