A Guide on What to See at Tsushima and Ikishima – Nagasaki’s Famous Sightseeing Destinations
Tsushima and Ikishima are outlying islands that belong to Nagasaki Prefecture in Kyushu region. Both islands are popular tourist spots where you can enjoy lush nature, beautiful seas and delicious food. Read on and discover the attractions and charms of these islands before you visit them.
What Kind of Places are They?
Tsushima is an isolated island that is located in between Kyushu and the Korean Peninsula. Located at the northernmost tip of Kyushu, it is just 49.5km away from South Korea. On a fine, sunny day, you can even see the streets and towns of Busan from the island. About 90% of Tsushima is covered in mountains, and there remain a number of primeval forests all around. This island is blessed with excellent natural conditions such as complex topography and precipitous valleys, so a lot of rare plants and animals thrive here. It has a unique ecosystem with continental organisms, and not the usual species found in mainland Japan. Some of the popular activities on the island that will let you enjoy nature include trekking through the primeval forests and sea kayaking. To get to the island, you can go by air from mainland Nagasaki, by air or sea from Fukuoka and by sea from Busan.
Ikishima is a remote island located between mainland Kyushu and Tsushima, and has flourished as a transport hub for Japan and the continent since ancient times. It even appears in Gishi-wajinden (a kind of Chinese history book), which is the oldest literature that mentions Japan, as well as the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters), which is the oldest history book in Japan. Known as an island of gods and deities, it is home to numerous historical shrines. There are also a lot of historic ruins and ancient burial mounds that were discovered on the island. The sea around the island is home to the northern most coral reef in the world, and the its coast is dotted with beautiful beaches. Visitors can enjoy diving, sea kayaking and other water sports and activities at reasonable prices. You can get there by air or sea from mainland Nagasaki and by sea from Fukuoka.
Highlights of the Islands
Watazumi Shrine (Tsushima)
Watazumi Shrine is a spot that enshrines Hikohohodemi no Mikoto, the deity that appears in Japanese mythology, and Toyotamahime no Mikoto, the daughter of the sea god. It is a sea shrine where the legend of Ryugu (Dragon King)* has remained since ancient times. There are five torii (shrine gates) in front of the main shrine which faces a cove, and the appearance of the first and second torii changes depending on the ebb and flow of the tide. You can walk up to the first torii during low tide, while at high tide, the gates look like they are floating in the sea. Seawater reaches up to a spot right by the main shrine, creating a mysterious atmosphere.
*Ryugu is the imaginary palace where the dragon king, god of the sea and other deities are said to live. It is apparently found behind a cave, in an abyss, bottom of the sea and beyond the ocean.
Eboshi-Dake Observatory (Tsushima)
This observatory, located at a spot that is about a 15-minute drive up a mountain by car from Watazumi Shrine is definitely a must-see scenic spot. From here, you take in a view of the ria coastline that is created by the complex inlet and innumerable islands. The observation deck is at the peak of Mt. Eboshi on the north side of Aso Bay, which is located at the center of Tsushima, so you will be able to enjoy a 360-degree view of the landscape below.
Miuda Beach (Tsushima)
Miuda Beach, located on the eastern coast of the northern part of the island, has been chosen as one of the 100 most beautiful beaches in Japan. With its tranquil and clear waters, it is even considered a top class beach of the island for swimming. It is characterized by its rare natural white sand that consists of fine shells. Beyond the sand, you will see the emerald green sea glimmering in the sunlight. There are pension lodging, campgrounds, hot spring facilities and other establishments around the beach, so it is visited by a lot of people from within and beyond the island all the time, especially during the summer.
Saruiwa (Monkey Rock) is a 45m tall basalt rock at the tip of the Kurosaki Peninsula on the western side of the island. Characterized by its unique shape that resulted from erosion caused by flowing waves, it looks exactly like a monkey facing sideways. According to the story of the birth of Japan in the Kojiki, the oldest history book of Japan, Ikishima was an “ikishima (living island)” that kept on moving around, so the deities built eight pillars around the island to ensure that the island does not float away. They say that the pillars crumbled and the rocks we see are their remains. One of these rocks is Saruiwa.
Tsutsukihama Beach (Iki)
Tsutsukihama Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island, characterized by the approximately 600m long stretch of white beach and green pine trees. It is even listed on the 100 best beaches for swimming and 100 most beautiful beaches in Japan. It is a shallow beach with calm waves, so it is perfect for swimming. There are showers, toilets and other facilities on the beach. Further, you will find campgrounds, barbecue spots, tennis courts and other spots nearby, so it receives a lot of visitors in the summer.
Ikikoku Museum (Iki)
Ikishima, which appears in the Chinese history book Gishi-wajinden under the name Ikikoku, is located close to mainland China and the Korean Peninsula, so it is regarded as a place that has been influenced by foreign culture in olden times. Ikikoku Museum is a spot where you can have fun while learning about the history of Iki through resources such as relics excavated from ruins on 482 locations around the island, as well as the “Gokan de Taikan Dekiru” (feel with the five senses) exhibit that uses models and images/videos. It is perched on a hill overlooking Haru-no-Tsuji Ruins, identified as the imperial capital of Ikikoku, and the sea of Iki, so the view is spectacular. Make sure to take a look at the special architectural design of the natural grass roofs whose shape look like they match that of the surrounding mountains .
Admission fee: Adult: 400 JPY, High school student: 300 JPY, Junior high/elementary school student: 200 JPY
Specialty Dishes That You've Got to Try!
Squid Dishes (Iki)
If you visit Iki, you have to try their ika (squid) dishes. Boasting one of the biggest squid catches in Western Japan, it is a place where you can enjoy squid throughout the year, such as kensaki-ika (swordtip squid) in spring to summer, the high-class mizu-ika (bigfin reef squid) in autumn, and surume-ika (Japanese flying squid) in winter. When you're eating fresh squid as sashimi, it is recommended that you mix wasabi and soy sauce with mashed squid liver and dipping the sashimi in it. You must also try ika-meshi, a dish of squid stuffed with white rice and a little red rice.
*Photo shows ika-meshi
If you are going to Tsushima, why not try a local cuisine called iriyaki? It is a nabe (hotpot) dish containing local chicken, fish such as mejina (largescale blackfish) and buri (Japanese amberjack), and lots of vegetables. According to one theory, its name came from the fact that the chicken and fish are first stir-fried in camellia oil before they are placed in the pot. The seasoning of this dish varies depending on the region and the home where it is cooked. As the shime (a dish to end a meal), traditionally, some somen (fine white noodles) or soba (buckwheat noodles) is added to the soup, which is filled with the flavors of the ingredients. Iriyaki is a dish that has long been loved by the people of the island, often served at important ceremonies and other events.
*Photo is for illustration purposes
Tsushima and Ikishima are islands that you can get to from Nagasaki and Fukuoka. Make sure to visit them and enjoy the scenery and nature that you can only find on islands.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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