Japan Travel Guides: Nakanoshima, Oki Islands, Shimane Prefecture
Nakanoshima, one of the inhabited islands of the Oki Islands in the Sea of Japan, off the coast of Shimane Prefecture, is more commonly known as Ama (海士町), the name of the town that the villages of the island are collectively called.
Nakanoshima literally means "middle island," being the middle sized island in the group of three islands known as Dozen. They, along with the other Oki Islands, are part of the Daisen-Oki National Park and also the UNESCO-registered Oki Islands Global Geopark.
Nakanoshima has gentler terrain than the other islands. The highest point is only 164 meters, so rice agriculture exists alongside aquaculture. The Oki Islands are known for being quiet, relaxing, and quite traditional and, of them all, Nakanoshima has gained a reputation for those seeking a "slow life".
While, like all of rural Japan, Nakanoshima has become seriously depopulated compared to 50 years ago, quite a few people are moving there to escape the hectic lifestyles of Japan's cities. The current population is a little under 2,500 people, spread over 32 square kilometers. Because of its deeply indented shape, the coastline is 90 kilometers in length with numerous picturesque inlets and bays.
Hishiura Port is where the big ferries arrive from the mainland and also the smaller shuttle ferries that connect to the other islands. In the ferry terminal buildings you will find the Nakanoshima Tourist Information Office where you can pick up maps and leaflets as well as get help booking bus tours and boat trips. Free Wi-Fi is available in the building.
Nakanoshima Tourist Information Office
1365 Fukui, Ama, Oki-gun, Shimane 684-0404
Tel: 0851 42 0101
Bicycles can be rented and, of all the Oki Islands, Nakanoshima, with its gentler terrain, is most suited for cycling. If you are just visiting for a day trip from one of the other islands there are organized bus tours lasting almost two hours that visit most of the major spots, details at the Tourist Information Office.
For natural beauty, the Akiya Coastline in the north of the island features red rock cliffs and a heart-shaped opening in the rocks. There is also a beach and campsite here. Not far away, Mount Kinkoji is the highest point of the island.
At the southern tip of the island is Cape Kirogasaki from where there are some great views of neighboring Nishinoshima Island and Chiburijima Island. Not far away is Saiki, one of the island's picturesque fishing villages.
Perhaps the most iconic of Nakanoshima's natural features are the Saburo Iwa, the "three brothers rocks". Three large rock formations rising straight up out of the sea in the channel between Nishinoshima and Nakanoshima, Saburo Iwa is best visited by the Amanbow tour boat which not only gets right up close to the rocks but also features a hull composed of large picture windows which allow for fantastic undersea viewing.
Shrines, Festivals & Activities
There are a lot of small shrines throughout the island, but very few temples as, like the other Oki islands, all temples were destroyed in the early part of the Meiji Period. Several of the shrines are considered quite important, notably Miho Shrine and Utsuka no mikoto Shrine. One thing to look out for at many of the shrines is a serpent made of rice straw wrapped around a sacred tree, something long since disappeared from much of Japan.
The main shrine on the island is Oki Shrine, dedicated to Emperor Go-Toba, the retired emperor who spent the last 19 years of his life in exile on Nakanoshima.
Outdoor activities, and their inverse - relaxing - are the two best activities on Nakanoshima. Cycling, walking, swimming, fishing, snorkelling, followed by some relaxing with delicious food. A scuba diving company offers various options for experienced divers, but also lessons for complete beginners.
Festivals occur throughout the year, including spring and autumn festivals at the Oki Shrine. At the end of January small local ceremonies take place as the rope snakes, kojin, are replaced at the sacred trees. July is the busiest time when most villages hold their annual festival over two days, usually including performances of kagura. At the end of August the Kinyamonya festival involves up to a 1,000 islanders dancing the unique local folk dance. Best to check with the Tourist Information Office for what events are on when you are planning to visit.
Guest House Nakamura (Nakamura Ryokan) is a budget accommodation option on Nakanoshima, being a big, traditional old home with tatami mat bedrooms and shared bathroom facilities. The fourth-generation owners welcome guests with all-encompassing, true family-style hospitality that includes even musical entertainment! Free parking and Wi-Fi.
Marin Port Hotel Ama is the main hotel on the island, right beside the ferry terminal, on a large property overlooking the bay, and offers expansive ocean views from guest rooms toward neighboring Nishinoshima Island. Rooms are spacious, the food served here is authentic and delicious, and the hospitality is unrivaled. Onsen on premises.
All the accommodation serves fresh, locally caught seafood. There is one campsite located next to the beach on the Akiya Coastline. Obviously advance booking for all accommodation is recommended.
Getting Between the Oki Islands
A fairly frequent and fast ferry service connects the three islands of Dozen, but between Dozen and Dogo you need to use the car ferry or fast ferry.
Read more about access to the Oki Islands and getting around the islands.
Useful Oki Island Resources
- Oki Islands UNESCO Global Geopark
- Oki Islands Events Calendar
- Oki Islands Nishinoshima
- Oki Kisen Ferries