Japan Travel Guides: Dogo Island, Oki Islands, Shimane Prefecture
Dogo Island 島後
At just under 250 square kilometers in size, and with a population of only a little less than 15,000 people, Dogo Island, is the largest of the Oki Islands, a group of small islands, four of which are inhabited, situated in the Sea of Japan off the north coast of Shimane Prefecture in western Japan.
Dogo is the furthest from the Shimane mainland, and the largest town is the port of Saigo, nestled in a sheltered inlet on the southern coast of the island.
Most inhabitants live in the greater Saigo area but there are some smaller settlements inland and numerous fishing villages scattered along the coast. Since 2004 the town and all the villages have been combined into one administrative unit, Okinoshima Town.
Historically the islands were a separate province and because of their distance from the mainland have managed to retain a quite distinct culture. Along with the other islands in the group, it is a part of the Daisen-Oki National Park and is a UNESCO registered Global Geopark so has some outstanding coastal and interior scenery as well as a wide diversity of geology and ecology.
The coast has a little bit of everything: beaches and bays, inlets and coves, towering cliffs and nature-sculpted rock formations, that can be enjoyed from the shore or from scenic viewpoints.
Notably, on the east coast is the Jodogaura Coast, a lovely collection of coves and rock formations that can be viewed from a scenic footpath, on the north coast, the Shirashima Peninsula is a group of white islands topped with pine trees rising vertically from the sea, and on the northwest coast, the jewel in the crown, the iconic Candle Rock and the Kuma Coast.
Candle Rock, so named because when the setting sun appears to rest on its tip it looks like a lit candle, can be seen from several points on land, but is best viewed from a boat.
The sunset cruises from two nearby ports are the highlight of many visitors trip to Dogo. Not as dramatic as the Candle Rock cruise, tour boats also run out of the main port of Saigo and cruise out to the mouth of the bay as well as along the river that runs through the port that was much busier in earlier times.
Dogo is big enough to have more than just the coast, it has an interior formed of steep mountains and dense forests. Mount Daimanji rises more than 600 meters and the slopes of the mountains have their own rock formations.
The interior is also home to some ancient sacred sites where water, rocks, and strangely-shaped ancient trees have been objects of worship since time immemorial and are still home to rituals and festivals today.
With its mild climate and wealth of natural beauty both on and offshore, Dogo is great for outdoor activities. Mount Daimanji and Mount Washigamine both have many hiking trails and as well as superb views from their summits, also strange rock formations like Tokage-Iwa, aka Lizard Rock.
For those who prefer more leisurely walking there are numerous paths at different points around the island, and even the roads can be pleasantly walked as there is very little traffic on them. Though there are numerous ups and downs, cycling is doable, and regular road bikes can be rented from the Tourist Office in Saigo Port.
However, with its clean and crystal clear waters, the sea is where most outdoor leisure takes place. Swimming and snorkelling are possible at many beaches, and there are two diving centers offering scuba rental and classes. There are several places to rent sea kayaks, and also jet skis and windsurfing is available. For recreational fishermen, Dogo is a veritable mecca.
Dogo History & Culture
For those times when the weather is less than perfect or when you want some culture and history, Dogo has several places worth a visit.
In the same building as the Tourist Information Office in Saigo Port is the Oki Nature Museum and also the Oki Islands Geopark Visitor Center.
In the northern part of the island is the Local History & Folklore Museum housed in a fine Meiji Period western-style building. As well as the displays indoors there is a nice thatched farmhouse to explore in the grounds.
Visitors may be surprised by the paucity of Buddhist temples on the island, in fact at one point there was not a single one left on the island, but Kokubunji has been rebuilt and hosts an annual festival of Renge e mai, an ancient Buddhist masked dance.
While there are very few temples, there are a plethora of shrines. Two big ones are Mizuwakasu Shrine, and Tamawakasumikoto Shrine, both ancient, thatched shrines and both home to unique Oki festivals, Sairei Furyu and the Gorei Furyu.
Among the many other shrines found all over the island are some that hark back to the time before Buddhism when shrines were without buildings and were trees, rocks, and springs, such as the bizarrely-shaped tree Chichi Sugi or the mysterious Dangyo waterfalls.
There are many festivals held throughout the year, some major ones being the two previously mentioned shrine festivals, and many of the festivals include the local form of sumo wrestling and also kagura, the sacred masked dance.
Bull Sumo matches take place at various places throughout the island but can be seen every Saturday at a specially built indoor arena.
Contact the Tourist Information Office for details or see www.oki-geopark.jp/en/lifestyle/festival
The Oki Islands are justly renowned for their cuisine, seafood of course, but also for Oki Beef, raised in pastures. There is a wide range of freshly caught fish available year round, and shellfish abounds, Rock Oysters being particularly big and tasty, especially raw, but probably the signature dish for Dogo is Sazae Curry, Turban Shell (sazae) is eaten many ways but as a curry is unique.
There are also various seaweeds harvested locally and chances are you will see some drying or being processed in front of waterfront homes.
Getting Around Dogo
Cycles can be rented and there are several car rental agencies, though at the busiest times of the year are often fully booked. On weekends and holidays a Geopark tour bus operates.
Dogo has a full range of accommodation options from hotels to campsites. Most are concentrated in the south around the port of Saigo though most areas have minshuku and ryokan. Many of the campsites offer tent rental.
Ishizuka Ryokan is a spacious traditional-style Japanese inn (thus with shared bathroom/toilet), located by the waterfront very near Saigo Port. Has Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, free parking, and, of course, delicious traditional Japanese cuisine. Tatamai-mat rooms with futons for a genuine Japanese experience.
Kusuburu House on the west side of Dogo Island, near the port of Fukuura, and is a beautifully renovated 120-year-old farmhouse that provides very budget, but very comfortable, warm, and friendly accommodation. Has its own bar, and latest hi-tech toilets.
First stop when arriving should be the Tourist Information Office just across from the ferry terminal in Saigo. The friendly and helpful staff can help with anything you need and there is ample free literature and maps in English available.
If you need help with booking accommodation on Oki we can arrange it for a small handling fee. Please contact us.
Tel: 08514 7 8888
Fax: 08514 7 8890
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