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Explore Natural Beauty and Embrace Adventure at Oki Islands UNESCO Global Geopark

 

Elected a UNESCO Global Geopark in September of 2013, the Oki Islands UNESCO Global Geopark stands as not only a testament of Japan’s devotion to natural beauty, but a global contribution towards a peaceful world order. This location off the beaten path delivers an organic, candid glimpse into some of Japan’s finest natural and cultural wonders.

 

Introducing Oki Islands UNESCO Global Geopark, a geological masterpiece

 

Nestled off the coast of mainland Shimane Prefecture, the Oki Islands are an archipelago of about 180 small islands, of which only four are permanently inhabited. The Oki Islands are comprised of the eroded summits of two stratovolcanoes aged over six million years, making for a diverse and thriving ecosystem. The Oki Islands transport visitors back in time with endless rugged coastlines, stunning sea caverns, exceptionally clear waters and forests lined with Japanese cedars and oak trees.

 


The Chichi-Sugi Japanese Cedar is over 800 years old and 30 meters (98 feet) tall.

 

The rich biodiversity throughout the islands make the Oki Islands a nature enthusiast’s dream. The marine life of the island does not disappoint, and kayaking, scuba diving and snorkeling are popular activities for visitors from all over, with experiences offered in both Japanese and English. As sunlight pierces the oceans’ waters, divers can explore the unique underwater topography while swimming alongside an endless array of fish.

 


Delve deep to explore the nooks and crannies of Oki Islands Geopark.
Photo Credit: Nishinoshima Town

 

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Oki Islands is their relatively undiscovered nature. As a lesser-known destination compared to other parts of Japan, the islands offer a unique opportunity for travelers seeking an authentic, undisturbed natural experience. Visitors can immerse themselves in the unspoiled beauty of the islands, engage with local communities and embrace the tranquility of a place where nature takes center stage.

 

Dogojima: Heritage and history

 

Dogo Island – or Dogojima – is the largest of the four inhabited islands of the Oki Islands. Previously utilized as a place of exile in the early 8th century, the island is now home to approximately 13,500 people. The ways of life and history of Dogo reflect the island’s deep cultural roots and connection to both land and sea.

 


Candle Island resembles a burning candle during sunset, and is best viewed from the water.

 

Cultural events are offered throughout the year on the islands. However, the unusual cultural tradition of Ushi-Tsuki, or Bull Sumo, is exclusively held on Dogojima. This tradition, originally conceived by an exiled emperor looking for new ways to entertain himself, consists of two bulls competing head-to-head in a competition of strength. But don’t worry – the only harm that comes from this practice is maybe a bull losing pride. This custom is still alive and the Bull Sumo Festival still occurs throughout the year.

 


Bull Sumo is a storied cultural tradition with unique ties to Dogojima.

 

Nishinoshima: Adventure and spectacular views

 

Claiming the title of second largest of the Oki Islands and largest of the Dozen Islands, Nishinoshima is home to close to 3,000 people. The island proudly displays some of the finest natural rock formations of the geopark, including Tsutenkyo Arch, Matengai Cliff and Tenjo Kai. These sights can be explored through different means of transportation from both land and sea.

 


One of the tallest cliffs in Japan, the Matengai Cliffs are 257 meters (843 feet) tall.
Photo Credit: Nishinoshima Town

 

Traversing the lush scenery of Nishinoshima by land, it’s common for visitors to come into close contact with cattle and horses along the scenic hiking trails. For avid hikers, a hiking festival is held every June titled the Totte-Oki Two Day Walk. This hike spans the top locations of the three main islands, with a focus on prominent Nishinoshima sights.

 


Horses graze peacefully along the Kuniga Coast walking trail.
Photo Credit: Nishinoshima Town

 

Transportation to and from Oki Islands Geopark

The Oki Islands are primarily accessible by ferry or plane. The three standard ferries traveling to and from Oki Islands include Ferry Oki, traveling to Dogo; Ferry Kuniga, traveling to the Dozen Islands and Ferry Shirashima, only operating from Sakaiminato, Tottori Prefecture. These trips take anywhere from 2.5 to 4 hours depending on ferry speed and final destination. A faster ferry called the Rainbow Jet can also shave travel times down to one or 1.5 hours.

 

For faster access, travelers can also choose to fly to Oki Airport on Dogojima. Flights to Oki are available from select airports such as Osaka and Izumo, both found in Shimane Prefecture. From Oki Airport, other islands can be accessed through ferry or local transportation.

 

Whether you choose the ferry or air travel option, transportation to and from the Oki Islands Geopark offers a unique journey where travelers can enjoy scenic views of the Sea of Japan and become immersed in the natural beauty of the islands.



A traveler admires Takuhi Shrine, a shrine half hidden inside a cave.
Photo credit: Oki Islands Geopark Management Bureau

 


 

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    About the author

    Author: Lissa Carandang-Sweeney
    Profile: Lissa is a New York based writer who enjoys film making and studying linguistics. She hopes to tell stories that inspire, entertain and empower audiences around the globe.

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