Part of the Daisen-Oki National Park and recognized as a UNESCO Global Geo Park since 2013, only four of the almost 200 Oki Islands are inhabited. Offering some of Japan's most unexpected seascapes, the islands are an ideal spot for watersports, sightseeing and hiking.
Access to the Oki Islands is restricted to car, ferry and air. If traveling by ferry, you can bring your car with you.
Car ferries to the Oki Islands depart from Shichirui Port near Matsue and Sakaiminato Port near Yonago in Tottori Prefecture. The journey takes between two-and-a-half hours and four hours depending on which island you're visiting. Both ports also operate a passenger-only high-speed hydrofoil service with much shorter crossing times.
Oki Aiport on Dogo has flights from Osaka that take 50 minutes and from Izumo Airport that take 30 minutes.
Ferries connect all the islands. Bus services are limited, so renting a car gives you more freedom to visit the sites. Cycling is also an option.
The waters surrounding the Oki Islands are exceptionally clear, perfect for water-based activities and leisure pursuits such as swimming, snorkelling, kayaking, and fishing. You can take scuba diving lessons or, if experienced, rent gear and dive solo.
Much of the rugged coastline is perfect for walking and strolling. The grassy slopes of Matengai Cliff are 257 meters above the surf and grazed by cows and horses. Another view not to be missed is sunset from Jodogaura Coast.
For those looking for something more strenuous, mountains like Mount Daimanji—more than 600 meters above the sea—offer an active experience. This mountain has many hiking trails that take you past strange, natural rock formations and a mysterious shrine where the ancient deities of the forest are still worshipped.
Alternatively, hike up to the top of Mount Takuhi. From the summit of this 450 meter-high mountain, you can look out over blue waters that encircle you and see the neighboring islands.
With few buses and very little traffic, the roads of the islands are safe and pleasant to cycle. Biking is a convenient way to get around and enjoy the views.
Alternative itineraries include exploring the coastline from the sea on one of the numerous organized boat tours. The cruises to the Kuniga Coast and Matengai Cliff pass by miles of remote coast.
The glass-bottomed Amanbow reveals a magical world below the sea. Other short cruises around the old port and waterways of Saigo Port offer opportunities to see a mythical water sprite called a kappa.
Dogo is the largest of the Oki Islands, with a circumference of about 100 kilometers. The Shirashima Peninsula, the Jodogaura Coast and Candle Rock—where the suns sets on the tip of the 20 meter-high pinnacle rising from the sea—are just a few natural highlights.
Venture inland for Dangyo Shrine and its two sacred waterfalls, or Chichisugi, a massive, strangely shaped tree.
Nishinoshima, with less than 3,000 inhabitants, is the second largest of the inhabited islands and home to Kuniga Coast. Japan's Emperor Godaigo was exiled here in the 14th century, but was able to escape after only one year.
Visit Takuhi Shrine, a temple-turned-shrine found inside a cave high on the side of Mt. Takuhi and overlooking the surrounding seas. Yurahime Shrine was built on the shore of a narrow bay where squid come right up to the land. Watch Oki-style kagura folk dancing at these shrines and other places around the island.
Nakanoshima is the most low-lying of the islands with a high point of only 164 meters. Its long coastline includes the red rock cliffs of Akiya. Visitors can enjoy expansive views of the other islands from Cape Kirogasaki.
Emperor Gotoba spent the last 19 years of his life in exile on Nakanoshima at the beginning of the 13th century. It is said that the Oki tradition of Bull Sumo, still popular today, began here as entertainment for him. The underwater exploration boat called the Amanbow departs from here.
Home to only 600 people, the tiniest of the inhabited islands is Chiburijima. The land is too steep to support traditional agriculture; instead, the local people support themselves by fishing and raising cattle.
Tanuki—racoon dogs—can also be found on Chiburijima. In fact, this is the only place in the Oki Islands where they live, and tanuki even outnumber the human population of the island.