Tomogashima Islands 友ヶ島
Untamed nature, abandoned forts, and possible pirate treasure
A cluster of four stunning uninhabited islands situated along Wakayama's coast, Tomogashima boasts a colorful past as a hideaway for pirates and a secret military base during World War II.
These days, Tomogashima provides an ideal setting for hiking, picnics, camping, or simply enjoying the fantastical backdrop of overgrown vegetation and abandoned military buildings. If you're seeking an escape from the crowds and a touch of adventure off the beaten tourist paths in Japan, this is a must-visit!
- Hiking trails with panoramic views of the landscape
- Historic military bases covered in lush greenery
- The charming 19th-century Tomogashima Lighthouse
How to Get There
The only access to the islands is via a 20-minute ferry ride from the port of Kada.
The Kada Line from Wakayama-shi Station will take you to Kada Station in around 30 minutes. The port is a 15-minute walk from the station, and the cost of a round-trip ferry ride is 2,000 yen.
Wakayama-shi Station is easily accessible from Osaka's Nankai Namba Station.
The islands are known for the now-abandoned and run-down military forts built in the Meiji Era
These abandoned buildings have become a hotspot for cosplayers re-enacting scenes from Studio Ghibli's "Castle in the Sky"
Peacocks have been introduced on the island to keep the snake population in check
A quiet island getaway
If you've been visiting the sleepless, bustling city of neighboring Osaka , or Japan's crowded, fast-paced capital, Tokyo , a day spent on uninhabited Tomogashima can help balance out your vacation. Take a picnic, go on a hike, or set up camp and enjoy the relative peace of the islands, listening to the sounds of nature and the sea.
Explore the forest trails of the main island, Okinoshima , to find red brick buildings slowly turning a natural shade of green as the surrounding vegetation reclaims them, and catch glimpses of the glistening sea through the undergrowth until finally emerging at one of the scenic lookout points.
During World War II, the islands were commandeered by the Japanese government as a secret military base and wiped off all maps. Entry was strictly limited for years, but luckily for visitors today, anybody is free to enter and visit the abandoned military forts, which offer a scenic backdrop to the historical intrigue.
Wind your way through the twists and turns of the many underground tunnels until you suddenly emerge into the light, facing towards the open sea. There are five forts in total you can see on the island.
Island in the sea, castle in the sky
The military forts draw plenty of history buffs to the islands, but they have more recently become a mecca for cosplayers as well. Wildly overgrown and abandoned, the forts on Tomogashima bear an uncanny resemblance to the floating island of Laputa in Studio Ghibli's animated film "Castle in the Sky." Fans of the movie—many in full, authentic costumes—make their pilgrimage to Tomogashima to reproduce their favorite scenes for cosplay posterity.
X marks the spot?
It has long been speculated that an ancient treasure trove is buried somewhere on the four islands of Tomogashima. Centuries ago, pirates gained notoriety for stealing from imperial ships passing through the Inland Sea. Since any transaction involving officially stamped and sealed goods would arouse suspicion among the authorities, legend has it that the pirates cunningly hid them away somewhere on these untouched islands, so keep your eyes peeled when you visit.