|Surrounded by beautiful ocean, Nagasaki Prefecture’s Goto Islands are home to cultural sites that are testament to the history of the “hidden Christians,” and are registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. At the northernmost tip of these islands lies Ojika Island, where visitors can experience rural life far distanced from the bustle of the city — even if just for a few days.
For an experience that differs from modern hotel accommodation, try renting out a kominka and making the most of the island lifestyle.
Immerse yourself in nature’s beauties, and the lifestyles of those who call the island home
Located at the northern extreme of Goto Islands, Ojika Island can be reached in approximately three hours by ferry from Nagasaki’s Sasebo Port, or in around one-and-a-half hours by rapid ferry. Alight at the port and be welcomed by views of a town chosen as one of “The Most Beautiful Villages in Japan”(English available), with scenery that harks back to yesteryear Japan. In fact, the entire island is designated part of Saikai National Park (English available), and you’ll find views of beautiful coastline around every corner. There are numerous picturesque views including Goryodaki beach cliffs, where the land has been eroded by sea water, and Akahama Beach with unique red sand from volcanic gravel. You can also go in search of scenes from Japan’s past and wander the narrow alleyways of the fishing village, or enjoy discovering examples of deeply-rooted island culture such as locals trading vegetables for fish or filleting freshly-caught fish.
Chatting and sharing experiences with locals who live on the island is one of the true charms of Ojika Island. There are a number of programs available that offer experiences such as staying and dining with ordinary families or fishing tours with the option of then filleting your catch. Information on island tourism is available at the counter of the NPO organization, Ojika Island Tourism, which is located inside the Ojika Port Terminal. Why not pay them a visit and equip yourself with lots of information (advance booking required).
In terms of travel around the island, visitors can choose from fixed-route bus services, and car and bicycle hire options. Please select the best option based on the number in your party, and plans for your stay.
Enjoy a comfortable stay in a renovated kominka
“Living” on the island is the main concept of Ojika Island tourism. Immersing yourself in everyday life on the island, forgetting the clock and just taking it easy — a kominka stay can make that dream a reality.
Ojika Island Tourism are currently operating six kominka offering accommodation. All of these buildings have called the island home for at least 100 years and have been renovated to retain the design and atmosphere reminiscent of life in a bygone era, but with the addition of comfortable facilities. As a single group of guests rent out the whole building, it becomes a home away from home during your stay. You can also do things like buy ingredients on the island and prepare them in the kitchen or do your own washing.
Part of the kominka’s charm is that each of the six buildings has something unique, such as views of the port, amazing gardens, and sea vistas. Hoshu, a kominka located near the port and shopping street, is within walking distance of restaurants and supermarkets, which makes it conveniently located for purchasing ingredients. Guests can kick back and relax in the spacious tatami room looking out onto the lush, green garden. The Japanese cypress wood bathtub has a view of the inner courtyard, and guests can soak in the hot water and enjoy the relaxing properties the wood extracts and the scent of the wood are said to provide.
The kominka are dotted around several little hamlets; why not wander the neighborhood during your stay and find a view that resonates with you?
Come in contact with the prayers of the hidden Christians on your journey to Nozaki Island
Before saying goodbye to this region, we recommend climbing aboard a ferry and visiting the neighboring islands. Nozaki Island, reachable from Ojika Island by town ferries, is secluded, with untouched woodland areas, and nostalgic scenes that take visitors back in time.
The island is currently virtually uninhabited, and those wishing to visit it must contact Ojika Island Tourism in advance. Wandering the island, visitors will be able to catch a glimpse of past residents’ lifestyles and practical wisdom in the stone walls of the terraced rice fields, the shrine, and the remains of homes. We advise making use of options such as guided tours and the Nature-Learning Village, the only rest area and basic accommodation facility (equipped with showers) on the island.
As mentioned in this article, UNESCO World Heritage Sites related to the history of hidden Christians are one of the main attractions of Goto Islands.
The historic Nokubi Church features a small brick church built by the descendants of Christians who continued to worship in secret even after the Anti-Christian Edicts were issued across Japan. Apparently, the funds to complete the church were raised by a mere 17 families of believers who called the island home. This church, supported by a history of deep faith, continues to await travelers to this day.