Dōgo Island is the largest of the Oki Islands.
Dōgo Island is the largest of the Oki Islands in both size and population. It is also the furthermost island from the mainland of Japan, located around 30 minutes to a one hour ferry ride away from the Dōzen Islands. The island was formed around the same time as the Dōzen Islands by volcanic eruptions commencing from around 7 million years ago. The island is almost perfectly round in shape, and is very mountainous. The island features lush forests, beautiful coasts and a diverse array of cultural traditions, such as bull sumo, Oki Traditional Sumo and Renge-e-mai Dances.
Okinoshima-cho (Okinoshima Town) encompasses all the regions and villages on the island, including the former Saigo Town. The majority of the population lives in the Saigo Area near the port, while the rest live in small villages nestled in between the mountains and dotted around the coast of the island.
Although the island is isolated from the mainland, with a population of over 16,000 there are shopping centers, a number of restaurants and other essential facilities. However, a short drive out of the Saigo Area will take you into the peaceful countryside.
It is recommended to visit the Tourism Office after your arrival. There you can collect maps, make reservations and receive travel advice. Staff may not speak very much English, but English information should be available to help you. The tourism office is located across from the ferry terminal inside the View Port Hotel building on the first floor.
There is a bus service on the island however it is infrequent and you need to change buses at the hospital to get most places. Although the island seems small, in fact it can take some time to get from one place the other. Distance from one end of the island to the other is about half an hour to 40 minutes. Hiring a car or getting a guide is the best and cheapest way to see the whole island. Bicycles are available for rental at the tourism association. There are also numerous taxi companies, including sightseeing taxi, and a geopark sightseeing bus running on weekends and public holidays.
Walking along the river and through the old, narrow streets of the port area is a great way to experience some of the former glory of this once more populated port town. A cruise along the river is recommended for an entirely different prospect of the town. There are still many houses and old shops that back directly onto the river. You can do a walking tour for around \300 at the tourism office, but the guide only speaks Japanese. Alternatively you can ask for a walking map at the office and go by yourself.
This shrine is not far from the Saigo Port, and is said to be the main shrine of the Okis. Every year on 5th June during a unique and majestic festival called Gorei-furyu takes place, in which eight sacred horses carrying the gods from eight areas of the island gallop up to the shrine entrance.
A highlight of this shrine is the massive Yao-sugi tree which is 1,700 years old and propped up by numerous pillars.
Oki-ke Family Residence and Museum
Next door to the shrine is the Oki-ke Family Residence, where the head priest of the Tamawakasu-mikoto Shrine has lived for many generations. It is a National Important Cultural Property of Japan. Inside is a small museum of important historical artifacts that have stayed in this household for many generations. These include the eki-rei station bells that were used by central government officials from 646. These bells here at the museum are the last left in Japan.
Opening Hours: 8am – 5pm Cost: Adults 300 yen, children 100 yen (explanation is available in Japanese)
This cape is located on top of the 50 – 100m high cliffs at the western entrance of Saigo Port. From here you have a spectacular view of Saigo Town, and the sea with the Dozen Islands in the distance. At twilight you can see the lights of squid fishing boats heading out for the night. The charming old lighthouse here lights up the entrance to the island.
This waterfall is deep in the forest of Mt. Omine in Tsuma, on the west coast of the island. It is not only a great place to relax and enjoy the serene nature; you can also drink delicious spring water. There is a shrine here, and the water has long been revered as having sacred properties. Even today before traditional competitions such as Bull Sumo and Oki Traditional Sumo, people come to visit the shrine to drink the water. Behind the waterfall is a cliff ledge you can stand on and enjoy the scenery.
The Fukuura Tunnels are a number of tunnels that were dug into the soft pyroclastic rock of a wave-cut platform on the coast. This is an unusual place where you can enjoy walking through the tunnels and through time. The smallest tunnels were dug by hand and the larger first by hand and dynamite and later heavy machinery as civil engineering improved over time.
Rosoku-jima (Candle Island) Lookout
Candle Island is a natural work of art. It looks just like a candle, and even has a small projection at the top that resembles a wick. If you take a Sightseeing Boat Cruise in the warmer seasons you can see the setting sun line up with the candle, just as though it has been lit. The cruises can be booked at the tourism association across from the port.
Mt. Daimanji is the tallest mountain on the island (607m) which is hike-able in half a day and has a fantastic view of the islands at the top (or drive most of the way up and hike the 600 metres to the top). Half way up you will find the old Daiman-ji Buddhist Temple which has been abandoned and left in ruins. The incredible quiet of this forest and the old temple create a mysterious atmosphere. The walkway splits off to the Tokage-iwa (Lizard Rock) lookout and is not far from Chichisugi tree either. Combine all three to make a good day of nature-orientated sightseeing.
Easily one of the prettiest coastal views on the island, located in the tiny village of Fuse. It's nice to walk around the town and see Kasuga Shrine. At the coast you can enjoy a walk along the trail (sometimes closed due to rock falls). The water is really clear here so you can enjoy swimming but there is no sand. There is a campsite up the hill.
Mizuwakasu Shrine is one of the cultural centers of the island and was the Ichinomiya (highest ranking shrine) of the old Oki Province. On 3rd May on even years, there is a large festival featuring yabusame (horse-back archery) and Shinto dances takes place. There is also a Traditional Oki Sumo Ring here, a traditional form of Sumo that has been preserved and is still carried out around the island on particularly auspicious occasions. Just behind the shrine is the Kyodo-kan Museum of Local Archaeology and Folklore, a souvenir shop, and a place to eat some lunch.
This lookout is a popular spot for enjoying the sunset and the view of the Dozen Islands right in front of the cape.
This lookout gives you a view of the iconic Shirashima Coast. Boat Cruises along the coast leave from the dock of the Nakamura Swimming Beach and Sazae-mura also on the beach is open for lunch. Anything with Sazae (sea snail) is recommended!
Giant Japanese Cedar Trees
Kabura-sugi, Nakamura This tree is said to be around 600 years old. From a distance the giant Kabura-sugi tree appears to be six different trees, but in fact the one tree separates into six different trunks at a height of about 1.5 meters.
Yao-sugi Japanese Cedar This giant tree is located on the grounds of Tamawakasu-no-mikoto Shrine, and is believed to up to 2000 years old. It was planted by Yao-bikuni Buddhist nuns from Wakasa Province, so it has always been called Yao-sugi.
Okinoshima Town Tourism Association
The tourism association have tourism information about Oki. Located right across from the port in the Viewport Hotel building.
Located on the second level of the Port Plaza Hotel right across the road from the port. At the Visitors Center you can find out about the Oki Islands Geopark, and go to the Oki Shizen-kan Nature Museum.
Oki Kyodo-kan Museum is the old county office that was built during the Meiji Period (1868 - 1912). This western style building was dismantled and rebuilt in its current location and is now a museum of local archaeology and folklore.
Opening Hours: 9am – 5pm Cost: Adults 300 yen, University/High school students 200 yen, Elementary students 100 yen.
At the Goka Sousei-kan you can watch short films about traditional Oki culture such as Bull Sumo and Oki Traditional Sumo.
Opening Hours: 9am – 5pm Cost: Adults 500 yen, University/High school students 300 yen, Elementary students 200 yen.
Opening Hours: 2pm – 8pm (last entry 7.15pm) Closed Sundays and some holidays. Cost: Adults 500 yen, Elementary School children 250 yen.
The island has plenty of outdoor recreations, hiking trails, swimming beaches, sea kayaking, fishing, scuba and other marine sports are very popular.
Sea kayaking courses are very beautiful and can take you through sea caves if conditions are good.
Cycling around the port area, or up to the lighthouse at Saigo Misaki Cape is recommended.
Other fun activities include visiting the local sake brewery, attending a Bull Sumo display for tourists or going hiking.
Events and Festivals
There are many traditional festivals and events to be seen throughout the year on Dōgo Island. Many of these are unique to the island.
Bull Sumo is also an important cultural event that takes place on the island throughout the year. It is said to have been introduced to the Oki Islands by the exiled emperor Gotoba in the early 13th century. It is performed at certain important events throughout the year.
For this event men dressed only in mawashi (loin cloths) burn the decorations from the new year in a large teepee-shaped bonfire and then jump into the freezing sea and wait there to collect the tall pieces of bamboo that were used to make the structure of the bonfire.
Renge-e-mai is an ancient performing art that originates from a genre of ancient court dance accompanied by music, called 'bugaku', that was popular among the upper-class during the Nara Period (710 - 794) and the Heian Period (794 - 1185). These dances of Southeast Asian origin spread throughout all of Japan during this time although they are very rare today. There are only about seven left, including the Renge-e-mai of Oki. It has been designated an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan.
This festival takes place biannually at the Mizuwakasu Shrine, an important cultural center of the island. Among the festival ceremonies are yabusame (horseback archery), kagura (Shinto dances), Shishi-mai (Lion dance) and a large float pulled by boys of the area and their fathers or grandfathers to pray for their health. Yabusame is an old style of archery that is performed at Shinto shrines.
A large procession dance through the streets of Saigo. The dance features two plates that are clapped together.
This is one of the most spectacular and important festivals of Dogo. The excitement of the festival is culminated in one majestic event in which several horses run one by one up the path and cobbled steps to the Tamawakasu Shrine, the representative shrine of the island. Alongside each of the horses run four men, two on either side of the horse. These horses carry the deities of different shrines around the island in the form of go-shintai (object that temporarily contains the spirit of a deity). This event symbolises the gathering of the deities around the island.
People from all around Japan come to Oki to walk around the four islands over three days.
The Oki Ultra Marathon really lives up to its name. The marathon is a full 100km marathon run all around the island, and a 50km marathon. This marathon is said to be one of the most difficult as the terrain on the island is very mountainous. It is also one of the most popular of the ultra-marathons in Japan being both incredibly challenging and with beautiful scenery. The number of entrants for this year’s marathon (2013) reached a record level of 972 entrants.
This festival celebrates summer with many stalls and entertainment throughout the day.
3km, 5km and 10km races run around the coast.
This ancient festival that dates back to the Heian Period (794 - 1185), is a celebration of the meeting of the cosmic dual forces of the sun deity, which is enshrined in the Hachioji Shrine, and the moon deity which is enshrined in the Ichinomori Shrine. These deities are brought from their shrines in the form of ‘go-shintai’ (object which contains the spirit of a deity), and carried three and a half times around the festival area. The deity of the sun is represented by a three legged crow, and the moon by a white hare.
The mild climate of the island is great for hiking all year around except when there is heavy snow in winter.
There are a number of great hiking spots on the island, in particular Mt. Daimanji the tallest mountain on the island (607m), where you will find the run down old Daimanji Temple half way, and a fantastic view from the top.
Other recommended hikes include Mt. Washigamine, where you can hike all the way to Tokage-iwa, a rock shaped like a giant lizard scaling the cliff face.
There are many different marine sports to be enjoyed on the island. The following are marine sports companies on the island
Experience Dive = 13,000 yen with insurance
Fun Dive = 1 boat 8,000 yen, 2 boats 14,000 yen (2 hrs req)
(classes, rental and application included)
Experience Dive = 13,650 yen
Fun Dive = 1 boat 9,400 yen (half day), 2 boats 15,750 yen (full day)
Email: [email protected]
Jet Ski = 3000 yen for 10 min
Wind Surfing (with instructor) = 2000 yen for 2 hrs.
Sea Kayak (2 person) = 2000 yen for 2 hrs
Banana Boat (5 people) = 5000 yen 15 min
Eco Plan: Sea Kayak Cave Tour (late April to Late October) = 5,500 yen (incl insurance and drink)
There are many places to eat the local cuisine around the island. Pick up a restaurant map of the Saigo Port area from the tourism association. The staff can help with directions and reservations.
Ajinokura (Japanese set meals)
This restaurant is located a short walk up the main street from the ferry terminal beside the river. Open for lunch and dinner it is reasonably priced with good food. An English menu is available.
This popular and trendy restaurant is pronounced 'Shiino' and is located on the main street across from the ferry terminal. Bookings are recommended.
This Izakaya has great food and local seafood. Located a short walk from the ferry terminal.
Dozi, is pronounced 'dodgy' but is not dodgy at all. Take a left turn off the main street across from the Saigo Port.
This Italian restaurant has a number of unique Japanese-style pastas and pizzas. It has a nice atmosphere and an English menu available.
Friendly yakiniku joint located on the main street across from the ferry terminal.
Restaurant that has many local specialties, located conveniently on the second floor of the building to the right when facing the Saigo Port building.
A classy sushi restaurant located a fair walk down to the left of the Pier Shopping Center (walking away from the port). The set meal here is great value for money with a huge plate of sushi, deep-fried skewers and dessert.
Cheap (but good) Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki restaurant, located a short walk to the right of the port. Staff can be a bit abrupt, but worth it if you want to try this Japanese specialty.
A warm and trendy cafe and restaurant located in the middle of a rice paddy. This place uses produce from their farm and staff also speak English. A bit pricy but recommended for the atmosphere, delicious coffee, dessert and some great items on the menu.
This fantastic little restaurant is located by the sea in a tiny village. Courses include a stunning display of sashimi and local side dishes and are finished with delicious home-made udon. Finding it can be a bit difficult so make sure to get a map and clear directions. Reservations required.
Popular yakiniku restaurant in Goka.
Porest (Japanese food)
A convenient choice if you are in the Fuse Area. This restaurant is across the road from Kasuga Shrine.
Sazae-mura (Turban Shell and Oyster specialty)
This seaside restaurant is open for lunch. They serve dishes featuring the local seafood delicacy Sazae (turban shell). You can also order fresh rock oysters here in season.
Tasty restaurant located across the road from the Nakamura Beach.
A nice spacious restaurant with local dishes.
Enjoy sake from Oki's own sake brewery, Oki Homare.
There are many izakayas (Japanese restaurant/bars)around Oki and many Snack Bars. Snack bars are where groups of people can go in and sing karaoke while being served drinks and snacks by the 'Mama' who owns the place. There are also larger snacks you can order on the menu. These are not private karaoke boxes and it is guaranteed to be an interesting experience wherever you go. A few hours would normally cost from 3000 - 5000 yen depending on how long you stay and how much you eat and drink.
Walk down the main street of Saigo and turn left after the bank.
Walk down the main street of Saigo and turn left just before the bridge.
A unique bar with a fantastic, friendly dj, this bar is the perfect place to chill out, and meet some interesting people. The DJ also offers many tofu dishes on the menu that are quite delicious as well as an extensive drink menu. It's a great place. Turn left two streets after the San'in Godo Bank and walk down to the end of the street.
A darts bar that is popular among the young people of Dogo located on the top level of the building to the right of the port (facing the port).
There is a wide range of hotels, ryokan, and guesthouses on the island. Bookings are highly recommended especially during peak tourist season. Contact the tourism office for information about prices and bookings.
Conveniently located next to the port, this is a simple yet elegant ryokan. Dinner is not served here, however you are within arms reach of numerous restaurants in the port area. Kind owner.
Reasonably priced and nearby the port. This is a simple, no fuss ryokan.
Located in a sleepy village on the northern tip of the island (20-30 minute drive away from the port), this old house-come-guesthouse offers great experiences of island life. You can try fishing at the local beach, and enjoy preparing meals with local food. A great location for seeing the Shirashima Coast and enjoying the small Nakamura village. Seakayaking in Nakamura area is recommended.
A nice hotel located right by the sea in the Tsuma area (around 30 minutes drive from the port). You can rent bikes and enjoy cycling around the very pretty Tsuma area, however keep in mind that if you want to see many places around the island you will need a car.
A nice hotel with sea views on the west side of the island (Tsuma Area), around 20 minutes drive from the port. A nice place to stay if you prefer to be close to the sea and have a vehicle to get around. Great seafood meals. Log cabins are also available.
Okinoshima Tourism Association
(English Speaker Available)