Okinoshima Island: Where Women Are Not Allowed to Visit

This is part of the Unique Islands series. Follow this tag for more.

This small island in Japan does not allow any female visitors, ever. Home to an Okitsu shrine, Okinoshima Island is around 60KM from Kyushu, Japan.

By Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism – MILT Japan

Previously, a maximum of 200 male visitors were allowed on the island on only one day of the year, May 27, and only for two hours. The allowance was given to honor those who lost their lives in the Battle of Tsushima.

Battle of Tsushima, 1905

The Battle of Tsushima is one of the many battles fought in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. It was also the last battle.

The Russian fleet suffered massive defeat in the hands of the Japanese navy while attempting to cross the Tsushima Strait in the dead of night on 27 May 1905.

The Russians would lose not only all 11 of its battleships, but also 4800+ of their men, with nearly 6000 more were captured. On the Japanese front, 117 navy men died and 500 more were wounded.

The event marked not only the first instance of an Asian country defeating an European power but also the end of the Russo-Japanese war in which Russia conceded defeat.

Read more about this on the Battle of Tsushima‘s Wikipedia page.

Interesting fact: On board one of the cruisers was a young Isoroku Yamamoto, as in Admiral Yamamoto, the man who would plan and execute the Pearl Harbor attack in World War 2 three and a half decades later.

STrange Island Restrictions

While women are banned from visiting because they menstruate and blood is considered an impurity to the island, the men don’t get it any easier. Those who do get to visit must strip and bathe in the sea in a cleansing ritual called misogi before they can set foot on land.

They are also to take a vow of silence and cannot tell anyone about what was seen or heard while they were there. Other restrictions they are to adhere to is that they cannot consume any four-legged animals while on the island, and most importantly they are not allowed to remove anything from the island. Why?

Okinoshima Island lies smack right in the middle of a sea route that connects to the Korean peninsula and China. Centuries ago, seafarers and fishermen stopped at the island to pray for protection against maritime perils.

They would conduct ritualistic offerings to the gods in the form of swords, mirrors from ancient China dynasties, bronze dragon heads, gold rings, ceramics, glass bowl fragments, iron ingots and comma-shaped beads, just to name a few.

Do You Know What This Means?

The island is now a historic time capsule that holds about 80,000 of these trinkets, scattered between boulders or hidden beneath stones in rituals by seafarers to the island from the 4th century to the 9th century. (You can see photographic samples of the items on the Okinoshima Island Heritage Site.)

Some of these items have been collected and placed at a shrine on the island, and visitors are forbidden from removing any of these offerings or even pebbles or blades of grass off Okinoshima island. Legends speak of divine retribution to anyone who dares attempt this.

Planning Island Visits

While there aren’t any “permanent” residents that call this place their home, one of 24 Shinto priests will stay on the island for 10-day stretches to pray to the island’s goddess, and to guard the island against intruders.

If you’re wondering how you can get to the island, wonder no more, because you’re no longer allowed to visit the island beginning 2018.

In July 2017, it was registered as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Locals worry that this would mean increased tourism to the island and in an effort to preserve the island for future generations, they decided to ban all form of travel there with the exception of visits from academics. Historical preservation trumps tourism, hands down.