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Himakajima: The Japanese island with one traffic light that only turns green once a year

7 Comments
By SoraNews24

People tend to imagine the urban sprawl of Tokyo when envisioning Japan, but the country has a vast countryside too, with places that can give the quaintest parts of the world a run for their money. One such place is the small island of Himakajima a few dozen kilometers south of Nagoya, in between Ise Bay and Mikawa Bay.

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It’s a picturesque little island with nice beaches, tasty octopus, and a population that tends to hover around 2,000. In addition, one of its more unique features is its lone set of traffic lights on the southeastern coast. While there are countless small towns that only have “the traffic lights,” Himakajima’s are special in that they only turn green – or “blue” as they call it in Japanese – on one day out of the year.

For the other 364.25 days, these lights are in a constant state of flashing yellow in the direction of the coastal road and flashing red on the road leading into Hakajima East Port, making them equivalent to a pair of stop signs in the north-south direction.

▼ The east-west light in its perpetual yellow state.

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The reason is that these stop lights were never intended to serve any sort of traffic control. They were installed in 1994 at the request of the Himaka Traffic Safety Association to help teach the island’s children how to follow the signals in case they move out to a big city someday.

Prior to the traffic lights, a smaller prop was used to teach kids but they always felt a disconnect between it and the real thing. Now, for one day in May, the lights are set to turn green so the kids can practice using them properly and safely.

▼ News report from the green light of 2023.

This year the green light was activated on May 21, and once again children congregated at the intersection to get a feel for the timing of it and practice looking right, left, and right again before raising their arm and crossing the street. One young girl told reporters that she was surprised how tricky it was when the light turned red while she was walking her bike across the zebra stripes.

If you’d like to witness this yearly event, it might be hard to pinpoint the exact date, but the lights have their own page on the Himakajima website for a good place to start. Even if you do miss it, there’s still a lot to see, do, and eat there so you won’t be disappointed.

Source: Himakajima, Asahi Shimbun Digital

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Should you drive through a red traffic light like this in Japan? Confusing road rule explained

-- Japanese survey finds only 23 percent of vehicles stop for pedestrians at crosswalks

-- Japan’s National Police Agency plans to introduce fines for bike traffic violations in 2026

© SoraNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

7 Comments
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I've been here. The coastline was almost entirely tetrapods or concrete, so I found it quite depressing and not "quaint". We had a seafood course at a minshuku that was very tasty though, as mentioned the octopus in particular. Freshly boiled octopus is competely different to what you find in supermarkets. There is no comparison.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

They were installed in 1994 at the request of the Himaka Traffic Safety Association to help teach the island’s children how to follow the signals in case they move out to a big city someday.

No wonder Japanese can't travel abroad without a guide. They might have to cross a wide road without any assistance.

And anyone who thinks that picture shows quaintness has never been abroad either.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I have been there a few times, and despite the coastline being entirely concrete and most of the hotels and restaurants slightly old and worn down, it is still worth a visit if you're in the area. Still can't stand all the concrete beaches and tetrapods though.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I nearly got run over by a local ojisan on his motorbike there once.

Very narrow back streets.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The also have a cute dolphin in a very small area of the sea.

If you enjoy that kind of thing

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The very fact that the island has a set of traffic lights at all is testament to the desire for control of the authorities in Japan.

Wait until the kids get onto the mainland where they’ll be able to witness blatant disregard for red lights…

0 ( +1 / -1 )

You can take the kids out of the country, but you cannot take the country out of the kids...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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