travel

A visit to the 'Island of the Great Gods' in Okinawa

0 Comments
By Krista Rogers, SoraNews24

There are dozens of “power spots” scattered throughout Japan. Often found in the form of Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, rocky formations, waterfalls, and other natural locations of veneration, these spiritual spots are said to imbue an added vitality upon those who visit and are consequently popular destinations for Japanese travelers. Within that list of power spots is Ogami Island (大神島 / “Island of the Great Gods”), a little known and off the beaten path locale within the Ryukyu Islands group administered by Okinawa Prefecture. Eager to find out if the island lived up to its sacred name, we sent our Japanese-language reporter Kouhey to check it out.

To get to Ogami Island one must first arrive at Miyako Airport on the nearby Miyako Island (宮古島), which is worth a visit for its terrifying-to-children annual Paantu Festival alone. It’s then a 30-minute car ride from the airport to Shimajiri Port where the ferry to Ogami Island awaits. Once on board, the ferry takes only about 15 minutes to arrive. Kouhey was coming from Tokyo by plane. While the travel time to Miyako Island took about three hours, after factoring in layover and other wait time, he recommends allotting about five hours in total to go from the country’s capital to this particular power spot.

▼ “Ogami ⇔ Shimajiri”

1-4.jpg

Take note that from October through March the ferry runs four times per day as opposed to fives during the rest of the year. In the event of bad weather it runs even fewer times. In addition, since this is, after all, the Island of the Great Gods, there may be certain days when the gods descend upon its shores in great numbers and certain areas become restricted for people to enter. Travelers should always check the official website (Japanese only) ahead of time to make sure they don’t come for naught.

▼ The ferry schedule from April-September (left two columns) and from October-March (right two columns). Ogami Port departures are highlighted in green and Shimajiri Port departures are not highlighted.

20-1.jpg

2-4.jpg

Visitors to the island must also abide by a certain set of rules put forth by the island’s few remaining permanent residents. For example, there are some places that only locals are allowed to enter, and visitors must absolutely not leave any trash or other items they brought with them on the island. Other places in the Ryukyu Islands may have similar yet slightly different rules, so always take care to find out the local rules at each new destination.

When Kouhey exited the ferry, he made a beeline to the island map and decided to visit the route tracing the western coastline first (circled in red on the map below). As the map indicates, the entire island is only 2.753 kilometers in circumference and 0.24 square kilometers so it wouldn’t be hard for him to cover the entire island by foot if he wanted.

3-3.jpg

He felt an inexplicable sense of excitement at stepping foot on the soil of Ogami Island, which was said to be infused with sacred power over its entire surface, and started walking down the road that wasn’t really a road.

After about 10 minutes of walking from the port a scenery that he had never before gazed upon emerged before his eyes.

5-4.jpg

6-1.jpg

Picturesque scenes of natural beauty met him at each and every turn. It definitely seemed like a place where gods could be living in any little nook or cranny–and also where Instagram influencers would have a field day.

7-1.jpg

Picturesque scenes of natural beauty met him at each and every turn. It definitely seemed like a place where gods could be living in any little nook or cranny–and also where Instagram influencers would have a field day.

8-1.jpg

▼ Mystical rock formations abound

9-1.jpg

These strangely shaped rocks materializing out of the shallow waters are popularly known as nocchi. The portions of rock below the water surface have been eroded by swift sea currents over the centuries and today appear as a fantastical forest of bizarre mushrooms within the sea. Their name, by the way, bears no relation to the singer of the same nickname within J-Pop group Perfume.

After a while Kouhey decided to turn away from the sea road towards the center of the island in order to climb up the observation platform. However, getting there proved trickier than it seemed. First he had to climb up a steep slope.

10-2.jpg

From there, he climbed up a further slope. Though small, the island’s center was definitely its highest point. In just under 10 minutes of walking he finally arrived at the steps leading up to the viewing platform.

However, climbing the steps was no easy task, either. There were about 200 of them and they were at times extraordinarily precipitous.

13-1.jpg

Kouhey finally managed to reach the platform and was greeted by a spectacular, panoramic scene. How wonderful it felt to look down upon the island as a whole.

14-2.jpg

Soon it was time to get moving again. Upon descending the steps, he decided to now visit the spot on the island where the divine power was said to be the strongest: Kamikakis, which was written using an unusual combination of Japanese katakana (circled in red on the map below). In fact, he’s still not entirely sure how to pronounce it.

16-1.jpg

Ten more minutes of walking. Before he had fully reached the bottom again, the mysterious and divine Kamikakis came into view.

17-1.jpg

He was overwhelmed by the majestic nature of the ring of rocks as he approached.

18-1.jpg

The visibility of the sea in the distance coupled with the strange nocchi formations balanced each other out nicely. It was a true masterpiece of interwoven natural elements, undoubtedly painted by the resident gods themselves. He could only walk on speechlessly for another few minutes as he took in the view.

19-1.jpg

Having spent some time reflecting on the scenery, he then begrudgingly headed back to the port.

While Kouhey had only spent about two hours on the island, the flow of time seemed to have slowed down for him. It felt like half a day had passed to his body and senses. Out of all of the outlying islands throughout the Ryukyu Islands that he had visited, Ogami Island definitely had the biggest divine presence. It truly was aptly named “Island of the Great Gods.”

Kouhey encourages interested parties to visit, but also cautions that there are plenty of tales of visitors who didn’t respect the rules and supposedly had terrible things befall upon them. He encourages visitors once again to double-check the rules as soon as they set foot on the island.

If you do visit Ogami Island, since you’re in Okinawa Prefecture anyway, why not check out some other things to do in the area, including glamping on Okinawa Island?

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- This private island in the Pacific Ocean is open to guests – but only Japanese ones

-- The 11 Cat Islands of Japan 【Photos】

-- Three bridges in Okinawa Prefecture offer the most spectacular panoramic vistas of the sea【Pics】

© SoraNews24

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

No Comment
Login to comment

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites