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We visit the 'Naples of Japan,' a secret destination tourists don’t know about yet

By Oona McGee, SoraNews24

Not many people know that Oita Prefecture, located on the southern island of Kyushu, is home to a remote island so picturesque it’s been dubbed “The Naples of Japan."

Called Hotojima, this tiny island welcomes visitors to its shores with a collection of multi-story houses built up along the mountain slopes around its port, mimicking the beauty of a famous Mediterranean port town.

Home to a population of roughly 700, this sleepy village is yet to be discovered by international tourists. However, having been named as one of Japan’s 100 Select Fishing Industry Fishing Village Historical and Cultural Heritage Sites to be Preserved for the Future, there’s a lot of beauty to be found here for the intrepid traveller.

We took a trip to the area recently to give you an exclusive look at what the island has to offer, taking a high-speed boat from Tsukumi Port in Oita’s Tsukumi City, which cost us 880 yen each one way.

▼ There are six boats a day, with a one-way trip taking 25 minutes.


We’d heard Hotojima was a small island covering an area of ​​roughly four kilometers, but it looked much bigger than we expected as we approached it. As we entered the quiet, peaceful bay, the boat slowed and this glorious scene unfolded before our eyes.


Looking around, the landscape made us feel as if we were about to disembark at a scenic Mediterranean port city like Naples or Amalfi. Even the water had a similar crystal-clear, aquamarine sparkle to it.

We got off the boat, picked up a booklet from the information center, and headed out to explore the island on foot. We were excited to find that the area was a maze of narrow alleys, making it feel like a historic overseas town.


Hotojima is one of the nation’s leading bases for deep-sea tuna fishing, with many locals involved in the trade. As we walked the quiet streets, we came across a post office, some small family-run food stores, and friendly locals who were keen to strike up laid-back conversations by calling out “where are you heading off to?” as we walked by.

One of the interesting finds we came across was a road sign on a footpath that read “Oita Prefectural Road 612“. With the width of this “road” narrow enough for a person to touch either side with outstretched hands, this has to be one of the narrowest in the country.


There are a few small cars on the island that use the narrow roads here, but there are also a lot of hand-drawn carts and wheelbarrows to help transport goods around the area.


Walking around the island was an incredibly relaxing way to spend an afternoon, and as we waited for our return trip back to Tsukumi, we sat by the seaside and ate a leisurely, delicious lunch which was homemade by a local store recommended to us by the islanders.


We’d been hoping to eat at a restaurant that served a local specialty called Hyugadon, but unfortunately it was closed when we visited. We decided to come back another day, settling for a dish of Hyugadon at Tsukumi Port instead.

After arriving at Tsukumi Port, we headed to the restaurant to try “Tsukumi Hyugadon”. The simple dish consisted of a bowl of rice topped with slices of fresh tuna sashimi, garnished with sprouts, sesame seeds, shredded nori seaweed and a dollop of wasabi on the side.


Known as a fisherman’s dish, Hyugadon is said to have filled the bellies of hungry fishermen on board boats out at sea here for 100 years. The dish has been awarded the gold medal at the Oita Gourmet Grand Prix for two years running, and it’s easy to see why. It was fresh, hearty, and absolutely delicious! A perfect dish for a seaside town.

If you’re looking for friendly locals, delicious cuisine, and a laid-back, relaxed location where you can enjoy the fresh seaside air, Hotojima definitely deserves a place on your next Japan itinerary.

And if you’re looking to visit the Venice of Japan, that’s just a short distance away too.


Hotojima / 保戸島

Address: Tsukumi-shi, Hotojima



Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Ever wanted to take a trip to Ghibli’s Laputa? Tokyo Bay island might just be the next best thing

-- The 11 Cat Islands of Japan 【Photos】

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

© SoraNews24

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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It's very nice, but has whoever dubbed it "The Naples of Japan" ever actually seen Naples in Italy?

Maybe from a distance... a really looong distance...

13 ( +13 / -0 )

Looks like a typical seaside town in Japan. I suggest Enoshima which is really neat, and Izu Oshima as well.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

It doesn't look like Naples at all, but it does resemble an Amalfi coast town a bit. I thought Naples city was a dump last time I visited so they might want to rethink that one!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Previously been to Naples several times but never been to Hotojima but nothing like Naples which is a major city not some small port. Difficult to copy the Italian culture and atmosphere. I guess this place it trying to cash in on a connection.

Some of the best pizza is found in Naples.

"Naples' 2,800-year history has left it with a wealth of historical buildings and monuments, from medieval castles to classical ruins, and a wide range of culturally and historically significant sites nearby, including the Palace of Caserta and the Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. "

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Naples of !!! I guess April 1st came early this year! The writer clearly hasn’t been to Naples or even explored Japan extensively! There are many better places much closer to Naples in Japan than this place! SoraNews24 cracks me up 90% of the time!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

it’s been dubbed “The Naples of Japan."

Dubbed by the mayor, presumably. I've seen attempts to pass off Osaka as "the Venice of Japan" too. Try wrapping your head around that one!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Dubbed by the mayor, presumably. I've seen attempts to pass off Osaka as "the Venice of Japan" too.

Agreed, ok its a nice island village but get real, comparing it with Naples. Writer is obviously just trying to drum up some tourism yen for the town, on the other hand one can,t blame them I guess.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I quite like Shodoshima, off Shikoku. That's got a genuine Mediterranean feel to it, but it could be due to the olive farms on the island.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

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