Discover Japan: 5 wonderful and little-known islands celebrating Japanese culture

People wishing to take an intense spiritual retreat are welcome on the Japanese archipelago. The islands that make it up are extraordinarily cut off from the world, exempt from the urban swarming of the big cities. While their number amounts to more than 6000, they all have their own particularities. The inhabitants who live there devote themselves every day to preserving the natural environment of these floating bits of land. Traditions and culture of the past are also commemorated in the islands of Japan. Dive into the heart of a world apart thanks to these 5 wonderful and little-known islands celebrating Japanese culture! 


  • 1. Toshijima and its unique authenticity
  • 2. The Okinawa archipelago and its population of veterans
  • 3. The Oki Islands and their age-old sumo practice
  • 4. L’île divine Miyajima
  • 5. Yakushima and its exceptional biodiversity

1. Toshijima and its unique authenticity

This island with more than 2000 inhabitants lives mainly from fishing. Buildings and electronics on every street corner are out of place in Mie Prefecture. Instead, you will see small fishing boats, nets, and baskets full of fresh fish. The seaweed used to make the famous  nori is largely harvested in Toshijima, then handled in the factory to be transported throughout Japan. The accommodations and meals are as traditional as possible, coinciding perfectly with a vision of life that is as simple as it is respectful of nature.

sashimi japanese islands
Credits: Marine Dumay/Unsplash

Toshijima is also the only place in Japan to still practice  neyako. According to this tradition, young men get together in groups of 5 or 10 to form a group at the end of their secondary studies. They then join a family that is not related to them. Under the supervision of adults, these boys learn the art of fishing, but also the rules to be respected in society.

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2. The Okinawa archipelago and its population of veterans

Okinawa became a prefecture of Japan in 1879. Its palm-covered beaches are not overrun with tourists… but with old people. The highest concentration of centenarians in the world inhabit this magnificent archipelago. Contrary to what one might think, they are in very good health and experience very few ailments related to serious conditions. This is largely thanks to their very healthy diet, having been unaffected by the American influence established since 1945.

okinawa beach japanese islands
Okinawa beach. Credits: CAME-RA/Pixabay

The place of centenarians has a great effect on the spoken language of Okinawa, lulled by countless patois forgotten elsewhere. Likewise, the religion practiced there is very old, placing women at the center of the cults dedicated to different gods. Considered as priestesses, they are the only ones who can interpret the words of the latter.

3. The Oki Islands and their age-old sumo practice

Koten  -zum is the ancestor of modern sumo, now the national sport of Japan. The fights organized according to this ancient custom have a spiritual purpose . When battling each other, the sumos ask for help from the kami , nature spirits of the Shinto religion. These can be material needs like bountiful harvests or simply community-related projects. Sportsmen are part of various businesses on the island, so they do not weigh as much as today’s sumos.

oki japanese islands
Credits: LiveLyfePhotography/Pixabay

In order to preserve good social cohesion, the winner of a ritual combat such as the koten-zum  does not have the right to humiliate his adversary. A second fight then takes place, the loser being able to knock down the winner. The two participants and their families celebrate their victories together afterwards.

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4. L’île divine Miyajima

Its lands are mainly covered with small forests and owe their irregularity to a mountainous relief. Miyajima hosts many temples dedicated to the Shinto religion on its rock. According to the latter, the island would come from the divine will  fallen from the sky to accommodate people wishing to live according to the principles of religion. But Buddhism also holds an important place among Miyajima’s dogmas. Thus, temples and sanctuaries of different beliefs stand in harmony on the ground of the island.

Discover Japan: 5 wonderful and little-known islands celebrating Japanese culture
Portico of Itsukushima-jinja Shrine. Credits: Chris Barbalis/Unsplash

Itsukushima-jinja shrine has a particularly impressive façade. When the tide is high, it floods the dark red portico in front of the sanctuary. This is particularly why tourists like to venture to Miyajima, but also to observe the sika deer that live in the village with its inhabitants.

5. Yakushima and its exceptional biodiversity

The plants, trees and animals of this island are manifold. Yakushima’s soil is mostly made up of volcanic rock, creating a dreamlike, mysterious haze when it comes in contact with water. It is thanks to its spectral beauty and its rare environment that the island entered the world heritage of humanity in 1993. Its rare landscapes dotted with a virgin forest shelter the  Jomon Sugi , a huge tree several years old. thousands of years. The red-faced macaques greatly appreciate this nature conducive to calm and relaxation.

japanese island macaque
Credits: Steven Diaz/Unsplash

For the record, Yakushima would have inspired the landscapes of the Japanese animated film  Princess Mononoke  directed by the illustrious Hayao Miyazaki. The mysterious forest where we are immersed through our screen would not be so far from reality…

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There are so many things to discover about Japan and all its islands! 

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Mohamed SAKHRI
Mohamed SAKHRI

I am Mohamed SAKHRI, the creator and editor-in-chief of this blog, 'Discover the World – The Blog for Curious Travelers.' Join me as we embark on a journey around the world, uncovering beautiful places, diverse cultures, and captivating stories. Additionally, we will delve into mysterious and, at times, even bizarre destinations.

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