One of the fantastic things about Japan is just how convenient it is to get around the entire country. Thanks to the Japanese rail infrastructure and their blazing fast bullet trains, getting from one island to another in Japan can be inexpensive, fast and a lovely experience thanks to their luxurious trains that offer every comfort you could want as a traveller.
But not all islands in Japan are reachable just by taking a train. The four main islands of Honshu (the largest), Hokkaido, Shikoku and Kyushu can easily be traversed, but there are over 6,000 smaller islands that are also worth a visit if you’re planning on visiting Japan.
So in this article, we’re going to talk about the top 5 islands to visit in Japan and why they deserve a visit.
1. The Big Four
As mentioned already, the four main islands of Japan are well worth a visit. Although technically four islands, we decided to include them as a single entry so that we can talk about the other smaller islands that surround the main body of Japan.
Hokkaido is the northernmost island and a wintery paradise due to its location. With fresh seafood around the entire island, plenty of amazing wildlife to explore and learn about and a surprising amount of fun and entertainment such as hot springs, it’s an island you definitely want to visit if you’re touring through Japan.
Next, there’s the main island of Honshu. This is the largest and most-populated island because it contains large cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. If you’re visiting Japan for the first time then Honshu is where you’ll spend most of your time because it’s where all of the easy transport links and entertainment are.
Shikoku is a relatively small island that sits west of Osaka, south of Hiroshima and east of Fukuoka. The area boasts some beautiful traditional Japanese townscapes and seasonal attractions such as dancing, festivals and beaches. It’s very easy to reach via train and is a must-visit island if you want to learn more about the nature, history and culture of Japan.
Lastly, there’s Kyushu. Kyushu is the southernmost island of Japan and is known for its beautiful weather, natural hot springs, gorgeous architecture and traditional hotels. While there are many packed cities around Kyushu, you’ll find that its true beauty lies within the surrounding landscapes which are ripe for exploration and tours.
2. Aogashima Island
Aogashima looks like an enormous crater that is home to only around 200 people. It offers a beautiful landscape of untouched scenery that makes the perfect destination for hiking, camping and also bike rides. Located south of Tokyo, it’s relatively simple to reach but you may need to check with Shihani Port to ensure that the ship is running because it can easily be influenced by the weather.
3. Miyajima/Itsukushima Island
Despite its official name being Itsukushima, it’s popularly known as Miyajima Island or “Shrine Island” thanks to the famous Itsukushima Shrine which has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The shrine itself was built thousands of years ago around the time of Empress Suiko and still remains one of the island’s most famous landmarks. It also has a floating torii gate which is currently ranked as one of the best views in the whole of Japan.
4. Tashirojima Island
Popularly known as “Cat Island”, Tashirojima Island is well-known for its huge cat population that currently outnumbers the human population by at least four to one. This was caused by a huge boom in the silk industry that brought over lots of cats in order to keep mice away from the silkworm farms on the island. However, when the silk industry boom died down, many of the workers left the island to return home and left behind a huge population of cats that continued to thrive. Nowadays, the cats roam free around the island and continue to reproduce. They’re no strangers to visitors and will happily wander around to meet with tourists. Unfortunately, the island itself is best considered as a day trip because there are only a few shops and places to stay.
5. Sado Island
A remote island with lush scenery that has historically been used for political exile, Sado Island has become a breathtaking destination that sits just west of Niigata. It’s popular for its annual music festival held in August where the world-famous Kodo Drummers taiko group performs. It’s also known for having a unique cultural background with interesting dances, music and even art forms like clay pottery.