Osaki Kamishima | Backyard Tourism Vol. 13

A view of many islands from the tallest mountain on 大崎上島.

Welcome back to another installment of Backyard Tourism. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the island of Osaki Kamishima in Hiroshima Prefecture. Located 30 minutes off of the coast in the ever-picturesque Seto Inland Sea, this island rarely, if ever, welcomes overseas visitors to Japan. Hell, if the one-off comment made by the owner of the ryokan that I stayed at can be taken at his word, this part of the country isn’t even a place that domestic tourists frequent! While this might sound off putting, it is precisely because it is so undiscovered that you ought to consider spending a night in this part of Hiroshima.

Now, like with every other location featured in the Backyard Tourism series, the following account of my travels is not necessarily an attempt to get you to visit Osaki Kamishima. Instead, what I want to do is showcase how just about any area of Japan can have niche appeal if its narrative is properly told online. Through good storytelling and liberal use of copywriting, I’ll try to paint an image for you of why even this extremely rural slice of Japan is worth considering if you’re a repeat visitor.

So on that note, who would actually enjoy losing track on time on an island like Osaki Kamishima? Well, for starters, the landmass is actually pretty popular with Japanese fishermen. In fact, the ryokan that I stayed over at with the people from the regional DMO (destination marketing organization) may only continue to get by thanks to this demographic’s continued patronage. All throughout the main areas of the lodging, there were newspaper clippings and other paraphernalia related to fishing.

Additionally, Osaki Kamishima also can appeal to overworked individuals like myself who need a small break from the insanity of their daily lives. Despite being quite a bit larger than many other islands in the Seto Inland Sea, Osaki Kamishima is home to only around 7,000 people in total. With nothing to drive innovation or commerce, it almost feels as if the passage of the years has stopped altogether. While there may indeed be the odd convenience store, it’s easy to feel as if you’ve slipped back in time to a bygone era.

How to Get There

The trip to Osaki Kamishima is not exactly easy. Assuming that you’re starting in Hiroshima City already, you’ll want to take the Kure Line from Hiroshima Station to Takehara Station. As always, you’ll want to reference a service like Jorudan to figure out when the next departure is. Moreover, you’d be wise to do this well in advance because the timetables for the local trains are not at all like the high frequency arrivals in Tokyo or Osaka. If you miss one, you may have to wait a long time for another!

Once you’re at last in Takehara, you’ll need to head on over to the local port. From there, you can take a 30-minute ferry ride over to Osaki Kamishima. Do note that there’s essentially no public transportation on the island. While the locals assured me that there was an occasional bus that made a loop around the island, their frequency is so low that they functionally don’t exist for all intents and purposes.

Luckily, you can actually drive a car onto the ferries that run to and from Osaki Kamishima. In fact, this is actually how the residents of the island get their vehicles back from the mainland to Osaki Kamishima. Should you be making use of a rental car, you can take it onto the ferry with you so that you’ll have your own set of wheels after arriving. As you might imagine, this will make getting around MUCH easier.

By the way, do note that you don’t need a rental car to get around Osaki Kamishima. In fact, when I visited with the DMO team for the Seto Inland Sea, we did not have access to one. Instead, we made use of rental bicycles to get to all the spots on the island. While this will of course require that you work up a sweat, it’s a great way to experience Osaki Kamishima. More so than just driving about, I actually encourage the physically active types to explore the isle this way.

In terms of places to stay, there’s not really much on offer to note. Sure, you have a few local ryokan as well as a couple of nicer hotels but there’s really nothing to write home about on this 7,000-person island. Just pick whatever works for your budget and go with it. While you really can’t go wrong thanks to Japanese hospitality, there is also no clear winner as far as I can tell in regards to accommodations on Osaki Kamishima.

What to Do on Osaki Kamishima

A poorly lit photo of the small town of Kinoe on 大崎上島

So, with the logistics now out of the way, let’s tackle the topic of why one would want to visit Osaki Kamishima. First things first, allow me to state that this is not the kind of place that you go to specifically to “do things.” If you’re looking to hop from attraction to attraction, this isn’t the locale for you. Instead, Osaki Kamishima appeals to those who are looking to get away from it all and take it easy for a day or two. Like with my trip to Katsuura in Chiba Prefecture, my time on the island was just the reprieve that I needed.

While the main allure of Osaki Kamishima may be its slower pace of life, that doesn’t mean that the island doesn’t have any points of appeal on the menu. For starters, remember that this part of Japan is indeed quite popular with fishermen. Assuming that you can navigate the challenges of the language barrier, this may be just the father-son type of bonding experience that male readers would enjoy. Unfortunately, I didn’t partake in any fishing fun so I can’t really comment further.

In addition to its abundance of spots to cast a line, Osaki Kamishima also has a host of other small attractions strewn about the 9 kilometer-long island. For example, on the opposite side of Osaki Kamishima from where the ferry will let you off is a picturesque hamlet known as Kinoe (seen above). Though today it is a bit worn down, the old townscape’s vibe is very characteristic of old Seto Inland Sea towns in the days of yesteryear. Especially if you’re on a rental bike, I highly suggest you swing by.

One possible way to explore Osaki Kamishima is to work your way across the island while visiting Kinoe and some other minor spots en route. Then, you can make your way to Akashi Port on the Shikoku-facing side of the isle. From here, you can catch a ferry over to one of the isles. This way, you can hop your way from Osaki Kamishima over to some of the islands in the Seto Inland Sea before finally ending your journey in Shikoku.

As alluded to, Osaki Kamishima is also great for cycling. Assuming that you can rent yourself a good bike (go for a road bike or one with an electric motor), you can work your way around the circumference of the isle. This is how the local DMO team and I opted to experience Osaki Kamishima and I highly encourage other active types to consider the following suit. It’s a great way to kill half a day while seeing a side of Japan few tourists ever do!

In addition to the aforementioned town of Kinoe, the following is a list of locations that I suggest you swing by if you’re doing a bike tour. None of them are what I would call “must visits” per say but they are all worth considering as mini-adventures should you find yourself close by…

  • Mikan & Lemons
    The Seto Inland Sea is famous for producing some of the best citrus fruit on the planet and a good number of these come from Osaki Kamishima. The island is specifically known for making extremely high quality lemons and mikans. All throughout the hills of Osaki Kamishima, you’ll find slopes dotted with plants bearing these fruits.
  • Nagashima
    Situated just off the coast of Osaki Kamishima, this small isle is connected to the main island by a long bridge. The reason why Nagashima is worth visiting is that it offers a great, ocean-side view of many of the small islands that dot the Seto Inland Sea. While we were here, we saw a group trying their hand at standup paddleboarding. While I don’t know where you would make reservations, it seems to be an activity that you can do from around here.
  • Kamigumi Tunnel
    This odd throughway is located in the center of the island and dates from the early 1900s. Supposedly, the tunnel was made without any prior planning. As a result, one side has a concrete entrance whereas the other is made of red brick. Despite the workers having screwed the pooch on this one though, Kamigumi Tunnel is a piece of the island’s history that is treasured by the locals.

Lastly, note that the comparatively large isle of Osaki Kamishima also is great for hiking fans. Towards the center of the island, you’ll find Mt. Kamimine. This 452.6-meter-high peak has one of the best views of the Seto Inland Sea. From what I’ve been told, the mountain’s breathtaking vista boasts the claim to the location with the most visible number of islands in all of Japan.

By the way, know that there’s actually a road up to the summit of Mt. Kamimine. If you have a rental car, you can easily drive yourself up to the top and save your legs. Just don’t be an idiot like we were and try to make the ascent on a rental bike. Even with the assistance of an electric motor, it was one hell of a ride up. 10/10 would not recommend…

Other Nearby Attractions

A rabbit in front of Okunoshima’s ruins that have lasted well throughout the years

If you’re going to come to Osaki Kamishima, you’d be a fool to not also check out Takehara. Nicknamed the “Little Kyoto of Aki” (Aki being the former name for Hiroshima), this port town used to be a major producer of salt and an important node on the Seto Inland Sea network. Visitors today can enjoy its historic streets which give one the sense that they’ve been whisked back in time to a bygone era. Seeing as you need to go here anyway to catch the ferry, it’s a very simple add-on.

In addition to Takehara, one other nearby spot that you should consider is the so-called “Rabbit Island” of Okunoshima. Found not too far from Osaki Kamishima, this small isle is home to hundreds of adorable hares. Why they are there is a bit of a dark and complicated tale but today, they have no natural predators. As a result, they know no fear and will run right up to you asking to be fed. It’s incredibly cute and I highly suggest that you include it on your itinerary.

For the military history buffs out there, know that the Kure is also close by. Home to the Kure Naval District, this ship-building port city was once the heart of the Japanese navy. During World War II, Kure gave birth to the Yamato, a battleship that is often lauded as the most heavily armed vessel to ever exist. It’s a rarely visited part of Hiroshima Prefecture that has a lot of niche appeal if you’re into history.

Of course, if you’re in this part of Japan, you likely already are planning to visit the city of Hiroshima (as well as maybe Miyajima). Here, all I want to leave you with is that there’s a lot more to Hiroshima than just the Atomic Bomb Dome. Do yourself a favor and spend some time exploring the city if you have some available time.

Until next time travelers…

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Donny Kimball
Donny Kimball

I'm a travel writer and freelance digital marketer who blogs about the sides of Japan that you can't find in the mainstream media.

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