Portrait of Life on Himeshima

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Himeshima meaning “Princess Island” is a village island located in Ōita Prefecture of southwest Japan. The sleepy little town of 7 kms is easily accessible by Imi Port. From here you can get nice views of Kyushu, Honshu and Shikoku mountains, where we had been trekking for the past few days.

The island has its own laws, under which village employees earn about a third less pay than public servants elsewhere in Japan, though they work the same hours. This has allowed the village to create more jobs: it now directly or indirectly employs a fifth of all working islanders. The main occupations on the island are fishing and shrimp farming. To keep things balanced, prices of goods are also considerably less than mainland.

Every August, there is a Shinto religious ceremony, Kitsune matsuri (Fox Dance festival) featuring dancers dressed as foxes that attracts many visitors. Otherwise, people from mainland Japan come here to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The best way to explore the area is on a bike or on foot.

Here are a few snapshots of life around the island.

The lighthouse on the eastern tip is a good spot to get a picture perfect view of the island. himeshima lighthouse

A crescent shape beach looks exceptionally clean, but there are no people here on a sunny afternoon. The Japanese people only hit the beach during auspicious 3 weeks in the summer.

himeshima beach

One can wander through the maze of streets, looking at well kept homes that have traditional Japanese gardens, shrines and vegetable plots.

himeshima homes

The streets are quiet all times of the day. You wonder where the 2k inhabitants are!

himeshima streets

Himeshima’s most famous product is the kuruma ebi (tiger prawn) that is exported to restaurants across Japan. It is fresh and delicious, as you can see the shrimp farms all over. October is the main season for the prawns and in that month the island also hosts a kuruma ebi festival. Traditionally, it is eaten alive!

himeshima shrimp farms

The most scenic spot the island has to offer is in the north east. Here you will need to climb a hill to reach Sennin-do – a tiny temple building that sits on a rock looking out over the sea, and wind-bent pines gripping the obsidian stones right next to it.

himeshima temple

We pause at an old post office in ruins, as we make our way to the oldest mayor’s home. This is now a open house museum where visitors can see traditional floors, kitchen equipment, and the ancient life.

himeshima house

The people in Himeshima are very friendly and the island has a certain relaxed charm about it. You can walk around the entire place in less than a day, but if you want to sit back and do nothing, come for as long as you want.

Himeshima was one of our stops during the Kinisaki Trek with Walk Japan tours.

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Sucheta Rawal

Sucheta is an award winning food and travel writer, who has traveled to 50+ countries across 6 continents. She is also the founder and chief editor of Go Eat Give.