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Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Ōgami Island – The Most Sacred Island in Miyakojima City

Around 4km northeast of Miyako Island, there is a mysterious small island where the locals believe that gods of nature reside. There are numerous sacred sites where entry is forbidden without permission. It is said that during the Uyagan Festival (祖神祭 (ウヤガン祭)), even the islanders aren’t allowed to enter those areas. In fact, to Miyakojima’s citizens, the entire Ōgami Island is an object of worship. Ōgami Island (大神島) is, therefore, the best destination for the original scenery of Okinawa.

Longing for the stunning Okinawan beaches, more and more people moved to Okinawa. But Ōgami-jima remains a secluded island with a population of only around 20 people.

How to Get to Ōgami Island and the Best Way to Explore Ōgami Island

Ⓒ photo-ac.com

Ōgami Island is only accessible by ferry from Miyako Island. And keep in mind that the number of services is limited to only four to five per day. Also, because there are specific rules to be followed, it is best to join a guided tour if you want to visit Ōgami-jima.

The 90-minute tour costs 2,000 yen per person. A discount may apply if you are of a group of four people or more.

To book a tour and confirm if an English tour is available on the day of your visit, you can kindly ask your hotel staff to call Ōgami-jima Sightseeing Association at +81-980-72-5350.

For the ferry service, currently, there are four services to and from Ōgami Island from Shimajiri Fisherman’s Wharf (島尻漁港) on Miyako Island. It takes around 15 minutes to reach Ōgami Island.

  • The cost of a one-way trip is
    • 350 yen for adults
    • 180 yen for children
  • The cost for a return way trip is
    • 670 yen for adults
    • 350 yen for children

For the services’ timetable, please refer to HERE. As the departure time may change due to weather conditions, you may want to call Ōgami Shipping (大神海運) to confirm in advance.

Important: Ōgami Island has many hills. So remember to wear something comfortable.

A List of Attractions on Ōgami Island

Tip: If you don’t plan to swim/snorkel, you will only need two to three hours on Ōgami Island.

Note an entry fee of 100 yen is payable upon arrival on Ōgami Island. Please drop your 100 yen coin into the collection box.

And before you wander off, remember to say hi to the Dragon God (龍宮神). The object of worship is a limestone placed close to the port. It shouldn’t be hard to tell where it is as drinks or even food is usually placed in front of it (´▽`*).

You can refer to the 4th photo of the Instagram post.

Important:
☛ Take a picture of the island’s map and the ferry’s timetable at Ōgami Port. You are only allowed in the area that is colored grey.
☛ There are only two toilet facilities on Ōgami Island, one at the port and the other one at Ōgamijima Multi-purpose Square (大神島多目的広場) on the southeast coast.
☛ There are no convenience stores or supermarkets on Ōgami Island. The only restaurant where you can stay overnight has no vegetarian menu.

The Best Seasons to Visit Ōgami Island

  • The best time for snorkeling is from late June to September, albeit during the typhoon season.
  • There are relatively fewer rainy days from November to April.

What You Can’t Do on Ōgami Island

In addition to the entry-restricted areas, there are a few more things to keep in mind when visiting Ōgami-jima.

  • Drones are forbidden
  • Don’t climb on the rocks. Many of them are treated as an object of worship.
  • No SUP or kayaking
  • No camping
  • Don’t take anything natural that you find on the island.

Ōgami Island’s Legend

Ōgami-jima isn’t just an island that appeared in Japanese mythology. It also has a legend related to the famous pirate Captain Kidd! It is said that Captain Kidd hid some of his treasure on Ōgami Island, and the value of the treasure was beyond 2 trillion yen!

The legend had lured many treasure hunters to Ōgami Island. But, all of them felt ill with unknown causes one after another during the treasure hunt. The locals believed it was because their behavior angered the gods on the island.

Before Captain Kidd, the legend is that Ōgami-jima was attacked by brutal pirates long ago. Only a few people escaped from the pirates’ brutality, and the islanders of Ōgami Island are the descendants of those survivors.

Snorkeling at Ōgami Island

Although Ōgami Island is a great destination for snorkeling, please remember there is no hospital on the island. So, if things go wrong, it will take a while until you can be treated. Thus, you must come prepared with adequate knowledge about the weather and sea conditions to snorkel.

As such, joining a snorkeling tour would be a better idea, even if you are experienced with snorkeling.

For more information, refer to the island’s official website HERE and give Ōgamijima Marine Leasure a call to book. You can translate the webpage using Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar. Your hotel staff should be able to assist you in making the call and confirm if English tours are available on the day.

Important: Marine shoes are essential for swimming/snorkeling at Ōgami Island.

Small Unique Things/Facts About Ōgami Island

  • There is a used well in the village’s center, at the entrance of Tunpara Observation Deck. Before the water supply system was completed on Ōgami Island, this was the only place where the entire village of around 200 people could source domestic water. When there wasn’t much water in the well, the entire family had to rely on one bucket for a day.
  • You will notice the breakwaters on Ōgami Island are disconnected. Because the locals believe that gods come to the island from the sea, the breakwaters were constructed this way, so the gods aren’t “blocked” out.
  • While the Shisa lion is the usual talisman in Okinawa, the people of Ōgami-jima has a particular shell called Suijigai (水字貝) hung at the entrance instead. This is because the shape of the shell looks like the word “water”. The locals hope by hanging the Sujigai, their houses can escape from being destroyed by fire hazards and floods.

Nocchi Stone (奇石 – ノッチ)

The most unique scenery of Ōgami-jima is the mushroom-like rocks that stick out from the island’s shallow beaches. The most obvious ones are located on the northern shore of Ōgami Island.

It was determined that the rocks were dropped when Ōgami Island was pushed above the sea by tectonic activities. Over the years, waves have eroded the bottom part of the rocks, giving them the strange appearance it has today.

As you never know when the base of these rocks will collapse, if you are interested in seeing the unique scene, visit Ōgami-jima as soon as possible!

Tip: Visit Nocchi Stone at low tide. You won’t be able to see its full appearance at high tide.

Takama Beach (タカマ)

The beach on the left of Ōgami Port (大神港) is called Takama. It is one of the few beaches with sandy shores on the island. When the weather is good, you can see as far as Miyako Island and Ikema Island from here. With the crystal clear emerald green sea in front of you, it will surely make the waiting time for the next ferry a lot shorter!

Kamikakisu (カミカキス)

A spot that has a somewhat mysterious ambiance is Kamikakisu, on Ōgami-jim’s southeast coast. What creates the scene is the couple of rocks that together form a circle.

Thanks to these rocks, the spot is a great place for snorkeling. Because it only goes as deep as 2 meters at high tide, it is suitable for younger children to swim and snorkel too. Inside the circle, you should encounter various types of gorgeous tropical fish!

And because Kamikakisu is just in front of Ōgamijjima Multipurpurse Square (大神島多目的広場), you can take a rest at the park’s pavilion when you get tired. While there is no shower facility, you can certainly use the tap water at the square’s toilet to complete a quick rinse.

Tunpara Observation Deck (トゥンパラ, 遠見台)

At the highest point of Ōgami-jima, there is an observation deck called Tunpara at 74.5 meters. It is where you can get a panoramic view of the island and the Ikema Bridge (池間大橋) beyond the sea. You might even be able to see Japan’s largest coral reef system, Yabiji (八重干瀬) if the sky is clear and the timing is right!

But note climbing up the staircases takes around five minutes and can be tiring. The good thing is that most stairs are covered by tropical vegetation, so walking on the promenade won’t be too hot.

Just before you reach the observation deck, there is a place of worship called Uganju (ウガンジュ, 拝所) in front of a rock that is covered by tree roots. This is where the most sacred ritual takes place. It is said that gods would descend to this rock. Therefore, the roads on Ōgami Island are built around the rock to keep the spot secluded.

Note that this spot is inaccessible even to the islanders for three to five days between June and October in the lunar calendar. It is when the secret festival/ritual, Uyagan (祖神祭), takes place. During the festival, the participating priestesses only drink water and salt and would not sleep.

Note there is no way to find out the exact dates of the festival in advance. Even the islanders were notified by the priestess just a few days beforehand.

Discover Other Awesome Attractions in Miyakojima City

View-from-Hennazaki-Lighthouse-Miyakojima-Okinawa-Japan

Obviously, Ikema-jima shouldn’t be the only island to visit when you head to Miyakojima. So if you are unsure where else is worth your time, our Top 12 Attractions in Miyakojima City article can provide you with some ideas!

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