Vegetarian's Japan Guide

The Stunning Shika Island & Japan’s First National Treasure

North of Fukuoka’s city center, Shika Island (志賀島) is a great weekend getaway in Fukuoka. The island, which has a circumference of around 11 km, is one of the top destinations for the locals to enjoy nature, hot springs, and beach activities. To many Japanese, though, their stereotype of Shika Island is probably a historically rich island where the oldest national treasure was discovered.

A List of Attractions on Shika Island

How to Get to Shika Island

Ⓒ 福岡市

Shika Island is connected with Kyūshū island. So if you plan to rent a car, how about driving through the motorway built in the middle of the sandbar with magnificent ocean views on both sides?

Note: If you are going to drive to Shika Island in summer, head there and leave there early to avoid traffic jams (especially during weekends and public holidays).

Getting to Shika Island by Ferry

If you prefer to use public transportation, ferries to Shika Island depart from Fukuoka Municipal Ferry Terminal (福岡市営渡船ターミナル) at Hakata Port (博多港).

Please refer to the official website HERE for the ferry’s timetable. The first table is for Monday to Saturday. The second table is for Sundays and public holidays.

  • 志賀島 → Shika Island
  • 博多 → Hakata
  • The boat trip will take around 30 minutes.
  • The cost is 680 yen for adults and 340 yen for children from one year old to elementary school students.

Getting to Shika Island by Train + Bus

If you prefer to take trains, you can take JR’s Kashii Line (香椎線) from JR Hakata Station and get off at the terminal station, JR Saitozaki Station (西戸崎駅). The station is close to Uminonakamichi Seaside Park, another scenic destination we love.

Before heading to Shika Island, you can stop by the massive park to admire its gorgeous flower fields.

Because JR Saitozaki Station is around a 60-minute walk to Shika Island, you will want to change to a bus from the station. You can search for the timetable HERE.

The bus stop closest to the Shika Island Ferry Terminal is Shikanoshima (志賀島). We have included the closest bus stop to each of the attractions we introduce, located in the access information section below.

If you come from the Tenjin area, you can also take bus Route 21 or 21A.

Cycling from JR Saitozaki Station

Ⓒ 福岡市

Instead of taking a bus, you can also rent a bicycle from Saitozaki Ferry Terminal (西戸崎旅客待合所), which is just a 5-minute walk from the station.

With a bicycle, you can get to Shika Island in less than 20 minutes. Plus, you can enjoy the magnificent ocean views as you cycle through the sandbar, Uminonakamichi!

Another option for bicycle rental is from Uminonakamichi Seaside Park. They have a wide range of options that you can choose from. In addition to bicycles, they also have electric kickboards and segway! For more information, please refer to our Uminonakamachi Seaside Park article.

Tip: We recommend renting a mountain bike or electric-assisted bike because the island has a few steeper hills.

Time Required to Explore Shika Island

Around 4 to 5 hours should be enough if you are traveling between the attractions by bicycle.

Note the time doesn’t include dining.

Tip: If you plan to explore the entire Shika Island, follow the sequence of the below attractions. They are listed in a clockwise direction from Shika Island Ferry Terminal. This is so you will be traveling at the seaside.

Shikashima Cycle (シカシマサイクル)

Another bicycle rental option is Shikashima Cycle. This shop is close to the ferry terminal and has a range of bicycles with different specs.

In addition, the coffee served in the cafe area is made from top-quality coffee beans. The taste? Of course, brilliant!

You can also pair up your drink with a piece of delicious cake or other snacks. They might also have light meal options when you visit, but they may not be vegetarian.

For the cost of bike rental, please refer to their website HERE.

Tip: You can get 100 yen off the drink at their cafe if you rent a bicycle from Shikashima Cycle.

Shikashima Cycle’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Shikashima Cycle is open from 9 am to 6 pm daily except Tuesdays.
  • From Shikanoshima Ferry Terminal, it is less than a one-minute walk.
  • If you are taking a bus, get off at Shikanoshima.

Shika Island and the Gold Seal of the King of Na

The most famous thing about Shika Island isn’t its stunning scenery but the Gold Seal of the King of Na (金印 漢委奴国王), which was used for important diplomatic documentation.

In the year 57 AD, when the diplomatic officials visited China, the then-Chinese Emperor, Guanwu of the Han Dynasty, bestowed the golden seal to the Japanese Emperor.

While the reason remains unclear, the supposedly important diplomatic token was later found on Shika Island when a farmer maintained the ditch in his paddy field in 1784. Because of this history, facilities and dishes on Shika Island were named after the Gold Seal (the ferry to Shika Island, for example, is named Kin-in).

If you are interested in seeing the historical item that was the first to be designated as a national treasure, visit Fukuoka City Museum (福岡市博物館) close to Fukuoka Tower and the Momochi Seaside Park.

Shika Island, The Base of the Azumi Tribe (阿曇族)

Around the third century, the tribe recognized as Japanese by the surrounding countries was the Azumi Tribe. The tribe was originally based around Fukuoka Prefecture‘s east, but they expanded their footprint from Kyūshū all the way to Yamagata Prefecture. The Azumino City in Nagano Prefecture is also related to the Azumi Tribe.

Furthermore, the Azumi Tribe also traded internationally with China and the Korean Peninsula. So the envoy who traveled to China was a member of the tribe. The golden seal was treated as the tribe’s treasure until it was buried with the leader of the tribe when the Han Dynasty was destroyed (according to one theory).

While there is no way to prove this, the tribe probably had formed the origin of the Japanese culture.

Kin-in Park (金印公園)

Although the real Gold Seal can’t be seen on Shika Island, the place where the seal was found is maintained as a park.

Ⓒ 福岡市

Kin-in Park, also known as Gold Stamp Park, is where the seal was hidden before two farmers discovered it under a big rock. The seal was later passed to the landlord, Jinbee (甚兵衛), who brought it to the local government office for appraisal.

At the observatory square, where you will get a wide ocean view of the surrounding islands, you will find the monument and the replica of the gold seal.

The closest island you can see across the park is Nokonoshima (能古島), another nice island to visit in Fukuoka City for the beautiful fields of flowers.

A couple of poetry monuments can also be found in the park with Chinese poems carved on them. The poems commemorate the formation of a friendly relationship between Japan and China and how Fukuoka City became the sister city of Guangzhou City in China in 1979.

How to Get to Kin-in Park

  • Kin-in Park is around a 20-minute walk from Shika Island Ferry Terminal.
  • If you are taking a bus, please get off at Kininzuka (金印塚).

Mokozuka Mound (蒙古塚)

Ⓒ 福岡市

Mokozuka Mound is a Mongolian Army Memorial Tower west of Kin-in Park. The mound was built for the Mongolian soldiers who were decapitated in 1274. While it does sound cruel now, it resulted from Japan defending its land from the invasion of the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty of China.

The mound was originally placed in northern Shika Island in 1927. It was later moved in 2005 after an earthquake and since then remained there.

How to Get to Mokozuka Mound

To get to Mokozuka Mound, take a bus from Shikanoshima Ferry Terminal and get off at Mokozuka (蒙古塚).

Kin-in no Yu Hot Spring (金印の湯) and Kyūkamura Shikanoshima (休暇村 志賀島)

Ⓒ 休暇村志賀島

In the northern part of Shika Island, you can indulge in the natural hot spring at Kyūkamura Shikanoshima.

Kin-in no Yu is the only natural hot spring facility on Shika Island. The mineral-rich onsen is great for muscle pain and rejuvenation after a day of exploration on the island and will keep your skin smooth like a baby.

If you are a hotel guest, you can even watch the sunset while you enjoy the hot spring at their open-air onsen pool!

Tip: If you plan to stay at Kyūkamura Shikanoshima, let the hotel know your dietary requirements in advance for them to cater to your request.

Ⓒ 休暇村志賀島

Kin-in no Yu’s Opening Hours for Day Visitors and Access Information

  • Kin-in no Yu is open from 11 am to 3 pm daily except for the 3rd Tuesday of the month for day visitors.
    • The last admission is at 2 pm.
  • If you plan to stay at Kyūkamura Shikanoshima, free shuttle buses depart from:
    • JR Saitozaki Station (西戸崎駅) at 2:30 pm and 4:45 pm
    • Shikanoshima Port (志賀島港) at 2:40 pm and 4:45 pm
    • Please reserve in advance.
  • For day visitors, please take a bus from either JR Saitozaki Station (西戸崎駅) or Shikanoshima Port (志賀島) and get off at Kyūkamura Shikanoshima (休暇村志賀島).
    • Refer to HERE for the service’s timetable.
    • The first table is for weekdays, and the second table is for weekends and public holidays.

Gebagahama Beach (下馬ヶ浜海水浴場)

Ⓒ 福岡市

Just in front of Kyūkamura Shikanoshima, Gebagahama Beach is one of the best beaches on Shika Island.

The combination of crystal clear sea water and the white sand attracts many tourists to enjoy and relax on the tropical resort-like beach.

Just note that while there are toilet and shower facilities, water sports, barbeque, and fireworks are not allowed at Gebagahama Beach.

From mid-July to August, lifeguards will be stationed at Gebagahama Beach when it is open for swimming. Items such as beach tents can be rented out from the nearby stores. Drinks and light meals will be served at the restaurants too.

When you need a break from the water, head to the windbreak/lawn area behind the sandy beach.

Tip: There should be some nice shade in the lawn area in the morning.

☛ The water depth is irregular and may suddenly become as deep as 2m at Gebagahama Beach.
☛ If you want to stay for the sunset, park your car in the car parks that are open until late at night.

Shikanoshima Museum (しかのしま資料館)

If you are interested in seeing the excavated items from Shika Island and the agricultural tools used on the island, you can stop by Shikanoshima Museum next to Kyūkamura Shikanoshima. Although English notations aren’t available in the museum, entry is free. So you won’t lose much by spending 10 to 20 minutes getting some more understanding of Shika Island’s history through photos, models, and exhibits.

You will also find a replica of the famous gold seal and a Mongolian soldier’s helmet in the museum.

The museum also marks the trailhead of a natural path for a 45-minute easy stroll.

Note that the animal taxidermies in the museum can put some people off.

Shikanoshima Museum’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • Shikanoshima Museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm daily except for Mondays.
  • Entry is free.
  • The museum is just a 3-minute walk from Kyūkamura Shikanoshima’s Kin-in no Yu hot spring.

Katsuma Beach (勝馬海岸)

The beach at the northmost part of Shika Island is called Katsuma Beach, which is great for taking a break if you have cycled all the way from the Shika Island Ferry Terminal in southern Shika Island.

If you don’t need to use the toilet facilities or vending machines, spend a few moments at the beach shore and enjoy some calm and quiet time by watching the waves!

The little island across the sea is Okitsu Island (沖津島), where Okitsugū is located. Keep reading for more information about the shrine!

The beach is open for swimming in July and August.

Shikaumi Shrine Okitsugū (志賀海神社 沖津宮)

What some might not be aware of is that Shika Island has a hidden gem. One that can only be accessed during spring tide. It is also the sacred land of the Azumi Tribe.

The small island that is floating north of Gebagahama Beach (下馬ヶ浜海水浴) is the precinct of the auxiliary shrine of the Shikaumi Shrine. The gods that are enshrined on the island are Amenominakanushi no Kami (天之御中主神) and Uwatsuwakatsumi no Kami (表津綿津見神).

Uwatsuwakatsumi no Kami is the god born in the sea close to Shika Island, and Amenominakanushi no Kami is the first god that appeared in Japanese mythology. Especially with Amenominakanushi no Kami enshrined, a god in charge of the universe, you can imagine how many benefits you can get from him if you get his favor!

If you can’t visit Shika Island during the spring tide, you can pray from Shika Island with the stone torii gate of the shrine in your sight.

Tip: The sun sets in the direction of Shikaumi Shrine Okitsugū. It is another great spot to adore the mesmerizing scenery.

How to Get to Shikaumi Shrine Okitsugū

From Shikanoshima Ferry Terminal, take a bus and get off at Kyūkason Shikanoshima (休暇村志賀島). The island is then a 7-minute walk during spring tide.

Shiomi Park (潮見公園)

Just around the center of Shika Island, Shiomi Park’s observation deck is the best place on the entire island for a panoramic view of Hakata Bay, Uminonakamichi, and Fukuoka’s cityscape.

The best time to visit the park is probably just before sunset for the stunning view when the sun slowly disappears on the horizon. Then when the sky is dark, you can enjoy the night view of Fukuoka City. With minimum light pollution, the starry sky is just astonishing!

If you are a morning person, don’t miss out on the sunrise from the observation deck as well (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Because the observation deck is situated at the highest point of Shika Island, at an altitude of 176 meters, there is a long and steeper slope to hike. If you need to take a rest when you get there, utilize the benches around the deck.

Kin-in Park is around a 35-minute walk from Shika Island Ferry Terminal.

Tip: The sunset time in summer is usually between 7 pm to 7:30 pm. In winter, it is mostly between 5 pm and 6 pm.

Kaenzuka Mound (火焔塚)

Another attraction related to the battle with the Mongolian army in the 13th century is the Kaenzuka Mound, around a 15-minute walk from Shioi Park.

The mound is to commemorate the history where the monks of Kōyasan‘s (one of the Three Holiest Mountains in Japan) Kongō Sanmai-in (金剛三昧院) performed the fire ritual to pray for the surrender of the Mongolian army. It is said that the Mongolian army was defeated soon after the ritual.

Ⓒ 福岡市

Shōgon-ji Temple (荘厳寺)

Around a 5-minute walk from Shika Island Ferry Terminal, Shōgon-ji located on high ground, is a popular spot to pray for relationship-related matters. You will also get a clear and wide view of Hakata Bay from the precinct.

The temple has more than 700 years of history and belongs to Jōten-ji in Hakata. In addition to the main image at the worship hall that was renovated in 2011, Jizō Bodhisattva (地蔵菩薩) and other Buddha and deity statues were mostly from the 11th to the 14th centuries.

Shōgon-ji Temple is also a great place for some cultural experiences. Apart from the zen meditation and calligraphy workshops that most temples in Japan hold, you can also learn the basics of the Japanese tea ceremonies here!

If you are interested in the workshops, it is best to enquire first by emailing [email protected]. Please note the workshops are not free of charge.

Shōgon-ji’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • Shōgon-ji is open from 9 am to 5 pm.
  • The temple is a 6-minute walk from Shika Island Ferry Terminal.

Shikaumi Shrine (志賀海神社)

Ⓒ 福岡市

Just around a 5-minute walk from the ferry terminal, Shikaumi Shrine is a quiet but solemn place on Shika Island with a unique purification ritual.

Generally, pilgrims clean their hands and mouths with water at a Japanese shrine before proceeding to the worship hall. At Shikaumi Shrine, sand is used.

The purification sands are called Oshioi (御潮井). It is placed in front of the worship hall for you to purify the rest of your body by sprinkling the sand on your body (left, right, then left)!

Because Shika Island has been an important transportation hub for maritime transportation, the three gods, who are collectively known as Watatsumi Sanshin (綿津見三神), have been in charge of the sea since ancient times. Pilgrims would come to the shrine to pray for a safe sail before they depart for other countries or go fishing.

The three gods of Shikaumi Shrine are:

  • Uhatsuwatatsumi no Kami (表津綿津見神): looks after the surface of the sea
  • Nakatsuwatatsumi no Kami (仲津綿津見神): looks after the middle part of the sea
  • Sokotsuwatatsumi no Kami (底津綿津見神): looks after the bottom of the sea

Initially, three shrines were erected in the northern part of Shika Island to enshrine each of the three gods. The Utsumiyagū (表津宮) that enshrines Uhatsuwatatsumi no Kami was relocated to where Shikaumi Shrine is now. The Nakatsumiyagū (仲津宮) is still on the coastline of Katsuma Beach (勝馬海水浴場) in the north. The Okitsumiyagū (沖津宮) is on the small island north of Shika Island, which we have noted above.

Other Special Things on Shikaumi Shrine’s Precinct

In the precinct, a pagoda designated as an important cultural property is worth checking out. Moreover, there is an antlers storage called Rokkakuko (鹿角庫), with more than 10,000 antlers stored.

The ritual of offering antlers is said to have started with Empress Jingū’s (神功皇后) deer hunting before she dispatched troops to the Korean peninsula. After she successfully surrendered a vast area of the Korean peninsula, the antlers of the deer she hunted were offered to the shrine.

Since then, it has become a common practice for victory prayers by warriors.

If you stay on Shika Island overnight, you might want to experience the sunrise from Shikaumi Shrine on a sunny day.

Tip: The priest of Shikaumi Shrine recommends visiting the shrine in the early morning for a more divine atmosphere.

Yamanokami Shrine (山乃神神社)

On Shikaumi Shrine’s precinct, there is a smaller shrine called Yamanokami. The god here looks after pilgrims’ relationship matters. It is said that offering fish to the god will earn you the god’s favor. The reason is that the god here finds the fish’s face funny. So because you have made him laugh, he is happy to lend a hand to you.

Moreover, if you plan to change to a new wallet, this is where you want to do so. By switching to a new wallet at Yamanokami Shrine and leaving your old wallet in the small shrine-shape container, it is said more money will come your way!

As there are a couple of shrines in Shikaumi Shrine’s precinct, to identify Yamanokami Shrine, look for the torii gate with “山乃神” written on the plaque attached.

Shikaumi Shrine’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • Shikaumi Shrine is open from 6 am to 5:30 pm.
  • The shrine office is open from 9 am to 5 pm.
  • Shikaumi Shrine is around a 10-minute walk from Shika Island Ferry Terminal.
  • If you take a bus, please get off at Shikanoshima (志賀島). From the bus stop, it is around a 10-minute walk.

Megane Curry (メガネカリー)

If you plan to have lunch on Shiga Island, consider Megane Curry, an extremely popular curry restaurant among the locals. Because both owners wear glasses, they named their restaurant “Megane”.

The restaurant was renovated from an old traditional house, creating a cozy atmosphere filled with the pleasant fragrance of spices. The curry is made from scratch from locally sourced ingredients without artificial flavoring. And while they usually don’t have a vegetarian menu, if you make a reservation with them up to the day before your visit, they can cater to your special dietary requirement.

To make a reservation, message them on their Facebook page HERE. Please keep the message short and sweet to avoid potential miscommunication, as they will rely on Google Translate. If you have communication issues with making a booking, you can also contact us HERE. We will get back to you for assistance.

Tip: Give their cheesecake a try. It will be a nice ending to the dining experience.

Ⓒ メガネカリー

Megane Curry’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Megane Curry is open from 11:30 am to 4 pm from Saturday to Tuesday.
    • 11:30 am to 7:30 pm on weekends and public holidays
  • From Shika Island Ferry Terminal, it is around a 1-minute walk.
  • If you are taking a bus, please get off at Shikanoshima (志賀島).

Shikanoshima Beach (志賀島海水浴場)

Just at the entrance of Shika Island, Shikanoshima Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Fukuoka in July and August for water sports (but due to its popularity, garbage is left across the beach shore). Like Gebagahama Beach, the water here is clean and has a long sandy coastal line.

In July and August, you can rent out one of the barbeque facilities from the nearby shops, for example, Fukusuke (海の家福助). The restaurant should be able to prepare some vegetables and mushrooms for you to grill. You can utilize the phrases in our Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Vegetarians and Vegans article to communicate with the staff.

Shower and toilet facilities are available at Shikanoshima Beach. Compared to the other beaches on Shika Island, more shops and restaurants are here. You are even able to rent out surfing equipment!

Tip: If you are a customer of Beach House Kibarashi (海の家きばらし), you can rent out various items such as floats, swimming suits, and sandals from the restaurant for free, including the hot water shower facility!

The barbeque rental fee should also include parking if you plan to drive.

Discover Other Amazing Destinations in Fukuoka City

Wondering where else around Shika Island is worth your time? Check out our article on Fukuoka City!

In the article, we have included various attractions that may suit your interests. There is also information available on Fukuoka’s famous Yatai street stalls (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Click the photo to find out more about where you can get this amazing view!

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