Do you know where the Tokara islands are?
I think most people, even Kagoshima local people, may not know about the islands. In Japan, there are uncountable islands. However, Tokara are remote islands even among those islands. Tokara islands or Toshima islands (formally Toshimamura) are located between Yakushima and Amami Oshima. The Tokara island group consists of 12 islands including 5 deserted islands. Less than 1000 people live on the 7 islands of Tokara; Kuchinoshima, Nakanoshima, Tairajima, Suwanosejima, Akusekijima, Kodakarajima and Takarajima.

The only transportation to Tokara islands is by ferry which run between Kagoshima City and the islands a few times a week. However, the ferry doesn't run for a week when it is bad weather or typhoon. In the Tokara islands, the ferry is a very important part of people's life. The sea around Tokara islands is the confluence of the Pacific ocean and the East China ocean. Therefore, various fish can be seen. Tokara is a treasure trove of fish. Tokara is one of the best fishing points in Japan.

There are many beautiful Southern resort islands like Yakushima, Amami islands, and Okinawa. However, Tokara are real islands with pure nature. There are almost no tourists, and inconvenient transport. Therefore, there is abundant nature, typical creatures, and a special culture which was influenced by North Japan (Yamato) and South Japan (Ryukyu) remaining on the islands. More over, there are only beautiful blue oceans, blue sky and time....
It is said that Tokara is Japan's last mysterious region. Some people say there is nothing on the islands. But some people say there is everything on the islands. Depending what you want to see, you will have a different viewpoint of the islands.

Gate of the islands. It is the volcanic island where Mt Moe is located in the South-East of the island. From the top of the Mountain, islands of Tokara can be seen. It is also the island of white lily called "Tamoto lily".
Population: 155
Area: 13.33
Circumference: 20.38 km
The island is located in the middle of Tokara islands. It is believed that the island has historical back ground. Many historical monuments and places exist. Pure nature remains like gajumaru trees which are over 1000 years old.
Population: 84
Area: 2. 08
Circumference: 7.23 km
2nd biggest island in Tokara. There is an active volcano in the center of the island.
Population: 67
Area: 27.66
Circumference: 27.15 km
Ferry Information
Island of the Mask god "Boze", and natural hot spring. The island is dedicated to this God. Boze festival in July of the old calendar is a very unique and special festival. This year, Boze festival will be held on August 24th.
Population: 70
Area: 7.49
Circumference: 12.64 km
The smallest island created by coral. Cycad trees and red hybiscus flowers are grown on the island. There is hot-spring on the seashore. You can drive around the island in 30 minutes.
Population: 37
Area: 1.00
Circumference: 4.74 km
Coral island located in the most South of the islands. It is believed that Takarajima (literaly "Treature island") is the island on which Stevenson's novel "Treasure island" is based. It is said that many explorers used to come to the island to hunt treasure.
Population: 117
Area: 7.14
Circumference: 13.77 km


One weekend, I had a chance to visit Nakanoshima, one of the Tokara islands. It was a exciting trip to visit an unknown island for me. And I knew it would be an island I would otherwise have never seen. The large ferry "Toshima" departs Kagoshima port for the islands at around midnight. In the quiet night, a lit up ferry was waiting us. To my surprise, there were many passengers. Most are men who visit the islands for fishing for the weekend. And some are local people from the islands carrying lots of luggage (I guess, many souvenirs inside). The ferry also ships a lot of cargo. At 11:50 p.m., the ferry departs the City.

The bay and scenery in the night was so quiet and peaceful. There was only the sound of water and the ferry. Before the ferry began pitching with waves, I was already in bed to avoid seasickness. The voyage takes about 6 hours for the first island to 13 hours for the last island. My destination Nakanoshima was the second island from the North. The ferry arrived at Nakanoshima at around 7 o'clock in the morning.

Nakanoshima is the biggest island in the Tokara island group. In the middle of the island, Otake volcanic mountain which is 979 m high rises. It looks like a green mountain floating on the ocean from the ferry. The scenery was dynamic! The village of Nakanoshima was much smaller than I expected. The island's main road is a narrow one lane track. I had heard that there was nothing, but truly there were no shops. No restaurants, no bakery shops, no book stores, or convenience stores... nothing. Even vending machines which are usually seen anywhere in Japan were absent. Maybe it is the one of the attractive things about the island. On the island, there are some minshuku (family inns), free hot-springs, and some sightseeing facilities like the historical museum and astronomical observatory. At the historical museum, you can learn everything about Tokara islands. History, nature, culture and people's life. It was worth visiting. One of the beautiful things about the island are stars. Stars from the island are really gorgeous! It looked like stars were falling over me and felt like I could touch the stars. You can experience real star light not moon light. In the South East of the island, there is Yaruse light house on the Seri cape. The view of a white light house and the blue ocean looks like a scene from the Mediterranean.

It is needless to say that the island is full of nature. Mountains, various plants, special animals, coral and beautiful blue sea. On the foot of the mountains, greenery highland and pasture spread out. You will see black cows, tokara horses and tokara goats around the island. Tokara horses are smaller than normal. There is nature unique to Tokara.

The sea around Tokara is a treasure trove of fish, coral and creatures. Beautiful pure nature stays in Tokara, because the islands don't attract mass tourism. However, many fishermen and divers come to islands for the Tokara's sea throughout the year.

There are two hot springs near the port. Those hot springs are small, but clean and good. And it's open 24 hours and Free! (But it would be nice of you, if you pay a little.)
Even in the biggest island Nakanoshima, only about 170 people live. Most of residents are middle aged to old people, children and construction people. There is only one small school of elementary and junior high school. There are no shops on the island. Therefore, people order and buy everything direct from the shops in Kagoshima City. Everything is delivered by ferry. The ferry is the most important life line for the island's people.

"Ping pong pang pong... the ferry Toshima left Tairajima at 11:30 a.m...." Suddenly there was an announcement from a speaker. Every house on the island possess a community broadcasting system. Everyday, ferry and island information is broadcast throughout the island. One night, there was an announcement about stars and the moon by the radio. This is island's culture. People help each other, and they possess tie strong and warm.

Although there are many problems like transportation, education, medical situation, and a decreasing population, there are beautiful examples of nature, warm people and a simple life. On the island, I realized how easy our life is, and how we are surrounded by too many things. Personally, I don't want the islands to be over run by tourists. Because I want islands left as they are. The Tokara islands are the last mysterious islands.


Websites related to TOKARA ISLANDS ... (sorry only in Japanese)
Tokara Rettou
Club de la Mer