Forbidden Okinoshima Island

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The island that bans ladies and allows male visitors only once a year under strict conditions.

  • Population: 1
  • Male visitors must strip naked and perform purification ritual
  • Not even a tiny blade of glass can be removed from the island
  • No details of visit must be divulged
  • Under consideration as UNESCO world heritage site 

If you’re female, this is one place you will never get to visit. If you’re male, you only have one chance in a year to do so. For the girls, you will have to settle for some armchair travelling via photos and video footage.

Besides women, tourists are banned from stepping foot onto the remote island of Okinoshima, sacred to the Japanese.

Located in the Fukuoka Prefecture off the coast of Kyushu island, this tiny island of 240 acres is steeped in ancient, religious tradition and taboos. Its population comprises one employee of the shrine. Only priests come to work at the Okitsu shrine, which is part of the Munakata Grand Shrine, also the owner of the island.

Munakatakao/YouTube
Munakatakao/YouTube

However, there is a single day yearly where male visitors are allowed – to celebrate a festival on 27 May, which happens to be today, in remembrance of the Japanese and Russian men killed in the 1905 Sea of Japan battle.

Whilst the reasons behind this decree set by the priests are unclear, some say that the woman’s menstruation would defile the site as Shinto treats blood as an impurity. Others say that because sea journeys to the island were considered dangerous, women were banned from travelling there to protect them, as they are bearers of children.

That said, male visitors must go through a strict Shinto religious ritual before stepping on the island -strip naked and perform the purification ritual. When they leave, nothing – not even a tiny blade of glass – can be removed from the island. Also, details of their visit, including the pre-visit ritual, must never be divulged.

Kyodo
Munakatakao/YouTube

Okinoshima is filled with treasures from ancient times. Between the fourth and ninth centuries, the waters surrounding the island were a very important route for traders between Japan, China and the Korean Peninsula. Seafarers stopped at the island and offered prayers and gifts at the island’s shrine for safe passage and successful trades.

Today, over 80,000 pieces of artefacts have been discovered, including beads, swords, gold rings, gilt-bronze ornaments from the Korean Peninsula, and even broken glass pieces from Persia.

The island is now under consideration by UNESCO to declare it a world heritage site. Whilst a Hindu group has objected to this possible declaration unless women are allowed on the island, the final decision will be made in July in Poland.

Munakatakao/YouTube
Munakatakao/YouTube