There are many secret Shinto shrines in Japan that can be found in locations such as deep forests, hilltops, and remote islands. They can bring people closer to nature through worship. Nagasaki Prefecture is widely known as a great place to find magnificent shrines such as the Suwa Shrine, which attracts a lot of visitors.
There are many smaller shrines in the countryside of Japan, which are beginning to attract small numbers of tourists. One of these is the Kojima Shrine that tends to attract couples and lovers. It is called a secret shrine because it is located on an uninhabited island which opens to the public during low tide when there is a natural pathway!
Kojima Shrine is a really small shrine which is situated on the tiny uninhabited green island of Maekojima in Uchime Bay, just off the shores of the bigger island of Ikinoshima, also known as Iki. Iki is well known for its Nara period attractions, parks, and camping grounds. It also holds other modern attractions such as a dolphin park and a few beach resorts.
Located to the southeast of Iki, Maekojima looks like any other islet which is usually ignored. However, during low tide, a special phenomenon occurs where a 200-meter pathway is created naturally linking the nearby Iki shore. You can simply walk down this pathway to reach the shrine, which is situated in the forest and requires a short hike. The moment you reach the island, you will be welcomed by a beautiful torii gate.
During low tides and low-pressure storms, the water near the shores usually draws back, and this is enough reason to bring many Shinto followers and tourists to Kojima Shrine. Many locals in Nagasaki and nearby prefectures consider the Iki Island to be a ‘living island’ or ‘power spot’ where every inch is considered sacred and close to god. When you visit the shrine, take care not to take anything from the island home as this as seen as disrespectful. Even a small piece of rock or leaf would not be seen as appropriate.
The Iki Island, together with nearby islets, are home to probably the largest number of shrines of any region in the entire country of a similar size. Kojima Shrine is believed to encourage fertility and is a famous destination for the recently-wed. Apart from the religious importance of the shrine, the other main reason for its growing popularity is the rarity of finding a tidal island with a natural pathway. Some people compare the shrine to Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy which is also constructed similarly on a tidal island.
Iki Island has an airport and many piers, which means it can be accessible by both boat and plane. You can get to Iki city either from Nagasaki by plane or from Fukuoka by ship. You can check the availability of flights and costs on the website of the regional airline Oriental Air Bridge here (Japanese only).
Once you reach the main island of Iki, which is 133.8 square kilometers in size, there are plenty of taxis or rental cars available to explore the island. You can check the timings of the high and low tides, estimated by the weather agency here. Check these details out to plan your trip to the Kojima Shrine to ensure you can get there successfully!
Iki Island is definitely a must-see because of its density of shrines and picturesque shoreline. The entire island is a symbol of Japanese history, religion, culture, and heritage, and is definitely worth a visit!