The Goto Islands are a collection of five large islands and a number of small islets belonging to the Nagasaki Prefecture in Western Japan. They have served as an important stopover along the trade route between China and Japan in the East China Sea.
You should visit Goto for its awesome beaches, warm weather, amazing sea food, and magnificent religious structures. Let’s take a look at 5 awesome things to do in the Goto Islands, which were closed off to visitors for centuries, but are now open for everyone to enjoy!
— izumi9174 (@izumi57654833) 2 June 2017
The Goto Islands have many churches because of their long historical attachment to Christianity. They were probably one of the first places in Japan to convert to Christianity as a result of Portuguese influence from the 16th century.
Because of their religious affiliation, the people of these islands were subjected to persecution for centuries until Japan became a secular country after the Meiji Restoration. Many other Christians from mainland Japan also moved to the Goto Islands to run away from torture, which led to this area being known as the ‘hideout islands’.
Because of their location away from the mainland, these islands enjoyed secrecy and less administrative control. The Fukue Port has served as a major gateway for Europeans entering Japan for a long time, and as a result, Fukue, Hisaka and other major islands in the Goto cluster became adherent to Catholicism.
Of the many old churches scattered all across Goto, the Dozaki Church is the most popular one because of its western style architecture. You can actually find some of these churches listed on the UNESCO list of possible future heritage sites on their website here.
Some of the notable churches which used to be popular among the local Christians were Kyugorin on Hisaka Island, Mizunoura on Fukue, and Egami on Naru Island.
Goto is not only famous for its cultural heritage sites. It is also one of the best destinations in Japan for adventure seekers, particularly those interested in marine sports such as diving and snorkeling.
If you go a little further away from the Goto Islands, you can find a small group of other islands called the ‘Danjo Archipelago’ which are perfect for deep sea diving and fishing.
The sea waters of Goto and Danjo are rich in sea life, especially sea urchins and rock fish. The most interesting thing about rock fish is that they can actually live for many more years than most other species of fish on the planet. Some can even live for well over a hundred years!
You can also find oysters and other sea food such as Kibinago herrings which are silver in color and feature on the menus in the restaurants of the islands.
— joko (@akeniryu) 15 February 2017
There used to be a huge sea castle, namely the Ishida Castle on Fukue Island, Goto City, which was demolished during the Meiji Restoration. Built as a fortress to protect the seat of the Fukue Domain, the Goto Clan started administrating from here for a very short period of time until the abolition of feudalism in Japan.
During the isolation of Japan, the Fukue region of Goto witnessed many changes, being a great navigational communication junction between China, Japan and the West. Currently, there is only a gate remaining for you to check out, and you can also find a school in the premises of the castle ruins.
Mount Onidake is a non-active volcano and a real must-see when you are in Goto. Its height is very small and it looks green because of the abundance of grass all over it.
Every year, major festivals and gatherings take place on Mount Onidake. There are also some nearby hot springs and a botanical garden so that you can relax against the backdrop of this beautiful 315m mountain!
The ‘hideout islands’ are a great place not only to learn about the history of Japan but also to have a nice picnic or adventure. These islands were not always so popular among tourists, but thanks to the efforts of the Japanese Agency of Cultural Affairs who nominated them to UNESCO, people have started noticing them again.