Have you ever wondered what the planet would look like if it was taken over by octopuses? No? Ah, well that kind of messes up my introduction to this article. But let’s imagine you had said yes, because I would now say ‘Well, imagine no more, just head over to Himakajima’
Situated in Mikawa Bay at the tip of the Chita Peninsula, Himakajima is a picturesque island once home to a thriving fishing industry. Whether you want to relax on one of its beaches, wander the coastline’s charming fishing villages, or eat some of the most delicious and fresh seafood imaginable, it is an ideal destination for anyone wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of city life for the day.
In summer, Himakajima is particularly popular for its two beaches: Sunrise Beach on the east of the island and Sunset Beach on the west. Both are small, fun-for-the-family beaches, with the former much quieter, though the latter is perhaps the nicest and most convenient, being as it is closest to the best restaurants and a great little ice cream shop.
From late May until the end of September, there is a chance to see dolphins at Sunset Beach, and for 3,000 JPY from mid-June onwards you can even get in the water and play with them.
One of the most pleasant things to do in Himakajima is to travel around the island, exploring the charming fishing villages, enjoying the rustic charm of traditional Japanese rural life. Wandering around the narrow streets you can discover old wooden houses, small shrines, see the latest catch hanging to dry, and just soak in the serene atmosphere.
Though Himakajima is small enough that you can easily walk around it in a day, perhaps the best way to travel around is by rental bicycle. You can pick up a bike from one of the shops near the west port, but be aware that the early bird gets the worm, and they get snapped up pretty quickly.
The Mikawa Bay is a veritable cornucopia of Japan’s finest seafood, and Himakajima has a reputation for being the nation’s biggest suppliers of fugu [blowfish]. Consequently, it is the ideal place from October to March to sample this delicacy, with many restaurants and hotels holding special set meal events.
However, it is perhaps tako [octopus] that the island is best known for. All over the island you will see the stores of tsubo, pots for catching octopus, there are statues to the eight-legged creatures, and even the police station is decked out to look like one. The island is littered with restaurants, but much like the rental bicycles, the restaurants fill up quickly and early, so forward planning is essential
Those octopuses are celebrated in August at the Himakajima Tako Festival, in which prayers are made for an abundant catch, with a number of rituals and performances culminating in a stunning fireworks show. You can also see fireworks at the Himakajima Gion Festival, an event that has been taking place on the island for over 250 years.
Perhaps the most stunning aspect of this festival, however, are the rituals with the Horoku boats that are decorated with myriad kento lanterns. The festival’s spectacular climax sees youths in ritual loincloths floating the lanterns out into the sea, made all the more stunning by the complete lack of artificial light on the waters. Truly stunning.
From Nagoya Meitetsu Station, take the train to Kowa, from which it is less than a 10 minute walk to Kowa Port. From the port, it is a 20 minute ferry ride to Himakajima. It is recommended that you alight at the West Port, as this is where most of the restaurants, bicycle rental, and the tourist information is located.
Images: By Bert Wishart