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Japan: Oita (Himeshima)

Just off the northeast corner of Kyushu on the Kunisaki Peninsula, you will find a tiny remote island called Himeshima (Princess Island). The island is part of Oita Prefecture and accessible by ferry.

At slightly over 4 miles long, the island is known for its onsens (hot springs), delicious kuruma ebi (tiger prawns) and an Obon dance festival, which takes place annually from August 14 to 17 , called Kitsune Odori Matsuri (Fox Dance Festival). This is the one time of year when this tiny island gets crowded with visitors, but it is a quiet retreat the remainder of the time and a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Exploring the island, you feel as though you have been transported to a bygone era. The quiet alleys are lined with beautiful old buildings that are preserved in excellent condition.

The best way to explore Himeshima is on a bicycle. There are several that are available to rent on the island. Once the sun starts to set, ride off to the Kannonzaki Peninsula, which forms the northeast point of Himeshima.  There you will find Sennin-do, a tiny temple building situated on a rock overlooking the sea. The temple grounds offer the best scenery found on the island. In the distance, you can see the mountains of Kyushu, Honshu and Shikoku and the fishing boats sailing out at sea. On the eastern tip of the island, there is a beautiful lighthouse with fantastic views as well.

The island’s inhabitants earn their income from the famous kuruma ebi. They are farmed off the island but, wild prawns are also available in several restaurants, which dot the island. During October, the main season for prawns, the island hosts a Kuruma Ebi Festival.

The onsen water on Himeshima is cold, clear and mineral rich. However, once it comes in contact with the air it turns a milky- brown. The water is heated in the onsen baths to make it more enticing for the bathers.

Himeshima is a 20-minute ferry ride from Imi Port. The first ferry departs at 5:50 AM and the last one at 7:10 PM. In between those times, boats run on the hour.

 

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