A Mindful Moment
Lace up your trekking shoes on this fine weather day and join us for a scenic hike around the island of Oshima, located 7 kilometers off the northwestern coast of Fukuoka prefecture. The Munakata-Oshima trekking course is the first Kyushu Olle Course in Fukuoka, beginning with a breezy boat ride from Konominato Port Ferry Terminal to Oshima Island, passing over mountains, through forests, to two World Heritage shrines and a windmill.
Our journey begins at Konominato Port Ferry Terminal, where a ¥570 ticket on the Oshima ferry gets us to the island in 25 minutes. Our guide Kuge-san meets us right at Oshima Ferry Terminal, and we set off on our 11.4-kilometer Olle walking course.
Just a few minutes’ walk from the port, we’re still marveling at the clear seawater under blue skies when we arrive at Nakatsu-gu, one of the three shrines that comprise Munakata Taisha Shrine. Looking down from the top of a steep stone staircase, we can see how the Amanogawa (“Milky Way”) flows up from the sea through the torii and into the shrine grounds. Nakatsu-gu is also known as the birthplace of the Tanabata legend, where the two celestial lovers are only allowed to meet once a year on July 7th. We pray for our safety, as Nakatsu-gu enshrines Tagitsuhime-no-Kami, daughter of the sun goddess Amaterasu and one of the Three Female Deities of Munakata.
Behind the shrine’s main hall, we ascend a 970-meter long forested path to the summit of Mount Mitake, where we pause to admire the view from the observation deck. At 224 meters above sea level, we can see Fukuoka Tower, the factories in Kitakyushu, and in the opposite direction all the way out to the sacred island of Okinoshima, where seafarers would sometimes stop to pray for safe travel on the ancient sea route between Kyushu and the Korean Peninsula. It’s the perfect rest stop to catch our breath and appreciate our position from the highest point on Fukuoka’s largest island.
Back our feet again, we follow the scenic Shiitake Mountain Trail and Nakatsu Wase Forest Trail to the Promenade Connection Point leading up to the Windmill Observatory atop a hill covered with pampas grass. At the halfway point in our advanced trekking course, the seascape views from here are just as spectacular. Just a short walk away are the ruins of the Canon Fort artillery. In 1936 batteries were placed along the northern coast of Kyushu to reinforce defenses, although Oshima’s batteries were finally never used in the war.
Also nearby is a ranch where we stop to pet the horses. Next time, maybe we’ll tour the area on horseback! For now, we’re happy to walk along more shaded forest trails marked by Olle’s distinctive blue and red guide ribbons, occasionally passing more dramatic open views of the coastline.
Finally, we arrive at Okitsu-gu Yohaisho, a shrine that directly faces Okinoshima further out at sea. Because the sacred island has long been an object of worship, public access to Okinoshima is strictly limited. Shinto rituals and taboos persist to ensure the purity of Okinoshima, such as bathing naked in the sea before landing, and even women are prohibited on the island. But since Okitsu-gu Yohaisho was established here in the early 18th century, the clean wooden worship hall is accessible to the general public.
Kuge-san shows us pictures of the two other shrines dedicated to the Three Female Deities of Munakata: Tagorihime-no-Kami at Okitsu-gu on Okinoshima, and Ichikishimahime-no-Kami at Hetsu-gu shrine back on the main island of Kyushu.
At last, we arrive back at Oshima port, where a green islet and bright red torii remind us of the Munakata area’s deep spiritual roots amidst enduring natural beauty. We feel truly blessed to be protected by this local trio of island sea goddesses!
From JR Hakata Station in Fukuoka city, take the Kagoshima Line to Togo train station (35 minutes), then a bus to Konominato Hatoba (25 minutes). Just a few steps away is Konominato Port Ferry Terminal, where you can board a ferry to Oshima Island.
Konominato Port Ferry Terminal (Japanese Website)
487-51 Konominato, Munakata City, Fukuoka Prefecture
Kyushu OLLE Hiking Munakata Oshima Course
Oshima, Munakata City, Fukuoka Prefecture
World Heritage Site Munakata Taisha Nakatsu-gu (Japanese Website)
1811 Oshima, Munakata City, Fukuoka Prefecture
Mt. Mitake Observation Deck
2986-2 Oshima, Munakata City, Fukuoka Prefecture
Okinoshima Island, Oshima, Munakata City, Fukuoka Prefecture
World Heritage Site Munakata Taisha Okitsu-gu Yohaisho
1293 Ito, Oshima, Munakata City, Fukuoka Prefecture
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