Walking towards Aoshima Island felt a little surreal. On the day I visited, the sky was bright blue, the sun shining, and in the distance, I could see the familiar shape of the island's traditional Japanese torii gate nestled in the sand, surrounded by the sea. Tropical and traditional, the walkway towards the shrine is dotted with the occasional rickshaw driver with passengers looking to get to the shrine or back to the mainland as quickly as possible.
The shallow water around the island has a natural formation of rocks. Each one looks like it has been perfectly and deliberately placed. But they have not. It's completely natural and is known as 'the devil's washboard'. The best time to see them is at low tide.
Aoshima Shrine is known for bringing good luck to married couples. Wishes are made by writing them on ema plaques of wooden hearts and hanging them up in the hope that they come true. Other good luck wishes can also be made such as for love or health, with many different ema to make them come true. One clever method is to write your wishes on darts (yes, the small pointy implement). Instead of throwing them, though, you simply hang them up.
An Enchanted Pathway
Visiting, make sure to follow the short path to the right of the shrine's main building through what feels like a mini jungle. This leads to a smaller shrine and the greenery and silence is quite mesmerising and feels like an enchanted forest. At this shrine, there are two more good luck options. One is to buy a small clay plate that you throw at a target while thinking of your wish at the same time. The other is to tie a piece of string around large hanging ropes with different colour strings depending on your wish. You then shake the ropes to ring the bell while praying for your wish to come true.
Two things caught my eye as I walked out of the shrine. The first was that someone was sweeping stones off the main path so as to clear the way for visitors, while another was raking the stones into a neat, lined pattern. I felt like it was a nice, considerate touch. The second thing I noticed was the vermillion red of the torii against the bright blue sky. Extremely photogenic, it really is hard to stop taking photos here!
Food & Drinks
Aoshima Island has a circumference of 1.5km, but rather than walking around I would recommend heading back on to the mainland after touring the shrine to enjoy some drinks at the outdoor bar set up along the beach (summertime only). This is right by the start of the walkway leading towards the shrine while further along the main road, you'll find plenty of great food and drink options along with some top-quality souvenir stores.
Miyazaki is only a 90-minute flight from Tokyo so if you’re looking to experience traditional culture in a tropical setting then I highly recommend a trip to Aoshima Island.
This trip was supported by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, however, all views are my own.