Where is the Goto Islands?
It is a remote island county in Nagasaki Prefecture, which has been recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO as “the hidden Christians of Nagasaki and the Amakusa region” in June 2018.
About 70,000 people live in the goto islands. The Goto islands are consisting of more than 140 islands, including uninhabited islands. As I imagined an island with no people at all, I was relieved to see that there are actually many people lived and the shops were open! (Not much information even in Japane since it’s a kind of new tourist spot!)
The Goto Islands, I think that many people did not know quite well till recently, but have suddenly become famous in the news of World Heritage Site registration (In Japan, it has. ) The place of the Goto Islands is the red circle in the map below.
How to get to the Goto Islands?
There are two ways to access the Goto Islands, the sky and the sea.
Access via airplane
There is an airport at Fukue Island (Goto Tsubaki Airport), the largest island in Goto Islands. Airplanes leave and arrive between this airport and Nagasaki airport or Fukuoka airport. There are direct flights every day. You have a choice of an airline, ANA or Oriental Bridge. On my trip, it was a cute little propeller plane.
Access via boat and ferry
There are 3 ferry flights per day and four or more hydrofoil flights per day between Nagasaki Port and Fukue Island, which are easily accessible. It takes 3 hours and 10 minutes by ferry and 1 hour 25 minutes by hydrofoil. One ferry departs daily from Fukuoka Port. In addition, from Sasebo port to Kamigoto island(Arikawa Port) can also be accessed by a hydrofoil.
It travels by high-speed boat between islands in Goto Islands. Some islands have only one flight per day between other islands, it is recommended to check in advance.
A high-speed ship shakes quite well on bad weather. I don’t usually get sick on any transportation but this time it was different, I got very sick on this high-speed ship.
My Itinerary was…
This time my itinerary was as below.
- Sasebo-Arikawa port（Kamigoto）arrived at 11:13 （a boat, sea princess）
- Lunch at go-to udon village and also bought souvenirs or local food here
- 12:30 「Arikawa taxi」5 hours sightseeing plan
- 17:30 Arrived at Narao port → Leaves at 17:50 for Fukue island by a boat
- Check-in at CONNE hotel, Fukue
- Rent a cat at NIPPON rent-a-car（they brings a car to your hotel if you ask)
- Osezaki lighthouse
- ANA4698 Goto Fukue(19:00)-Fukuoka(19:40)
What to do and see in the Goto Islands?
Visiting the churches and knowing the history of the islands (Kamigoto)
Visiting the churches of the Christian related heritages of the islands that are also registered as World Heritage sites may be one of the most popular things to do in the Goto Islands.
Japanese all learn in the history class in school that many Christians lived in Nagasaki and still does, but many Japanse don’t know the Goto Islands.
When Christianity was banned by the Edo Shogunate (1603-1863) and Meiji government, those Christians escaped to the Goto Islands and other places in Nagasaki. After religious oppression by the Meiji government was released, those Christians built numerous churches on the island as a testimony of their faith.
There are a lot of churches on the island, so if you want to go around in a limited short time, I recommend to book a taxi tour-guide rather than renting a car by yourself.
The taxi tour guide company on Kamigoto island I used was Arikawa taxi. They prepare several plans for tourists. I asked for a “Tourism course 5-hours plan”, 18,000 JPY. The car was TOYOTA Prius which was very comfortable enough for four people. Listening to what the driver explains as seeing the buildings, even just five hours went by quite fast.
About Arikawa taxi https://arikawataxi.net
When we arrived at Arikawa Port from Sasebo city, they came to pick us up at the Goto Udon Village, which is a 3-minute walk from the port, so we left everything to the driver then had lunch at the tourist spot. We had a local dish “Goto-udon”, which was really good. This udon is one of the 3 udon of Japan. (One is Sanuki, Kagawa and the other is Inaba, Akita.
It is necessary to make a reservation in advance to enter the area of the “Kashiragashima Tenshudo (church)”, the country designated important cultural property in Kamigoto Island.
This reservation was made by the taxi company, and since the church is a place for prayers, the gentle taxi driver also taught us the manners of how we behave in churches.
You can’t go to this area by your car nor taxi. First, you have to go up to the Kamigoto-airport (which is a closed airport, now it’s used for the reception of Kashiragashima church ) then from there, you go on a big bus with other tourists to the church.
The driver was a local, from the island, We enjoyed listening to the history of the island and the church, as well as the stories of the ordinary life of the island people.
The taxi pick-up and pick-off place are in advance in consultation, once you tell the time of your boat or flight, they will suggest you the best plan for you.
When looking at the island as a long fishing village, churches appear one after another. Such a scene may be only here in Japan.
Osezaki lighthouse (Fukue)
It is a white lighthouse built on a cliff that also was used as the stage of the last scene of the movie “Badman” starring a famous Japanese actor. It is also selected as one of the 50 Japanese lighthouses. You can see the beautiful ocean from here.
It is designated as a special area of the West ocean National Park, no wonder…the scenery from here is literally breathtaking! The bluest of the sea, the blue of the sky, you feel the energy of the earth when you stand on this cliff!
You can walk along the promenade to the lighthouse, but you need to be very careful when the wind is quite strong. When we visited, It was a fine day as the pictures, but it was so windy that we thought it was a typhoon coming. Please be careful especially on the stairs that climbed up to the foot of the lighthouse. My grandmother, who had walked along with us, decided not to climb up the stairs when she saw how strong the wind was.It is okay as long as you are being careful, I saw even little kids were walking.
You can walk with just regular sneakers in 20 to 30 minutes. The road is a bit up and down, make people ecxersize but definitely worth it!
It is the symbol of Fukue island.
It is a beautiful volcano covered with grass all the way up to an altitude of 315m. You can walk on it. When I was walking up to the top, the wind was still strong here and I felt a little fear but managed to climb. The beautiful sea and the city area of Fukue island are under your eyes! You can see beautiful views around 360 degrees. I definitely want to visit this place when I visit the islands again.
Good place for lunch. You can enjoy the local atmosphere and dishes like a fresh fish which was brought by a fisherman on that day. I ordered a sashimi (law-fish) meal as a typical tourist do. The fish for the day was yellowtail that the restaurant’s grandpa caught that morning.
The restaurant looks like just a somebody’s house but it has a hanging-scroll outside, so you will notice. It’s behind the fire department. The restaurant is in the area called Tamanoura which is a little distant from the center of the city, so you need to go by car or bike.
Michi-no-Eki Kentoshi furusato kan (Fukue)
At their parking lot, there was a icecream shop hanging a sign saying that ” The best icecream in the Goto islands”. I was like “yeah right..” but after a bite I was surprised because the sign was true! The best icecream not only in Goto islands but the best I’ve ever had so far! And this was only 200JPY, so cheap..what’s going on this island. Everything is so cheap on the islands yet since it has not become the popular tourist destination yet like Okinawa.
Conne Hotel (Fukue) Price range: 8,000 JPY~
This time I stayed at this Conne Hotel, which is about a 10-minute drive from the port of Fukue Island. A relatively new casual hotel opened in April 2016. The rooms were beautiful and it was very nice to have a public bath on the ground floor. My room was one of the cheapest they offer, so it didn’t have a shower room inside. You need to use the public bath but it was so good.
Hotel MARGHERITA (Kamigoto) Price range: 25,000 JPY~
Even though it is a remote island, the Goto Islands are actually easily accessible for tourists. On the other hand, you can spend a long vacation here in the summer as they have one of the best beaches in Japan. The Goto islands will soon be the popular destination!