Japan consists of the 4 main islands plus countless others – by Islands I mean a selection of the smaller islands that have captured my interest


Japan’s Art Island. Situated in the inland sea, Naoshima is accessible by ferry from Takamatsu or Okayama Uno port and offers visitors a laid back Mediterranean feel (including olive trees and sandy beaches and a gently rolling landscape with sea views), art museums, modern architecture and open air sculptures – there is even a local attempt to recreate Monet’s famous garden at Giverny.  The island is small enough to walk around in a few hours. The symbol of the island is Yayoi Kusama’s pumpkin.


The volcanic island in the bay of Kagoshima, Japan’s Bay of Naples. The volcano smokes throughout the day, occasionally sending out clouds of very fine dust that settle all over the city. The island makes for a great day out by ferry from Kagoshima. Most of the island is forested and there are clearly marked paths and it’s possible to climb up to the rim of the volcano.


One of Japan’s most beautiful islands lying a few hours south by ferry from Kagoshima, and a true nature lovers delight. Most of the island is forested and has world heritage status. It is also the wettest place in Japan. The island is home to some of the largest Cryptomeria (Japanese cedar) in the world – source of the perfectly straight trunks used in the construction of temples and Torii gates – as well as giant rhododendrons and families of yaku monkeys and deer.


The largest of the Ryukyu island group that stretches from south of Kagoshima on Kyushu to close to Taiwan: Okinawa itself was largely destroyed during the closing months of the Pacific war: half of the islands prewar population were killed or committed suicide along with countless Japanese service men. The Okinawa campaign was one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific War.  There are constant reminders of the war on the island and a few prewar structures have survived, such as the restored Shuri castle in Naha the capital. Having said this, one can catch glimpses of an older culture on the island especially in the castle area.

Shisa: the traditional guardian lions of Okinawa, found everywhere on the island and evidence of the strong Chinese influence on Okinawa culture: traditionally they come in pairs: a closed mouth female supposed to keep in the good spirits and an open mouthed male supposed to scare evil spirits way.

chinese gateway
war memorial to school children