Toba Islands: Life and Love in a Traditional Community *RERUN
The Ise-Shima National Park is one of Japan's most popular sightseeing areas, but not so many people visit the islands that lie offshore from Toba City. On this episode of Journeys in Japan, Ogawa Niki visits two of those islands. In Toshijima he explores the back alleys of a fishing town, where the distinctive tradition and local culture remain strong. And in Kamishima he discovers the setting for a novel that has become one of Japan's most popular love stories.

Toshijima Island

Toshijima, the largest of Toba's islands, has a population of about 2,000. A group of local women offers tours, including one that takes visitors through the back alleys of a fishing town and introduces the ancient tradition of the ama, who free-dive for abalone and other delicacies. The island is also unique in preserving a longstanding custom known as neyako, which strengthens bonds among the local residents.

Kamishima Island

This island is home to about 300 people. It is well known in Japan as the location for the Mishima Yukio novel "Shio-sai (The Sound of Waves)" and its various movie adaptations. The houses are built into the steep slopes, reached by steps running up the side of this hilly island. In some parts of the island you can find a kind of limestone rock formation known as karst, which is formed through the action of the wind and rain off the sea.


To get to Toba from Tokyo, you take the Shinkansen bullet train to Nagoya, then transfer to a local line. In all it takes about four hours. To reach the four islands, ferries take from 10 to 40 minutes from Toba Port.