The island of Iki lies off the coast of Kyushu, facing out towards the Korean Peninsula. In ancient times, Iki was an important crossroads for international exchanges. These days the island is a modest paradise of unspoiled nature, with beautiful beaches, gentle landscapes and excellent seafood. Just an hour away from Fukuoka by high-speed ferry, it makes an ideal tourist get-away.On this edition of Journeys in Japan, Mai Rapsch explores Iki and meets some of the people who are keeping its traditional charm alive for future generations.
For more information, contact the Iki Tourist Association.
Tel: +81 (0)920-47-3700
Open: 8 a.m. to 12 noon
Address: 204-1 Katsumotoura, Katsumotocho, Iki City
Address: 257 Ashibeura, Ashibecho, Iki City
Tel: +81 (0)920-40-0190
Address: 1092-5 Fukaetsurukifure, Ashibecho, Iki City
Tel: +81 (0)920-45-2065
Address: 515-1 Fukaetsurukifure, Ashibecho, Iki City
Tel: +81 (0)920-45-2731
Traveler: Mai Rapsch > More Info
Occupation:Conference interpreter (German & Japanese)
Length of residence in Japan:about 2 years
Reason: To pursue a career I love in a place that lets me feel at home and offers great food.
I wouldn't describe myself as a religious person at all, but the moment I set foot on the beautiful Island of Iki, a somewhat spiritual feeling overwhelmed me. Everything seemed so profound: the different shades - sometimes emerald green, but also deep blue, turquoise, grey or even pitch black - of the ocean; the sound of birds and insects residing in the rich-green forests towards the inlands; the mystical aura of the countless shrines I passed while wandering around; and the sheer, breath-taking view of the sun rising from the ocean and coloring the entire sky…
There were numerous times when I just couldn't help but stop and take a deep breath, happy and grateful to be able to witness all of this natural beauty. Iki strongly and effectively reminded me of the fact that nature already provides the most essential ingredients for me to feel truly happy and satisfied.
Talking to the inhabitants of the island strengthened this impression. From the young elementary school kids who helped me build a scarecrow to the cute and talkative grannies at the local market - everybody seemed to love their life in Iki. Although roughly 500 people are leaving the island every year (while the total number of inhabitants is only 28,000 people), I didn't have the feeling that this island was suffering from this large-scale depopulation. This might be an overhasty and naïve conclusion, after just a short stay in Iki: but to me it seemed like everybody was deeply satisfied about their life on the island, and willingly open to share it with an outsider like me.
When I stayed at Minatoya, for example, a lovely guesthouse run by a young couple in a creatively renovated old house, I immediately felt so welcome - as if I had returned home from a long journey. The delicious dinner, prepared with local seafood caught by the owners, was not only served to the guests of the accommodation, but also shared among neighbouring families. When we all sat outside, laughing, eating and chatting under the clear sky, I just felt like being part of a huge family.
As I also learned during my journey, intercultural and personal exchanges have a long history in Iki, and date back to ancient times, when Iki functioned as an important hub for exchange between mainland Japan and neighbouring nations.
Today it is much easier to reach the island than in historical times. And I can only recommend everyone to visit this hidden gem, and be reminded that beauty and happiness do not necessarily need to be created, but just arise from nature and the openness of people.