Suo-Oshima, Yamaguchi: A beautiful island off Iwakuni
Suo-Oshima, aka Yashima Island, near MCAS Iwakuni, is a popular tourist attraction in the Setouchi (inland sea) region of Japan where you can enjoy both beautiful beaches and mountains.
On the island, white sand beaches with rows of palm trees and crystal-clear water makes you feel as if you are in Hawaii, while trekking through its high mountain ranges offers breathtaking panoramic views of the whole island against the backdrop of shining blue Setouchi Sea.
A 3,346-feet long, Oshima Ohashi Bridge connects the island to the mainland, so you can reach the island via a 60-minute drive from MCAS Iwakuni.
Often called “the Hawaii of Setouchi,” the island is filled with a Hawaiian atmosphere. With wonderful ocean views and well-paved roads, touring the island by bike is a great idea.
You will find palm trees planted here and there on the island, along with many shops and restaurants with a Hawaiian-style façade. From June 22 through the end of August, the island carries out a unique “Alloha Biz” campaign that allows staffers of town hall, banks, post offices and hotels to wear an aloha shirt as official attire. Plus, they offer “Saturday Hula” - live hula dancing at various restaurants and hotel facilities throughout the island.
So, why does the island have such a Hawaiian atmosphere?
Apparently, the island has had strong ties with the 50th state ever since 4,000 residents left the island for Hawaii 130 years ago.
As children and grandchildren returned to the island, they introduced Hawaiian culture and customs that have been there ever since.
The island signed a sister island contract with Kauai Island, Hawaii in 1963, and has maintained a close, friendly relationship with the island by exchanging students and hosting various cultural events to this day.
Visit the Museum of Japanese Emigration to Hawaii, and you will see the interesting history of emigration to Hawaii and how they and their offspring affected the island with their unique Hawaiian traits.
‘Setouchi Alps’ offer a panoramic vista
Known as the “Setouchi Alps,” mountain ranges in the center of the island reach more than 2,160-feet high.
According to the Commerce, Industry and Tourism Division of Suo-Oshima Town, the peaks of the island’s highest mountains - Mounts Monju, Kano, Genmei and Take - form a superb trekking route. It is often enjoyed by families with children, as it is well maintained and relatively flat. There are many observation points, as well.
To enjoy your trekking, you may want to drive up to Monjudo Temple, located on the seventh station of Mount Monju. Trekking through four mountain peaks will take you about four or five hours, with the distance of each peak beings anywhere from 30 to 70 minutes away.
For your several hours of sweating while hiking, you’ll surely be rewarded with the breathtaking panoramic views of the entire island, as well as surrounding islands.
Hawaii of Setouchi is home to beautiful beaches
Suo-Oshima is blessed with many beautiful beaches, and among them, Katazoegahama beach is the most popular.
The government of Japan named Katazoegahama one of the top 100 beaches in Yamaguchi Prefecture for its extremely clean water, beautiful white sand and many palm trees. Camping and lodging facilities allow you to stay on the beautiful beach overnight.
The island is known as a great fishing site, as well. The strait between the island and the mainland is considered one of the best fishing spots in the region, and anglers are flock to the island expecting to catch various seasonal fish - red seabream in spring, Japanese whiting in summer, cutlassfish in autumn and rockfish in winter.
Museum of Japanese Emigration to Hawaii
Open: Tues. – Mon., 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Location: 2144 Nishiyashiro, Suo-Oshima Town, Yamaguchi Pref.
Admission: 400 yen; elementary/middle schoolers 200 yen
Location: 1212-1 Hirano, Suo-Oshima Town, Yamaguchi Pref.
Parking: Free parking lot available for 550 cars
Plenty of activities year round
While the Hawaii of Setouchi is known for many summer attractions, it also offers various attractions for the colder season.
On the island, orange picking is available at eight farms from October to December. While strolling through an orange farm, you can pick and sample as many oranges you can for the admission of 500 yen.
Producing 80 percent of all orange products in Yamaguchi Pref., Suo-Oshima’s oranges are known for their extremely sweet taste.
When you’re done picking oranges, warm up with a hot spring soak in one of the islands four bathing facilities.
Ryuzaki Onsen offers an open-air bath where you can take a hot soak while enjoying the beautiful sea right in front of you. The facility makes the 26th of every month the “day of bath,” as 26 can be read “fu-ro” in Japanese which means “bath”. On the day, you are allowed to use the bathing facility free of charge!
Matsuda-en (Orange Farm)
Location: 1142 Komatsu, Suo-Oshima Town
Season: Mid Oct. – Mid Dec.
Ryuzaki Onsen (Spa)
Location: 685-2 Higashi Agenosho, Suo-Oshima Town
Hours: Tues. – Sun., 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Admission: 720 yen; 410 yen (12 and younger)
Area: 34,000 ac
Location: Suo-Oshima Town, Yamaguchi Pref.
Attractions: Katazoegahara Beech, Mount Monju,
Museum of Japanese Emigration to Hawaii, Battleship Mutsu Museum, Ryuzaki Spa and Road Station Sazan Towa