Most people are acquainted with the four main islands of Japan: Hokkaido in the north, Honshu in the middle (which is the largest and home to both Tokyo and Osaka) and Shikoku and Kyushu in the south. But there are over 6,000 other islands that belong to the extensive Japanese island chain, some of which shouldn’t be ignored on your visit to the archipelago.
Once you’re finished exploring what the main islands have to offer, here are a few other island chains and individual islands you might want to stop at.
The most famous, of course, are the Ryukyu Islands that make up Okinawa Prefecture and are reknowned for their beaches and resorts. The Kerama Islands offer amazing scuba diving experiences and the main island of Okinawa provides an interesting opportunity to see the blending of American, Chinese and Japanese cultures.
Yaeyama Islands, Okinawa
Lying in the far south of the Japanese island chain, the Yaeyama islands have some of the best beaches in the country. Offering snorkeling and sea life spotting, it’s an ideal place to come and vacation if you find yourself down this way.
Hashima Island, Nagasaki
Open only to official tour groups, Hashima is a great place for photographers and history buffs alike. The island was abandoned suddenly in 1974, with the ruins illustrating what life would be like if humans just disappeared.
An artist’s paradise, this small island has been transformed in recent years into a modern art hub, home to museums, architectural highlights and sculptures.
Tashirojima and Aoshima, Miyagi
These two islands are home to hundreds of cats and are nicknamed the “Cat Islands of Japan”. If you love cats or are interested in being surrounded by them, these islands would be the place to do it.
Izu Shichito, Tokyo
If you can handle the long (and somewhat expensive) boat ride, there’s a beautiful island chain just off the coast of Kanagawa called Izu Shichito. Each island in this group boasts a different atmosphere for travelers to enjoy. Oshima is famous for its plant life and views of Mihara Mountain, while Toshima has great bird watching and Kozushima features temple ruins and shrines. There are also a whole range of water sports to be enjoyed here, as well as hot springs to soak in.
Bonin (a.k.a Ogasawara) Islands, Tokyo
This little group of islands are considered the “Galapagos of the Orient” as they have many unique plants and animals that can be found nowhere else on Earth.
The famous Itsukushima Shrine resides on this island, with its iconic torii gate sitting in the water. It is also populated by a large number of deer, which visitors can enjoy both petting and running away from if you have any sort of food in your possession.