Eco-tourism in Himeshima Island

By- TAMARA, Luisce(UNU-IAS M.Sc Student)

In southern Japan in the northeast corner of Kyushu Island, lies a tiny island called Himeshima which literally translates to “Princess Island”. Although unknown to most of the world, this little island has become popular in the region and has been gaining more national attention. Traditionally, the island is famous for its scenic views, onsen, food, and butterflies. Yes, butterflies! Every year, from the beginning of May to the beginning of June, thousands of blue chestnut-tiger butterflies visit the islands to take a rest before they move up north. The island gets covered by these butterflies in a natural spectacle that resembles a fairy tale. The island also hosts a national monument called Kannonzaki, a shiny rocky cliff with a small shrine. Obsidian is what gives Kannonzaki its shine and its recognition as one of the seven wonders of Himeshima. Another one of the island’s wonders is Hyoshimizu, a cold hydrogen mineral water spring that is said to alleviate digestive, skin and nerve problems. This mineral water is heated to create an onsen. In terms of culture, the islands host a famous festival called Kitsune Matsuri which translates to “Fox Dance Festival” and takes place annually from August 14-17. On these days, the island is packed with visitors. The island remains calm for the rest of the year.

Leveraging on its beauty, Himeshima has taken a stand to become an eco-tourism destination in Japan. The island offers small electric vehicles that enable the visitor to discover its seven wonders and enjoy its beaches pollution free. These small electric vehicles designed by a local Japanese company come in different models and sizes. These vehicles have been gaining international attention and their technology has been transferred to meet local needs in other countries. Renewable energy projects are also being developed in the island to power its 2,000 inhabitants and increasing number of visitors. Small agriculture projects such as green papaya plantations are also being developed. As it attracts international attention, the future of eco-tourism in Himeshima looks promising. However, it is important to keep clear and respectful limits between visitors and the flora and fauna that makes this island so special.

To get to Himeshima, one has to take a short ferry ride from Imi Port. Imi Port is located in Kunisaki City in Ōita Prefecture, Kyushu. The ferry runs every hour from about 6:00 am to around 7:00 pm. For those interested in spending the night in the island, Ryokan Lodge Himeshima offers spacious rooms and delicious meals with local specialties. The hotel also offers delicious plant-based diets upon request.