Follow the Cats! Himeji’s Ieshima Island: 7 Fun Things to Enjoy
Ieshima, or Ie Island, which is located off the coast of Himeji, can be reached in about 30 minutes by boat from the city. The island offers fine seafood, rustic scenery, and beautiful shrines by the sea. We introduce fun things to do on Ieshima and other nearby islands.
- Himeji’s Islands: Excellent Food and Simple Daily Life
- Depart from Himeji! A Venture to the Islands
- Ieshima: Witness Daily Life in a Fishing Village
- 1. Ieshima Port Fureai Plaza: Rent a Bicycle to Explore the Island!
- 2. Canoeing
- 3. Encountering Cats on the Narrow Alleys
- 4. Dongamessan: A Giant Rock Resembling a Tortoise!
- 5. Ieshima Shrine, a Spiritual Place Surrounded by the Mountains and the Sea
- 6. Cafe Scott: Dining with a Sea View!
- 7. Ryokan Okabe: An Inn with Excellent Cuisine Featured in the Michelin Guide
- Next Stop: Boze Island
- Bentenjima: An Island Full of Legends!
- Enjoy Your Island Trip to Himeji!
Himeji’s Islands: Excellent Food and Simple Daily Life
Himeji, a city in Hyogo Prefecture, is known as the home of Himeji Castle, a World Heritage site. The Ieshima Islands are a group of around forty islands located off the coast of the city. This archipelago includes islands such as Ie (Ieshima) and Boze (Bozejima).
These islands boast delicious seafood and have a rustic air that is different from regular tourist destinations. This article introduces the appeals of Ieshima and other nearby islands.
Depart from Himeji! A Venture to the Islands
The Ieshima Islands are located in the Seto Inland Sea and can be easily accessed from Himeji City.
The port can be reached in about 20 minutes by bus from bus stop 1 in front of the Himeji Station north exit. Once you reach Himeji Port, you’ll be taking a high-speed vessel to the islands.
At the port, the ticket booth is right in front of the bus stop. The three main destinations of the vessels are: Shodoshima, the Maura Port in Ieshima, and Bozejima. In order to go to Ieshima (Ie Island), look for the blue sign of Kosoku Ieshima or the Takafuku Liner, which depart for Maura Port.
The fare is 1,000 yen for an adult. The boats depart every hour, and they also operate after 20:00 in the evening.
The vessels connecting Himeji and Ieshima have indoor seating, so the passengers do not need to worry about the weather. The ride to Ieshima takes about 30 minutes.
Ieshima: Witness Daily Life in a Fishing Village
Many people talk about Ieshima as a place where they want to return to occasionally. The main local industry has always been fishing; the cluster of houses along with the calm Seto Inland Sea combine to create a nostalgic scenery.
Read on to learn about the seven charming features of Ieshima.
1. Ieshima Port Fureai Plaza: Rent a Bicycle to Explore the Island!
After getting off the vessel, drop by the Ieshima Port Fureai Plaza.
The facility offers sightseeing information, including English pamphlets. Visitors can leave their baggage here at the rate of 100 yen per bag.
Use a rental bicycle to tour the island while enjoying the sea breeze! It’s a great way to enjoy your island explorations.
Both regular bicycles and power-assisted types are available at the Fureai Plaza. The latter type requires a deposit of 2,500 yen, and the rental fare is 1,000 yen for one hour, 1,200 yen for 3 hours, and 1,500 yen for 5 hours. After 5 hours, 100 yen will be added for each additional hour.
As the island terrain is hilly, those who are worried about their stamina should ask for the power-assisted type.
The fare for renting a regular bicycle is 600 yen per day. All bicycles must be returned before 16:00 on the day of the rental.
At Fureai Plaza, visitors can buy souvenirs such as soy sauce, sea salt, and sembei (rice crackers) made in Ieshima. They will make a perfect gift for one’s family and friends while sharing memories from the trip.
Ieshima nori (dried seaweed), which is light and easy to use in the kitchen, is what we recommend as a local souvenir.
Most makers will clean the harvested seaweed with saltwater and freshwater. Nakamura Suisan, which produces Ieshima nori, uses only freshwater for repeated cleaning, making their product richer in color and taste.
On Ieshima Island, visitors can enjoy fresh seafood, along with the rural scenery. You can also go out at sea on a canoe, to enjoy the appeal of the Seto Inland Sea.
3. Encountering Cats on the Narrow Alleys
The narrow streets on Ieshima are just as charming as the views of the sea. They invite visitors to step in and explore the village.
The houses are built close to one another, and the island is filled with slopes and winding roads.
Don’t be surprised if you encounter cats along these alleys. This is their domain. While the felines may look sleepy, they have a strong presence and appear to be observing the local residents.
4. Dongamessan: A Giant Rock Resembling a Tortoise!
Dongamessan, a huge rock resembling a turtle, is located near Fureai Plaza.
The legend goes that a large turtle that was waiting for its master turned into this rock over time; you may see it as the tortoise version of the loyal dog Hachiko. It is also said that a wish will come true if you pat its head a hundred times.
The people on Ieshima have enshrined this turtle as a deity of the sea and offer it prayers for safety at sea.
5. Ieshima Shrine, a Spiritual Place Surrounded by the Mountains and the Sea
Ieshima Shrine, surrounded on all sides by trees, is a mystic place.
According to a legend, Emperor Jinmu, the first ruler of Japan, traveled eastward to engage in a battle and evacuated to the current Ieshima to avoid a storm. He was surprised at the serenity of the island, exclaiming that it felt like being at home, which led to the name Ie (Japanese for home)-shima.
From the shrine grounds, visitors can see the inlet beyond the torii and feel the atmosphere of this shrine, whose history goes back two thousand years.
Visitors can also enjoy one of the ten scenic spots of Iejima called Kankan Chobo from Shimizu Park, located near the shrine. A lookout post was located here in the late Edo Period (1603-1868), and the magnificent view has not changed much from those days.
6. Cafe Scott: Dining with a Sea View!
Cafe Scott is a facility where visitors can interact with the locals. Situated close to Fureai Plaza, it’s a two-storied building with a yellow tent.
Kazuya Nakanishi, a tour guide operating under Ieshima Concierge, is the manager of this cafe. With the help of volunteers, he renovated a long-established cafe that had closed and started an eatery where visitors can enjoy casual meals.
The menu consists of dishes made with local Ieshima products, such as the colorful kaisen-don (seafood bowl) shown in the photograph above.
The seafood is fresh and tasty; if you add some soy sauce mixed with a tinge of wasabi or salt made in Ieshima, it brings out its natural, delightful taste. The seafood tastes exquisite in combination with the rice.
While visitors can enjoy witnessing the daily life of a fishing village on Ieshima, it may be difficult to find a place to take a break. This is what makes Cafe Scott so special.
Besides being the manager of Cafe Scott, Mr. Nakanishi also offers bento lunch boxes so that the visitors can enjoy their meals outside when the weather is fine.
How about enjoying the dessert at the counter, which offers a great view of Maura Port, or on the sofa where you can enjoy a beautiful painting displayed on the wall?
With a fishing ground located nearby, Ieshima is an ideal destination for angling enthusiasts. Cafe Scott also offers information about fishing equipment available for rental.
7. Ryokan Okabe: An Inn with Excellent Cuisine Featured in the Michelin Guide
Although Ieshima is a rural fishing village, the scenery changes in the morning and evening, making the visitors want to visit the island again.
While there are many accommodation facilities on the island, Ryokan Okabe, located near Maura Port, is known for its Jako-nabe (seafood hot-pot). Visitors from all around the country come to taste this famous dish, and the inn was also listed in the Michelin Guide 2016 for Hyogo.
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If you visit on a day trip, you can enjoy the simple Jako-nabe, but those staying at the inn can taste the special version, which comes along with delicious sashimi and tempura.
The seafood in the hot pot changes every season. Visitors should definitely taste the Boze-saba mackerel, a special product of the islands caught in the season from November to March.
Prepared as sashimi, the mackerel has a lively, fresh texture. However, its sweetness comes out when boiled in the pot!
Boze-saba mackerel is served with ginger and soy sauce, just like Himeji oden. It also goes well with the special ponzu (soy sauce mixed with vinegar or citrus juice) handmade at the inn.
Ryokan Okabe is a four-storied building and all the guestrooms are equipped with bathrooms. Breakfast and dinner are included in the room charge, which varies depending on the number of guests. To book a room, please call 079-325-0340.
The windows face Maura Port allowing a wonderful view of Ieshima, with the lights of the fishing vessels at night and the lively fish market in the morning.
Next Stop: Boze Island
Those who wish to explore the islands further should head to Bozejima, which can be reached from the Ade Port in Ieshima. The waiting room is decorated like an art museum.
Just like Ieshima, the houses on Boze Island are lined up on a hill, creating a panorama that can only be enjoyed on populated islands.
Although it is the smallest among the Ieshima islands, Bozejima has the largest population after Ieshima.
Bentenjima: An Island Full of Legends!
The Bentenjima Kai Shrine is located on Bentenjima, an island connected by a bridge to Boze. This shrine is said to have been the stage of a tragic legend.
A fisherman and his daughter encountered a storm at sea. The daughter jumped into the water, praying for the weather to subside. After the rain and wind calmed down, a spray erupted from the sea, which turned into a huge boulder.
The daughter was canonized as the goddess Benzaiten (Sarasvati), and the shrine has since protected the fishermen of the island. From the shrine grounds, visitors can enjoy the magnificent view of Boze Island.
Enjoy Your Island Trip to Himeji!
The Ieshima Islands are very different from ordinary tourist destinations and time flows more slowly on these isles than in the urban areas.
Those who experience the sea breeze and sunshine in Ieshima, while viewing the scenery, will feel like they have come back home.
Written by Lin
Sponsored by Himeji Convention & Visitors Bureau.
*The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.
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