In the pristine waters off the coast of Nagasaki Prefecture, travelers seeking lesser-known but no less incredible adventures in Japan will find the Goto Islands. The archipelago has over the centuries facilitated trade with the Asian mainland and acted as a refuge for Hidden Christians, factors that have, alongside its natural resources, helped shape its unique culture. Immerse yourself in the way of life that has sustained residents throughout the ages with a visit to Shinkamigoto, a town consisting of the upper islands of the archipelago. In Shinkamigoto, you’ll encounter stunning vistas, marine activities and hands-on workshops that will introduce you to the essence of the area.
Starry Night Transcendence
Gazing out from Shinkamigoto, visitors are greeted with panoramas of azure waters dotted with forest-green islands. Once darkness descends, however, the best sights are straight up, as low levels of light pollution provide breathtaking views of the celestial sphere. To fully enjoy the night sky, join a guided stargazing tour, during which you’ll admire the Milky Way and learn the myths behind constellations.
The heavens high above Shinkamigoto aren’t the only place to admire scintillant scenery. If your visit coincides with firefly season — generally from mid-May to June — you can spend an evening entranced by the bioluminescent insects.
Fishing has long played an important role in the livelihoods of islanders. For a taste of coastal living, cast a line into Shinkamigoto’s bountiful waters alongside local guides leading angling activities like shore fishing, breakwater fishing and boat fishing.
For a more unusual experience, try your hand at takotsubo octopus fishing, during which takotsubo jars are lowered into the ocean. There, they become comfortable cubbies for octopuses to slip inside — only to be hauled up to the surface.
If you’re more interested in eating fish than reeling it in, options abound, as the island boasts a diverse range of marine products. The real gem swimming through Shinkamigoto’s waters is hon-maguro, known in English as Pacific bluefin tuna.
Prized for its tenderness and rich flavor, hon-maguro can be enjoyed at its best — nama, or fresh and never frozen — on Shinkamigoto thanks to a thriving aquaculture industry that ensures a steady supply of farmed nama hon-maguro year-round.
Crafting Island Essentials
Opportunities to experience everyday life in Shinkamigoto extend to the kitchen and beyond. Join a workshop to make Goto tenobe udon, a Goto Islands specialty considered one of Japan’s three major udon varieties. Roll, stretch and hang the springy flour-based noodles — all by hand!
If you’d prefer dessert, swing by a kankoro mochi workshop. The sweets, made of boiled and dried sweet potatoes and glutinous rice, are a regional delicacy, and making them is a wildly fun endeavor that will have you slamming a pestle into a stone mortar to smash the ingredients to smithereens. The fruits of your labor, once shaped into cakes, make an excellent souvenir.
A mortar and pestle are essential for another Shinkamigoto task as well: the processing of camellia oil, a specialty product of the Goto Islands. Camellia blossoms are ubiquitous on the islands, and their shape shows up across the archipelago, even in the stained glass of the islands’ churches. Have a crack at turning camellia seeds into oil by first pounding them and then squeezing the crushed seeds to extract the oil.
Further Immersion Awaits
There are endless opportunities for exploration in the upper reaches of the Goto Islands. Delve into the archipelago’s Christian heritage, arrange a viewing of Goto Kagura, a sacred Shinto performance for the gods, or join workshops introducing local crafts and cuisine. Let Shinkamigoto welcome you into its rhythm of life.
More Information on Shinkamigoto
For a full list of recommended activities and itineraries and for access information, visit shinkamigoto.nagasaki-tabinet.com.
You can also explore Shinkamigoto on Instagram.