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Nagasaki’s Little Secret

I didn’t have high expectations for Iki, which is strange looking back. Out of all of Nagasaki’s offshore islands, it was the one for which I had the most cohesive list of potential things to do an see.

Indeed, in spite of its small size, Ikishima has a relatively high density of attractions, whether you’re in search of shrines, beaches, historical attractions or culinary discover. If it had better infrastructure and more connections to mainland Kyushu, in fact, I could see it become a quasi-major tourist destination.

For now, however, this Iki island itinerary will mostly be of use to extremely adventurous travelers like you. Because a trip to Iki is, if nothing else, a grand adventure.

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How to Get to Iki

Before we get to the meat of this Iki itinerary, it’s important to go through all your options for reaching the island. The easiest, in my opinion, is to travel from Hakata Port (in Fukuoka) by jetfoil. This only takes an hour door-to-door, and with several departures per day is extremely convenient. Another option for coming by boat is to ride a jetfoil from nearby Tsushima, if you decide to start your trip there.

Another option is to come by plane. Nonstop turboprop flights operate directly from Fukuoka and Nagasaki airports to Iki’s airport. Regardless of how you get to the island, it is really advisable to rent a car. Buses exist, though they aren’t fast and don’t come often; while I did encounter a few travelers riding bicycles, Iki is a bit too large to make this practical, at least not if you’re only planning a short visit.

Things to Do in Iki

Pick a shrine, any shrine


For a place so relatively unpopulated, Ikishima has a lot of awesome sacred sites. Most of my favorites are located in the southeast corner of the island, and include the “island” shrine of Kojima, and well as the Harahoge Jizo, which are featured in the main image of this article. A more wild card might be Ondake Shrine, which has a monkey (specifically, see/do/hear no evil) theme.

Hit the beach


As I described in my essay about my April 2024 trip to Japan, it was at idyllic Kuyoshihama Beach where I met a kind (but strange) woman named Tomoko. Among the strange things she said? Comparing the beach in front of us (which was lovely, but nothing special) to Okinawa and even Hawaii. To be clear, the beaches here are good enough to say they’re part of what makes Iki worth visiting, but they won’t change your life (though the coffee truck at Kuyoshihama was charming!)


TIP: Although various rock formations on Iki’s west coast (namely, the so-called Devil’s Footprint and Saruiwa, aka Monkey Rock) gain a lot of attention, they are really nothing special. I don’t necessarily believe they’re worth visiting.

Go back to the Yayoi period


I knew there was a Yayoi-era archaeological site on Iki, but didn’t realize how much it would resemble Yoshinogari (on the mainland, in Saga prefecture). This is especially the case when you look down on Harunotsuji from the Ikikoku Museum, rather than (necessarily) at ground level, even if I do think this place is a great spot for watching sunset.

Take a scenic boat trip


Many an Iki travel blog will recommend that you take a boat from Katsumoto Port to offshore Tatsunoshima Island—and I concur. However, I actually find the town of Katsumoto to be at least as fascinating as the island itself, in part because of how utterly devoid of tourists it is. I also love all the little touches and flourishes you find here, like restrooms with stained glass images of local lore.

Eat Iki beef


In a group of islands primarily famous for boring udon, it thrilled me that Iki had its own delicious beef to tear into. While yakiniku restaurants are extremely numerous here, I was able to find one (and a charming, authentic one at that) near Ashibe Port. I ate there on day one, although I could just as well have done so before continuing to Tsushima on day two.

How Many Days Do You Need in Iki?

Iki is smaller than most of the other islands off the coast of Nagasaki, but is still bigger than it looks on the map. While you can realistically circumnavigate the island in one full day (assuming you follow my advice and rent a car), you likely won’t be able to stop everywhere, especially when you consider inland destinations. Therefore, I’d probably recommend that you spend at least two nights in Iki (at the opulent Iki Retreat, maybe?) if you can.

On the other hand, I’m something of a hypocrite for recommending this. After all, when the question of how many days in Iki to spend came up. this was not my answer. Instead, I stayed just one night, arriving early on the first morning and then staying until mid-day the next day. This was fine for me—as a blogger, I sightsee at a rate around twice as fast as a normal person—but your mileage may vary.

Other FAQ About Visiting Iki Island

What is Iki island known for?

Iki island is known for its delicious beef, for its unique array of natural and cultural beauty and for being the easiest of Nagasaki’s islands to visit. Well, to the extent that it is “known.” Iki remains deliciously off most people’s radars, which is part of why I find it such a pleasure to visit.

Which is better: Iki or Tsushima?

I personally prefer Iki over Tsushima, even though Tsushima is a larger island and should theoretically have more on offer. Iki simply offers a denser array of attractions. from the island shrine of Kojima Jingu, to its various beaches, to islands you can visit on a boat trip from Katsumoto Port.

How do you get to Iki island?

Iki Island is accessible in one of two ways. By jetfoil ferry (from Hakata Port in Fukuoka; or from neighboring Tsushima island); or by nonstop flight from Fukuoka or Nagasaki Airports. Note that while quick, these flights are not for the faint of heart, as some travelers feel intimidated by the plane propellers.

The Bottom Line

I imagine you’ll find my Iki island itinerary useful, even if you already had a solid list of things to do there. It will focus you, which is important: Iki’s small size can fool you into thinking you can “see it all,” which can in turn see you get to the end of the day having wasted time on superfluous attractions—you won’t have seen much of anything at all. Looking back on my trip, I do wish I’d stayed longer and left more room for magic. A great way to right this wrong of mine? Hire me to plan your trip. Whether you focus only on Iki, or also on nearby Tsushima or the quasi-adjacent Goto Islands, I’ll sweat the details; you can focus on letting travel transform you.


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