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The Truth About Tsushima

I had a hell of a time planning my trip to Tsushima—and not because there’s such little information about this island off the coast of Nagasaki online, though this is true in some sense.

You won’t find a lot of practical travel advice for Tsushima, which is a place that almost no tourists visit, whether Japanese domestic or foreigners. However, there’s a huge quantity of content about the virtual version of the island that exists in the game Ghost of Tsushima. Like, several times more articles.

Oddly, many of the weebs Googling the game also seemed to spit out queries in the vein of “is Tsushima real?”. Whether you’re one of these people, or are an actual traveler frustrated by the lack of actionable information about this underrated island, I have a feeling you’ll want to continue reading.

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The Ghost of Tsushima: Fact vs. Fiction

Is Tsushima worth visiting? Well, that depends upon what you’re looking for. The bad news, as you might imagine, is that virtually everything about the “island” in the game Ghost of Tsushima is contrived, from the landscapes, to the buildings, to the general look and feel of the place. Although I’m not a gamer as such, nothing I’ve seen of the game actually resembles Tsushima very much at all.

Now, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, some enthusiasts of the game have argued that Bansho-in (which is probably the most beautiful and impressive of Tsushima’s temples) resembles the Golden Temple within the game. Moreover, there’s a general argument to be made that the scenery on the island overall is pretty “ghostly,” even if that’s a vague term.

My Favorite Things to Do in Tsushima

Explore Bansho-in temple


Although I’ve never played Ghost of Tsushima and have no reference point, Bansho-in is a place that instantly intrigued me. Founded in the 17th century and featuring a stone staircase that leads up a bamboo-covered hillside to a graveyard with massive cedars towering over it, it’s honestly one of the most picturesque temples I’ve visited anywhere in Japan.

Visit one of Tsushima’s viewpoints


Conversely, one of the most disappointing things about my Tsushima itinerary was the fact that the island’s most famous viewpoint (Mt. Eboshi Observatory) was closed due to some kind of landslide. There are other places to admire the island’s geography, and to meditate on the fact that it was a historical “borderland” between Japan and Korea, but they’re just not as dramatic as I imagine Eboshidake is.

Admire Watatsumi Shrine


Thankfully, even if you drive all the way to Mt. Eboshi and also find it closed, your journey won’t have been in vain. That’s because its trailhead is only a few minutes’ drive from Watatsumi Shrine, which features three stone torii, including two ones that “float” in the tranquil bay just offshore. Alongside Bansho-in, this place really contributes a ghostly energy to the whole place.

Eat Rokube


You might be surprised, given the island’s size, that one of the top places to visit in Tsushima is a random noodle shop. If I’m honest, I wasn’t sure either: It’s famous because of its having been featured on a show on the Korean Broadcasting Network (which I don’t watch); and it serves rokube, a special type of udon that is (to my tastebuds)…just udon. Still, the shop is cute and the service is good (and the set had more than just the noodles), so I won’t complain.

Take your time


Tsushima is absolutely massive, and if I’m honest, I probably would’ve dug deeper had the weather not been so terrible. You hopefully won’t be able to tell this from my pictures, but it literally rained (and, for most of that time, rained heavily) all but a couple of the hours I was there. If I go back and it’s sunny, I will definitely spend as least twice as long there as I did on this trip!

How to Get to Tsushima

Reaching Tsushima is pretty easy, albeit not quite as instant as turning on your gaming console. If you’re coming from nearby Iki island (which you should be, if at all possible), it’s a quick 30-minute jetfoil ferry ride from Ashibe Port. Alternative, you can come in about 90 minutes from Hakata Port in Fukuoka; nonstop flights are also available from Fukuoka and Nagasaki.

And what about getting around, once you’ve arrived on Tsushima? Well, while there are some bus routes that traverse the island, renting a car is the only realistic way to make your way between attractions. If you don’t, you will dramatically increase the amount of time you need to spend on the island, thereby skewing the value proposition inherent in the question “is Tsushima worth visiting?”.

Other FAQ About Visiting Tsushima

Is Tsushima island beautiful?

Tsushima Island is beautiful in the sense that it is lush, wild—and, yes, has somewhat “ghostly” vibes. In my opinion, however, its beauty is of the more understated variety. It’s not a place that jumped out to me for the way it looks, if I can be perfectly honest.

Is the Golden Temple in Tsushima real?

The Golden Temple in the game Ghost of Tsushima is, sadly, not real. However, many enthusiasts of the game who went on to visit Tsushima in real life have said that Bansho-in temple (which actually does exist) bears a striking resemblance to the Golden Temple.

Was there a Ghost of Tsushima in real life?

Although the events that inspired the game—namely a Mongol invasion—took place in history, there is no actual Ghost of Tsushima. Moreover, the real-life Tsushima island bears very little resemblance to the place depicted within the video game.

The Bottom Line

Is Tsushima real? Yes, though you might not know that by Googling information about how to get there, or what to do once you arrive. Most of what’s written online about “Tsushima” is actually about the fictional island in the game Ghost of Tsushima, rather than the actual island that sits between the Korean Peninsula and Japan’s Kyushu. In a strange, satisfying way, of course, the real Tsushima does have a delightfully ghostly vibe, even if it’s also oddly devoid of attractions for an island of its size. Regardless, I hope you’ll consider hiring me to create your trip—my expert guidance makes planning a lot easier!


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