Women are barred from the remote island in Japan

There are a lot of things about this small Japanese island that make it unique. But it is what the island has that could not be the most remarkable: women.

Okinoshima, an island steeped in Shinto religious tradition takes the old taboos seriously, including a controversial one that bans women from stepping foot on.

Even men should be careful on the island, by stripping naked, and undergoing a purification ritual prior to arrival. They can no souvenirs of the island with them when they leave the group, not even a blade of grass, and never the details of their trip, BBC.


The whole island is considered holy ground. The population consists of priests who work on Okinoshima shrine, that is part of the larger, Munakata Grand Shrine. Today, it is the priests that the enforcement of the ban on women, though there is not much known about the reason why the ban exists.

“There are several explanations for the ban, but some say that it is because the menstrual period would contaminate the site,” Ryo Hashimoto, wrote the Japan Times. “Shinto deals with blood as an impurity.

Another reason may be that, because the sea travel to the island were considered to be dangerous, women were banned from traveling there to protect them, as bearers of children.

Okinoshima was along the main trade routes between Japan and the Korean Peninsula between the fourth and the ninth century. Sailors looking for protection from the gods would stop on the island to pray and offer sacrifices, including beads, mirrors, and swords. Through the centuries, Okinoshima amassed approximately 80,000 of these precious trinkets, which are considered national treasures.

And these treasures can be part of the reason why Okinoshima has attracted the attention of UNESCO, which will consider the island on the World Heritage status in July. But the heritage statement could come at a cost to the island. It would bring Okinoshima to the attention of the world and attract curious tourists — and he can have the ban on women in particular is problematic.

🇯🇵 Men-only island #Okinoshima set for @UNESCO #WorldHeritage status via @BBCWorld

— yoshitada okada (@okadascape) May 9, 2017

Currently, the island gets very few visitors per year. Men are permitted one time per year, on 27 May, a festival is held “comfort the spirits” of the Japanese and Russian soldiers who died in battle in the Sea of Japan in 1905.

There are objections to Okinoshima men-only rule, including by a Hindu group last year demanded that the UNESCO denying the island’s heritage, unless it allowed women to enter. But even if the island is granted, the heritage list, some say that it will never change.


“Our position remains unchanged, even if it is registered in the World Heritage List,” a Munakata Taisha official told the Mainichi Daily. “We will continue to strictly regulate visits to the island.”

Takayuki Ashizu, high priest of the Munakata Grand Shrine, agreed, told the Japan Times, “We would not open Okinoshima to the public, even if it is registered on the UNESCO’s list of world cultural heritage list because people do not visit out of curiosity.”

A solution that is considered by the prefecture of Fukuoka government is setting up a facility where tourists can learn about the island without actually having to visit, the Japan Times repots.

This story originally appeared on the

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