If you are a woman you are banned from visiting this place. If you are a man you can go there just once a year and must strip naked before going ashore. If you go there, be aware you are not allowed to take anything away or disclose any details of your visit.
Welcome to Okinoshima, not a perverted, man-only place, but a little sacred island in Japan that women will never know, but that was recently declared a UNESCO world heritage site.
People who would like to pay a visit must travel midway between South-Western Kyushy Island and Korea, but must take care it is the right day…and they have the right gender. Why? What’s the mystery behind this island? We are here today to unveil the ‘secret’ and ask you if you agree with this decision.
This little island was once the site of rituals to pray for maritime safety, and a centre for relations with China and Korea that stretch back as far as the fourth century (a window for the foreign trades with the mainland). A shrine, built in the 17th century, Okitsu, stands there to be used as a place of pray for the safety of sailors and ocean-going ships.
At the beginning, only priests from Munakata Taisha (a group of Shinto shrines) were permitted to travel to Okinoshima, so that they could worship at the island’s 17th century shrine. It was then opened to other ‘normal’ people, but only few groups of 200 men can go there just once a year, on 27th May, to honour sailors died in a nearby naval battle during the 1904-06 Russo-Japanese war.
But the ‘privilege’ given to the few men allowed to take a visit comes at a price: before going ashore, they must follow centuries-old rituals such us removing their clothes and bathing naked in the sea to undergo “misogi”, a Japanese Shinto practice of ritual purification to rid themselves of impurities. In addition, they are prohibited from taking home any souvenirs, including small objects such as twigs, pebbles and blades of grass. And, we said that at the beginning, “whatever happens in Okinoshima remains in Okinoshima“ (Ed.).
Why are women banned? A theory states that menstrual blood is impure and can contaminate the island. According to other rumours, since the travel to the location can be dangerous, they preferred to keep women at home taking care of the children and protecting the next generations.
But while the mystery of this taboo remains, it’s pretty sure why this island has been recently added to the UNESCO’s World Heritage List, during the last UN annual summit in Krakow, Poland: the 97 hectares (240 acres) island is full of artefacts dating from the fourth to the ninth centuries. About 80,000 items have been discovered, brought as gifts from overseas: national treasures including mirrors from Chinese Wei dynasty, gold rings from Korea and fragments of a glass bowl from Persia.
The sacred Island is now the 21st Japanese natural and cultural site to become a UNESCO’s world heritage and because of that it will be able to access to additional funds that can contribute to its upkeep. But this ‘coronation’ could attract the attention of tourists and nearby residents are afraid this can threaten the integrity of the island for the generations to come.
In fact, to keep the site ‘pure’ for the future, a strict preservation has been always applied in regards to both the property and the landscape. The Shinto priests have been protecting and manning the island for centuries. They have been praying to the island’s goddess, preserving an ancient tradition never changed so far.
Now, to assure this preservation, they will keep the ban on tourism and women, despite all the inquires received from the travel agencies. It’s their belief that people shouldn’t visit the place just out of curiosity. However, if you are an academics, you may be allowed to land for preservation and research purposes.
Since it seems you might never be able to visit the island, you can enjoy some images on this video.
It’s said women are banned from visiting the island, so a question arises: “why can we see women on this video?”
What do you think? What’s the truth? Now that the Okinoshima is a UNESCO’s world heritage, shouldn’t everyone have the right to visit it? If they are banned, why were they so interested in being recognised by UNESCO? Just to receive additional money or what else?