Home to the Japan’s smallest park and Camel shaped Island; Matsushima is located in Saikaishi of Nagasaki prefecture. Before people moved to the Island (Shima in Japanese) it was covered with Pine forest (Matsu in Japanese), thus it got the name Matsushima. It is a 10 minutes ferry ride from Oseto Terminal. Matsuhima Island has a circumference of 16 kilometres and 9 kilometres of ring road connects the different parts of the island which can be hiked in roughly two hours. Surprisingly, the Island doesn’t have a single traffic light. Regardless of its small size, you will be amazed by just how much it has to offer from green lust forest to isolated breathtaking coasts, beautiful lakes, natural and man-made wonders plus warm and hospitable people to make your journey as comfortable as possible. The area also has a long prosperous history of whaling and coal mining from Edo period to the middle of the Showa period.
During Keio Period, a fisherman named Goheita was burning a bonfire. The fire spread quickly to the black stones that were lying on the ground making him aware about the usefulness of the stone for burning. Other fishermen later found the same kind of stone in Matsushima. This was the discovery of coal in Matsushima.
In 1632, Tadatoshi Hosokawa, a Japanese Samurai Daimyo was travelling from Fukuoka to Kumamoto. During this sail one of his sailors discovered the Matsushima Island. He built his holiday home in Kamaura in Matsushima. In 1695 Yoguro Fukasawa came to Matsuhima from Hirashima and started a whaling business in Nishidomari, Matsushima. His business flourished so much that he became one of the richest merchant in the island.
In 1781, coal mining started in Kushijima in the north western part of the Island. The mining reached its peak in around 1913. During the peak period, the population of island was about 13000. In 1934, a big cave in accident occurred, killing around 54 workers. The company was forced to close site number four where the accident occurred due to safety concern. Mining continued in other site for a while but it closed its final door in 1963. In 1981 Japan Power Electric Company was started in Matsushima which is a sole employment provider company in the Island at present time.
Camel Islet which resembles a sitting Camel with a howdah is a natural wonder of Matsushima Island. It is made of Schist, a metamorphic rock consisting of plates of different minerals. The stone itself is shaped like camel while the howdah shape has been given by the little palm trees that are on the top of the stone.
Fresh Spring Water
This spring water was used by a lemonade stall until around 1935. The shop is long gone but the water still flows out and quenches the thirst of travelers and locals alike. In April 2018, the bureau of water works declared it to be fit for domestic purposes. There is a local belief that whatsoever is made using this water turns out to be more delicious. After personally tasting this chilled and sweet water I couldn’t agree more with the belief.
Japan’s Smallest Park
Japan’s smallest park covers the area of probably one good jump or few steps, five square meters to put in number. The setting is romantic as it contains only a palm tree and a bench for two with a breathtaking view of wide open sea and rugged but beautiful coast, perfect for the love birds. Few steps further down, you will find a narrow road that will lead you to the sea with crystal clear water and rocky beach amazing for outdoor activities with family and friends.
Matsushima Thermal Power Station
Matsuhima Thermal Power Station was established in 1981. It is the Japan’s first coal-fired power plant using imported coal. Furthermore, it is located in an Island which is quite rare in Japan. After the decline of whaling and coal industry, the Island was almost deserted. The establishment of Thermal Power Station has helped Matsushima to prevent the population from further decreasing by generating employment. The two units of power station is able to generate 1Million Kilowatt of energy more than enough to need electric needs of all households in Nagasaki Prefecture.
Matsushima Coal Mine – Remains for mine site number four
Matsushima Coal Mine Co.,Ltd was founded in 1913. It was renowned for extracting high quality coal. During the peak period, the company was producing as much as 510000 tons annually. On November 25 1934, a cave in accident occurred in the site of 4th mine killing 54 people. After this accident the company decided to shut this site and closed its door on February 28, 1935.
Zezegaura is a red sandy beach with lots of black pebbles. It is very quiet beach with almost no visitors. If you want calm and tranquil environment with mind freshening cool breeze from ocean then this is the ideal venue.
Shojoin Matsushima temple was built by a priest from Omura temple who after retiring came to Matsushima to preach Buddhism. The temple was build in the year 1628. It is said that the ceiling of this temple is decorated by the paintings of 85 colourful flowers.
Matsushima Temple：In the year 1645, religious items were received from Hachimangu and Gion shrine in Kokura of Buzen province. In 1646 this temple was built to enshrine those religious items. Since the erection of this temple the local festival where parents and kids dress like a lion and perform amazing dancing moves was started. The festival is performed every year even till now.
Fukasawa Family Grave: The grave of Yokuro Fukasawa Family. Yokuro Fukasawa was a merchant who amassed great wealth from whale business in Matsushima.
View of Oseto from Matsushima
Oseto Ferry Terminal
Matsushima Elementary School-Closed as there are not enough students to run the school.
When you get off your ferry at Matsushima. Do not forget to look around the terminal. It is full of colorful seaweeds.
There are plenty more that I have missed to mention in this article most probably because I myself have not explored the island completely. Every time you visit Matsushima, you will definitely discover something new and interesting.