Roam Japan’s uninhabited ‘deer island’
Off the serene coast of Matsuyama in Japan’s Ehime Prefecture lies a hidden gem – Kashima, the uninhabited ‘deer island.’ This quaint island, living up to its name, is home to dozens of wild yet amicable deer that warmly welcome visitors as they arrive by the local ferry, adorned with a charming deer mascot on its roof.
The roots of Kashima’s deer population trace back to ancient times, deeply intertwined with Shinto beliefs. In Shinto, certain animals, including deer, are revered as divine messengers. Beyond religious significance, these graceful creatures hold a sacred status in Japanese culture, sometimes being classified as national treasures.
The harmonious coexistence of deer and humans creates a truly unique environment, where visitors can witness these majestic creatures roaming freely against a backdrop of stunning landscapes.
About deer island
Despite being uninhabited, the island boasts a few small stores, creating a unique interaction space between the deer and day trippers or hikers. At low tide, sandy beaches emerge, inviting visitors to indulge in the pleasures of swimming and snorkelling. The island’s circular path is adorned with decorative stones inscribed with haiku poems, enhancing the poetic charm of this picturesque destination.
Covering just 1.5 kilometres in circumference, Kashima also offers delightful walks around the island and over its central mountain peak. On clear days, the panoramic views from the peak’s lookout extend over the Seto Inland Sea, with Mt. Takanawa standing majestically across the water.
The island’s modest size makes it a perfect day trip destination, allowing travellers to explore its wonders at a leisurely pace.
One of Kashima’s other standout features, alongside its famous deer, is a unique pair of rocks standing in the sea. The smaller rock formations are connected by a sacred rope (shimenawa) and crowned with a torii gate, creating an Instagram-worthy scene at sunset.
Deer island’s Kashima Festival
The annual replacement of this sacred rope becomes a focal point during the spring Kashima Festival in May, drawing both locals and tourists to witness the significant event.
The Kashima Festival is a celebration of the island’s cultural and natural treasures (and of course its deer). Visitors can immerse themselves in the festivities, experiencing traditional performances, savouring local cuisine, and participating in cultural events that showcase the island’s rich heritage.
Whether you’re captivated by the allure of sacred deer, seeking breathtaking views from mountain peaks, or simply looking for a serene stroll along the island’s shores, Kashima is a quirky haven of tranquillity and cultural experiences.