Shikanoshima Island and the Golden Seal of Na

Shikanoshima Island is a small scenic island located in the middle of Hakata Bay in Kyushu. The island’s perimeter is only about 10km, and it offers visitors a variety of outdoor activities such as cycling, hiking, and snorkeling, thanks to its beautiful beaches and rich blue waters. The island is also known for the discovery of the Golden Seal of Na, or kinin; considered one of Japan’s most important national treasures. 


Walking Shikanoshima Island


Getting to Shikanoshima Island

Shikanoshima Island is accessible by ferry from Hakata port or you can simply walk from JR Saitozaki Station. Though it is technically an island, it is connected to Kyushu Island by a causeway.  

The ferry runs once an hour, and the bus is available from Saitozaki Station, but I think waking from Saitozaki Station is an ideal way to go to Shikanoshima Island.  The ocean is really pretty, and you can see as far as Noko Island and Itozaki Peninsula on a sunny day.

Either you walk, bus, or take a ferry, you will arrive at the Shikanoshima district on the island, the south tip of the island.   

Shikanoshima Island
Shikanoshima Island just ahead.
ferry to Shikanoshima Island from Hakata
There is a ferry ride from Hakata. The name of the ship is “Kinin”.
Hakata Bay.
Genkai Sea at Shikanoshima Island
Genkai Sea is very rough, especially in winter.

Upon entering the island is the Shikanoshima district. Though there are no convenience stores or supermarkets, this community is the most thriving spot on the island with several restaurants and cafes.

Considering there used to be a town office in this area, I guess it is fair to say this is the center of the island. 

The torii of Shikaumi Shrine
Main street of Shikanoshima

Shikaumi Shrine

In the north district of this community Shikanoumi Shrine. This is the ancestral shrine Watatsumi no Kami, a god of the ocean born from Izanagi and Izanami.  

Shikaumi Shrine on Shikanoshima Island
Shikaumi Shrine. It is quite a big shrine
Kameishi. The two stones look like a kame (turtle)

Before entering the shrine, you purify yourself with sand. 

Purify yourself and go!


Shikanoshima Island Kinin Park: The Golden Seal of Na


Once you make your way into the Shikanoshima community, it won’t be long before you find Kinin Park. Kinin Park is where the Gold Seal of Na (henceforth “kinin”) was found in 1784. 

The kinin is a solid gold seal given by China in 57 AD to the king of Na. The kinin is considered tangible proof of trade between ancient China and Japan. Naturally, it is registered as a Japanese National Treasure. 

Replica of the Golden Seal of Na. The handle part is supposed to be a snake.

Perhaps the most immediate question you might ask yourself is where exactly is Na?  Naturally, people assumed that Na was on Shikanoshima Island due to the discovery of a precious stamp, but there is no evidence to support the existence of this ancient kingdom here.

Moreover, after walking the entire town, it is hard to imagine such a large kingdom ever existed here. So, it is a total mystery where Na was and what kind of relationship it had with China.  


Kinin Park
Kinin Park.

The park is located on a hill on the island, and you can see a great view of Hakata Bay from the top of the hill. 

Hakata Bay from Kinin Park.

Just a few miles from Kinin Park is Mokozuka Mound, commemorating Japan’s victory over the Mongolian Invasion in the 13th century. When Mongolians tried to invade Japan, the Mongolian army crossed the Japan Sea into Hakata Bay, certainly passing Shikanoshima Island as well. 

It is just amazing how much of Japanese history this island has witnessed.  

Walking the Kinin Kaido


The Kinin Kaido on Shikanoshima Island


On Shikanoshima Island, the 10km round road that circles the island is called the Kinin Kaido. It goes quite close to the ocean and it is very scenic. However, because it is very scenic, there can be a decent amount of traffic on the road it is also a major highway. 

There is an elementary school though I don’t think there are not so many kids living here

The question is which way to go; clockwise or counterclockwise. Either way, you will walk the same route but I think clockwise is more fun. This way, you can see the major attractions of the island while you are still energetic.   

Most of the runners we saw went clockwise to Katsuma, the north tip of the island.  

Mayoshu Poem. Several poems in Manyoshu mentioned Shikanoshima island.
The water is very clear. It is more like south Wakayama in Kansai

To Katsuma via the Kinin Kaido

Since Shikanoshima has many rocky coasts, it is sometimes fun to go down the coast and find sea creatures there like sea urchins and crabs. Unlike the east side, the west side faces Hakata Bay, where the water is much calmer. 

It is pretty rocky like this
Genkai Island

Almost at the halfway point of the Kinin Kaido is the little community of Katsuma where the trail becomes more like a little nature trail that leads to the Osaki Observation Deck.   

Go to the left and up the stairs
View from Osaki Observation Deck in Shikanoshima Island
From Osaki Observation Deck
Kyukamura Resort Hotel is down there


There is a large hotel located in Katsuma, which sits right in front of the beautiful Katsuma Beach. During the summer months, I believe that many people will choose to stay at this hotel due to its proximity to Hakata and its reputation as one of the best beaches in the area. However, even in the winter season, there still seemed to be a significant number of people staying at the hotel.

Kyukamura Shikanoshima. It looks like a nice hotel!
Path to the beach
It is a really pretty beach

Walking along the beach are Okitsugu and Nakatsugu Shrine; lesser shrines of Shikaumi Shrine. There are several little shrines of Shikaumi Shrine throughout the island. I guess all those shrines are protecting the island. 

location of Okitsugu of Shikaumi Shrine on Shikanoshima Island
Okitsugu of Shikaumi Shrine. Maybe you can walk there when the tide is low enough.
Nakatsugu Shrine of Shikaumi Shrine on Shikanoshima Island
Nakatsugu Shrine of Shikaumi Shrine

Back to Shikaumi Shrine

After Katsuma, the Kinin Kaido goes back to Shikaumi Shrine on the west side of the island. At this point, many people head back to the west half of the trail or choose to go up the hill from Katsuma, then back to Shikaumi Shrine via the observation deck in Shiomi Park. This last half part goes along the Genkai Sea, which is famous for its rough waters. It is known as one of the best fishing grounds in Japan, providing a wide variety of fresh fish to Hakata. 

There is significantly less traffic, too.

Unlike the west first half of the trail, the coast is quite rocky without almost any way to go down to the ocean. 

The rocks look very interesting. Sadly, the tide was too rough, so we couldn’t go down.

When we arrived here, it was winter and the ocean was very rough. Because the road is quite close to the water, we even almost got splashed by a wave. Not to mention that the wind was really strong. 

Rocky coast of the Genkai Sea on Shikanoshima Island
The “gen” of Genkai Sea means black.
Very rough
Rocky shore on the east side of Shikanoshima Island
Such a cool view!
Kinin Kaido on Shikanoshima Island
Kinin Kaido

To observation deck in Shiomi Park 

After returning to Shikaumi Shrine, the trail goes up to an observation deck. It takes only 15 minutes, but it is quite a steep hill. 

On the way to the observation deck is a little shrine called Kaenzuka. Monks from Koyasan lit a holy fire there to pray for victory during the Mongolian Invasion.

pretty steep path to the observation deck
Kaenzuka Shrine on Shikanoshima Island
Kaenzuka Shrine

On the top of the hill is the observation deck. I saw some people biking here, but it would be very hard bike to go all the way up. 

The observation deck

Once at the observation deck, you can see Hakata Bay and the sandbar connecting Kyushu and Shikanoshima Island. 

Sandbar that connects Shikanoshima Island to Kyushu
That’s the sandbar that connects to Saitozaki Station
view of the momochi area of Fukuoka City from Shikanoshima Island
You can see Fukuoka City in the distance

Overall, I think walking around Shikanoshima Osland is a very fun experience! 

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