VIDEO

Where and what is Japan’s men-only island?

Welcome to the tiny landmass of Okinoshima, an island where women are banned and male visitors must be nude and bathe in the sea before going ashore.  

Last year, the island was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, meaning that probably the island will be banned from foreign visitors. Okinoshima was once a place of prayer for maritime safety and a trade window between Japan, Korea, and China.  It is always manned by a Shinto priest who prays to the goddess of the island. This is a tradition that has been kept for centuries. 

There's a very limited number of visitors allowed - last year it was 200 for this annual festival that lasted only two hours. There are strict conditions for staying on the island. The most obvious one is that only men are allowed and they have to purify themselves by stripping off their clothes and dipping in the ocean before they can set foot on the sacred ground. 

Among this island, 32 other sites were considered for World Heritage in their annual meeting in Poland.  Usually, the UNESCO declaration of a place as World Heritage means a soar in tourist visitors.  However, in the case of this men-only island, they are actually planning on closing it to visitors, except the priests that go there to pray. 

Shrine officials say that the no-women policy has nothing to do with discrimination against women. The island can only be accessed by sea and it is considered dangerous for women to travel by sea. The shrine will not change a rule that has lasted for centuries. 

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