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Only men can visit the island of Okinoshima in Japan and they have to undress first

In the rich tapestry of the world’s ancient history, there is a mysterious island full of rituals and reverence: Okinoshima. Located between the islands of Kyushu and Honshu in Japan, Okinoshima Island carries a tradition that goes beyond the ordinary: men are allowed to visit the island, but only if they undress first.

Okinoshima Island , a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been considered a sacred place since the 4th century, the time of the Yamato dynasty. Serving as a critical center for diplomatic and trade relations with the Korean Peninsula and China, it has witnessed a mixture of cultures, prayers and rituals.

Undress to honor the divine

The tradition of men stripping before setting foot on Okinoshima is much more than an eccentric ritual; is deeply rooted in Shinto spirituality which sees this act as a purification ritual . The purifying ritual known as “Misogi”, it involves the men stripping completely to cleanse themselves of impurities before presenting themselves to the island’s deity, a goddess named Munakata Okitsugu-Mikoto.

Visitors to the island would bring a myriad of offerings, including mirrors, swords and beads, which were thrown into the sea as a ritual offering to the deity. Today, more than 80,000 artifacts have been recovered from the sea, presenting a tangible history of the sacred traditions practiced there.

Female presence: a forbidden affair

Interestingly, for centuries women have been banned from visiting the island, a tradition believed to be based on the ancient belief of menstrual impurity and the need to protect the purity of the rituals performed on the island. The exact reasoning remains a matter of speculation and is steeped in various interpretations and tales of folklore.

Visiting Okinoshima

Modern visits to Okinoshima are highly restricted, not only preserving the sanctity of the site but also protecting its environmental habitat. Annually, only a handful of men, chosen from the Munakata Taisha Shrine, are allowed to visit. They are allowed to pray there but are bound by a sacred vow of secrecy, forbidden to reveal details of their pilgrimage.

For anyone who wants to immerse themselves in the mystical history of Okinoshima, a visit to Oshima Island, home to the Munakata Taisha Shrine dedicated to Okinoshima’s ruling goddess, should suffice, where you can learn more about the intriguing history of the island of Okinoshima.

Top Image: Men visiting Okinoshima Island must go naked. Source: Kapawtord / Adobe Stock.

For Joanna Gillan


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