When European writer, Lafcadio Hearn, wrote about Shimane prefecture in 1894, he described a land steeped in tradition and nature. Since then, all of Japan seems to have ignored this sleepy area of the Chugoku region whose most recent claim to fame is having the country’s largest population of the elderly. But if Shimane prefecture is stuck in the olden days, the Oki Islands are lost in time. Lazily floating out at sea in what is technically Shimane, but is actually an entire world of its own, Oki is a forgotten gem tucked in a dusty corner of Japan. Rambling down the overgrown back roads, you’re sure to come across a wrinkled face and a hearty “konnichiwa,” a small experience that seems to have become a rarity in the always busy metropolises of this country.

It is in this uncommon place that we had the privilege of staying in a home that has stood for over a century. Join us as we share our experience staying at the Japanese guesthouse called Tsukudaya.

Tsukudaya is located on Okinoshima, an island that is part of the Oki Archipelago. The area is very rarely traveled because of its out-of-the-way location, and is relatively unknown by foreign tourists, so here’s a map for reference:

▼ Oki is the tiny white dot at the end of the arrow.Japan_location_map_with_side_map_of_the_Ryukyu_Islands.svg

Traveling to Oki is an adventure in itself. Hop aboard a ferry for a 2.5 hour journey across the Sea of Japan. In the summer months you’ll see flying fish, the official fish of Shimane prefecture, as they dodge the oncoming vessel. True to their name, these flying fish stay out of water as they ride the air for an impressively long amount of time. If you’re really lucky, a pod of dolphins will act as your escort on your way. But perhaps the most beautiful sights you’ll see will come once you approach the islands themselves.


Once you make it to Okinoshima, the largest of the Oki islands, you still have a small bit of extra traveling to do to get to our cherished guesthouse, Tsukudaya, but that’s what makes this the perfect place to stay.

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As you can see, the ferry port and airport are located on the exact opposite side of the 42.95 km² (16.5 mi²) island. It may seem like an extra unnecessary step to an already faraway destination, but this only adds to the many charms of Tsukudaya. Removed from the most frequented path of tourists and commuters, Tsukudaya is a true getaway, giving visitors a break from the usual. As an extra reward for your efforts, you’ll pass through some beautiful terrain on your way there.





As we mentioned earlier, Tsukudaya is located in a home that is 120 years old. Back when it was first built, it was considered a mansion, built by a very wealthy resident of Oki. It had gone into disuse for over 40 years until an intrepid mainlander found herself on this strange island.


▼ The view from the front of the guesthouse.


Saki-san, the guesthouse’s owner, was a mainland city girl looking for a little adventure. She took a three-month job out in the Oki Islands, but found herself captivated by the raw natural charm of the place and decided to make Oki her permanent home. Now she shares her love of the islands with her guests every day.

▼ Here’s Saki-san out in front of Tsukudaya.IMG_2863

▼And here she is entertaining guests.

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Saki-san is a quiet girl who might be mistaken for shy. Humble in nature, she responded by bowing with downcast eyes when we complemented her on breathing life back into such a beautiful home. But underneath her seemingly sheepish exterior is a tenacious spirit and infallible work ethic. Turning a disused home into a working guesthouse was no small task and adding modern conveniences such as running water and an indoor shower and bathroom only added to the challenges. But if the century-old home is the bones of the guesthouse, Saki-san is its soul, providing guests with hearty conversation and a pleasant one-of-a-kind experience. Although she provides distinctly Japanese accomodations, Saki-san is nearly fluent in English; good news for out-of-country travelers looking to explore seldom traveled paths.


Guests stay on tatami floors in Japanese-style rooms and sleep atop futons, the traditional Japanese bedding still used by households today. Each room is cleanly decorated and has small areas fitted with chairs where guests can sit and relax.




▼ Share a small couch with a few friends.


▼ But it’s the small touches that give this place its charm.



Tsukudaya has a lovely kitchen that guests are invited to use at their leisure. Those who are interested in learning how to cook Oki-Island-style are invited to cook alongside Saki-san and learn how to prepare fresh ingredients from the guesthouse garden and nearby ocean.




▼ There are plenty of spices and ingredients to choose from.


During our stay, Saki-san offered us a few homemade treats made right there in the guesthouse from ingredients given to her by a few little old ladies that live nearby. Here we have some umeboshi, Japanese salted plums sitting out for anyone to enjoy:


We also were delighted to try homemade shiso juice, made from the red leaves of Japan’s popular garnish:

▼ It’s a lovely, yet shocking pink color!


Saki-san also had shiso leaves drying out in front of the guesthouse, getting them ready to be made into something delicious.


We also spotted some umeshu, Japanese plum wine, in the kitchen, made with locally harvested plums. The sweet liquor will stay perched on the kitchen shelf for a few more weeks until it’s ready for drinking.


But perhaps the best part about staying at Tsukudaya is the Oki hospitality. Like a kind older sister, Saki-san makes sure her guests are taken care of and introduces them to the flavor of island life. Offering fishing excursions, tours of the area’s most treasured views, and kayaking adventures through Oki’s many sea caves, you’re sure to have a marvelously peculiar stay.

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Best of all, at Tsukudaya, mountains and oceans away from the nearest maid cafe or skyscraper, you won’t find the bright lights or technological advances Japan has become known for. In their place are sparkling waters, good people, and the clearest night sky you’ll ever encounter. So if you’re looking for a taste of unfamiliar Japan with a dash of the unknown, look no further than guesthouse Tsukudaya.

【Guesthouse information】

Address: 152-1 Nakamura, Okinoshima Town, Oki-gun, Shimane-ken
Phone: 08512-4-0077
For reservations, email:

Oki Island Life experience plans:

 (one night, two meals)

  • Enjoy a one night stay on futon and tatami in a 120-year-old traditional Japanese house.
  • Learn how to fish for your own dinner in Oki’s beautiful ocean and harvest fresh vegetables from the guesthouse garden alongside the guesthouse owner. You will then be taught how to cook like a local and learn how to prepare all of the fresh ingredients in the kitchen of the guesthouse.
  • Price: 6,500 yen (US$63.50) per person


(one night, no meals)

  • Enjoy a one night stay on futon and tatami in a 120-year-old traditional Japanese house.
  • Use the guesthouse kitchen to cook your own meals.
  • Price: 4,500 yen ($43.96) per person
  • One-way pick-up from the port or airport is available for 1,000 yen ($9.77) per car. This is the cheapest and most convenient way to get to Tsukudaya.

(Island activities)

  • Guests are also invited to participate in a variety of island life activities including sea kayaking, cycling, fishing, and swimming in the ocean, a short five-minute walk away from the guesthouse. There is also an optional island tour of popular sights around Oki.

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Photos: RocketNews24 / Khoa Dinh (unless otherwise noted)