A trip to this remote destination ends up mimicking the Studio Ghibli anime film it’s named after.

There are a number of places in Japan where anime fans can feel like they’ve stepped into their favourite animated movie. While some of these places have been officially confirmed by anime studios as having inspired settings for some of their scenes, others remain tantalisingly unconfirmed, leaving us to wonder if a secret site visit by a director led to the images we see on-screen.

One such place that remains up in the air is an uninhabited island called Okinoshima in Wakayama Prefecture. This island is known locally as “Japan’s Laputa Island“, due to the fact that it’s home to the moss-covered ruins of a gun battery, which are said to resemble the world of Laputa from the Studio Ghibli anime film Laputa: Castle in the Sky.

Our reporter Seiji Nakazawa has long yearned to visit Okinoshima, so during the summer holidays he set aside some time for a daytrip to the mysterious island. According to his research, it would be best to arrive at the ferry terminal at Kada early in the morning for the 20-minute trip to the island, as the ferries only have capacity for 100 people, and during busy times tickets can sell out.

Kada is just over an hour by train from Kansai Airport, which would make it difficult to do in a day from Tokyo, so Seiji decided to stay at his parents’ house, which is about an hour away from Kada, and catch the train to the port in the morning.

The sky was blue and the sun was bright when Seiji finally hopped on the train, and he felt excited to be setting out on this adventure. Okinoshima is the main island in a group of four islands known collectively as Tomogashima, and he was looking forward to walking around the island in four or five hours, taking in all the sights of the former military fortress while he was there.

▼ Seiji arrived at Kada station at 9:48 a.m.

The port was within easy walking distance from the station, and as he walked there, he began to unwind into the slow pace of the area, casually strolling past fishmongers with shellfish displayed under the shade of their eaves.

The port town had a relaxing atmosphere, and Seiji was immediately charmed by everything he saw. After around 10 minutes, he had passed through the town and was now at the seaside, where he found a sign directing him to the ferry stop.

As he headed towards the ferry terminal, he found himself at a place that looked like a local dock. This didn’t seem like a spot that had been set up for tourists travelling over to the island, so he wasn’t sure if he was at the right place, but he kept walking anyway.

The cool breeze off the water was a welcome relief as Seiji walked along the concrete under the heat of the sun.

As he approached the rustic-looking buildings near the overpass, Seiji saw he was indeed at the right spot — the sign in red and blue read “Tomogashima Liner Jetty“.

As he headed over to the jetty, a group of men who were repairing something in the shadows glanced over at Seiji, making him wonder if he was supposed to be walking through this area.

He needn’t have worried, though, as this really was the area for people boarding the ferry, although it didn’t look like it.

Glancing at his watch, Seiji saw that it was now 10:10 a.m., which meant he’d have to wait for the next ferry at 11:00 a.m. That would give him a good five hours on the island — just enough time to walk around it — before hopping on the last ferry back at 4:30 p.m.

Seiji’s excitement was now growing, although he did think it was strange that there weren’t dozens of people here waiting for the ferry — it was just him and a family on the jetty. He decided to walk around the dock as he waited, and that’s when he saw a sign that immediately crushed his spirits.

“Today, due to inclement weather, trips are cancelled.”


Seiji felt as if the wind had been taken out of his sails, so he stopped a passing staff member to confirm whether this bad news was true. They confirmed that despite it being sunny, all trips were definitely cancelled today, as there was a swell offshore due to a typhoon. 

Songda, the fifth typhoon of 2022, was making its way up northwest from Guam and skimming Kyushu so there was nothing Seiji could do about the situation. He reluctantly took a seat in the shade as he gathered his thoughts, and that’s when he realised the family on the jetty weren’t waiting for the ferry — they were taking a breather in the shade as well.

Seiji stared out across the sea at the islands that so eluded him. They were in his sights but still well out of reach, and he felt heartbroken that he wasn’t able to explore their secrets. Just as a storm concealed Laputa from the characters in the Ghibli movie, a storm had now concealed Japan’s Laputa from our reporter, and there was nothing he could do but yell “Barusu” at the waves that crashed around him on the shoreline.

▼ “Barusu!!!” 

Alas, the movie incantation did nothing to change his situation, and no ferry ever came. So if you’re thinking of visiting Japan’s Laputa Island, be sure to check that the ferries are running before you go, as staff say cancellations can occur on the day according to the weather. Cancellations are announced on the official website at around 7:00 a.m. every day, which, in hindsight, is something Seiji wish he knew earlier.

He’ll now have to plan a return trip to finally live out his dreams of visiting Okinoshima, and when that happens, he’ll be bringing his Laputa levistone with him…just in case.

Featured image: Studio Ghibli
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