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Men visiting Okinoshima Island must be naked.  Source: Kapawtord / Adobe Stock.

Only Men Can Visit Okinoshima Island in Japan and They Must Strip Naked First


In the rich tapestry of the world’s ancient history, there stands a mysterious island steeped in ritual and reverence – Okinoshima. Nestled between the islands of Kyushu and Honshu in Japan, Okinoshima Island carries a tradition that extends beyond the ordinary: men can visit the island, but only if they strip naked first.

Okinoshima Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been regarded as a sacred place since the 4th century, the era of the Yamato Dynasty. Serving as a critical hub for diplomatic and trade relations with the Korean Peninsula and China, it has been a witness to a mingling of cultures, prayers, and rituals.

Disrobing to Honor the Divine

The tradition of men stripping naked before stepping foot on Okinoshima is much more than an eccentric ritual; it’s rooted deeply in Shinto spirituality which sees this act as a ritual of purification. The purifying ritual, known as "Misogi," involves men undressing completely to cleanse themselves from 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 ritualistic offering to the deity. Today, over 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, women have been prohibited from visiting the island for centuries, a tradition believed to be grounded in 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 subject of speculation and is steeped in various interpretations and tales from folklore.

Visiting Okinoshima

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

Anyone wishing to immerse themselves in the mystical history of Okinoshima, would have to suffice with a visit to Oshima Island, home to the Munakata Taisha shrine dedicated to the goddess who governs Okinoshima, where you can learn more about the intriguing history of Okinoshima Island.

Top image: Men visiting Okinoshima Island must be naked.  Source: Kapawtord / Adobe Stock.

By Joanna Gillan

Joanna Gillan's picture


Joanna Gillan is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. 

Joanna completed a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) degree in Australia and published research in the field of Educational Psychology. She has a rich and varied career, ranging from teaching... Read More

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