Journey to Genkaijima

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Genkaijima, Fukuoka
Genkaijima, Fukuoka

Long time no see ! I was hesitating to delete the blog or not but I decided to keep it and continue to write here sometimes. 

A year and a half ago I was one of the first to introduce Ainoshima, one of the cats islands near Fukuoka. I was planning to tour around the prefecture 8 islands and last Saturday I finally visited the second one: Genkaijima.

Genkaijima, Fukuoka

Genkaijima is an almost round island of 1.15km² located at the edge of Fukuoka Bay and the Genkai Sea. It is very recognizable thanks to its dome shape and can be seen from Fukuoka city when the weather is nice. One of the things to know about Genkaijima is that it was only a few kilometers from the epicenter of the Great Fukuoka earthquake which occured in 2005 . The magnitude was 6.6 on the Richter scale. Most of the buildings on the island collapsed and the inhabitants forced to evacuate. Nowdays houses, roads and schools have been rebuilt.

At the beginning I had in mind to go back to Ainoshima but I was too lazy to spend one hour in the subway/train/bus/boat to go there. That's when I thought about Genkaijima which is at a 35 minute boat ride from Bayside Harbor and Hakata Tower : much more accessible for me ! Since I had heard that there were a lot of cats it was perfect.
I took the ferry on a half-cloudy half-sunny Saturday morning . The boatwas big enough to accommodate a hundred passengers but we were only 5 : 4 inhabitants of the island and me. It seems that tourists don't go there. When I boarded I was even asked if I didn't want to go to Shikanoshima (more touristy) instead. No ! I was determined to explore Genkaijima and sat down on a comfortable almond green bench.

Genkaijima ferry, Fukuoka

Arriving at the port, my fellow travelers crossed the small streets of the village while half a dozen people boarded to go to Fukuoka. I quickly found myself alone in the harbor and felt like I was landing on a deserted island.
Besides, what struck me at Genkaijima was the silence. It was SO calm that I only could hear the sound of the waves. There are certainly not many inhabitants (around 500) but the silence was deafening.

The fact that there is absolutely nothing to do has further accentuated this feeling. One of the purposes of my visit was to walk around the island, see the north coast and the rocky Hashira island which I found beautiful pictures on Google.
Unfortunately the road was impracticable without rubber boots on the east side and a landslide passing over the west side didn't really make me want to try to go. It was probably just a remnant of the 2005 earthquake and certainly safe but I didn't feel it. In my mind: earthquake + landslide + road in bad condition + nobody = danger.
So I turned back, even a little disappointed with my lack of courage. It's a shame but I don't think I missed the world's most extraordinary landscape either.

I spentsome time at the beach which was covered of trash, like the whole coast. It is a real problem on the island and signs regularly remind people to not thorw awy their waste. Japanese cities may be very clean but the nature is pretty dirty. Japanese people don't take care of it and it is regrettable.
At least the beauty and transparency of the water quickly made me forget about the trash. Sometimes dark blue, sometimes almost turquoise, it was beautiful and I understood why it's a popular place in the summer.

Genkaijima sea, Fukuoka

Genkaijima sea, Fukuoka

Genkaijima sea, Fukuoka
A landslide !?

Then I walked into the village. It didn't have much interest and not so beautiful : it was a normal Japanese village. Most houses and buildings are brand new, the roads freshly tarred, the wood of the small temple was so new that it was like it have been built the day before. The only interesting place was a small freight elevator that looked more like a small roller coaster. I think it helps the residents to transport their belongings to the top of the village.

I climbed the stairs to the school at the top of the island, before heading down to the dike where there were many fishermen. Genkaijima is a renowned place for the quality of its fishing. There are many sea urchins, abalone and a delicious shellfish called sazae. The latter must be picked up with a special authorization but people can bring back home the fish freely. From the dike I had a beautiful view of the whole island, this is the picture I chose for the top of this article.

Genkaijima, Fukuoka
I wanted to ride it !

Genkaijima, Fukuoka

Genkaijima, Fukuoka

And finally, about the cats. I had heard that Genkaijima was another "Japanese cats island" even if there are many cats (I found around 10) I don't think Genkaijima can be considered as an umpteenth cats island. Ainoshima is much more interesting with more and less fierce cats which  come to play with people. Apart from the few cats present on the port on arrival and departure of the ferry I really have to look well to find cats on this island.

Cats in Genkaijima, Fukuoka

Cats in Genkaijima, Fukuoka

Cats in Genkaijima, Fukuoka

Cats in Genkaijima, Fukuoka

I stayed 2 hours and a half on Genkaijima and surprisingly it passed pretty quickly. I wouldn't go again but I'm glad I went at least once. I think that everyone got that this isn't a place I would recommend for a trip, or even for people living there (unless you love fishing). In case some of you want to go check the ferry informations at the bottom of the article.

Useful words

Umi (海) : sea
Isshuu (一周) : go round. Shima wo isshuu shitakatta (島を一周したかった) : I wanted to walk all around the island
Uni (ウニ) : urchin
Shingenchi (震源地) : epicenter
Gyousen (漁船) : fishing boat

Access & useful informations

Genkaijima (玄海島)

Access from hakata
Take bus n°99 and get off at the last stop "Hakata Futô (Bayside Place Hakata)" (博多ふ頭(ベイサイドプレイス博多)), 230 yens for 15 minutes.Then take the ferry. The journey takes around 35 minutes and a round trip cost 1720JPY. Buy the ticket at counter n°3 (English available)

Ferry timetable
From Hakata: 7:10, 8:50, 11:20, 13:30, 16:45, 17:20, 19:05, 20:35 (12月-2月) / 21:00 (3月-11月)
From Genkaijima : 6:20, 8:00, 9:40, 12:10, 14:30, 17:35, 19:45

▶︎ Genkaijima official website (jp)

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