Nestled off the serene Matsuyama coast in Japan’s Ehime Prefecture lies a hidden treasure – Kashima, an uninhabited island embraced by a mystical population of amiable deer. This secluded haven, true to its name, beckons visitors via a local ferry adorned with a charming deer mascot, ushering them into a world of enchantment.
The origins of Kashima’s deer date back to ancient times, intricately woven into Shinto beliefs where these creatures hold revered status as divine messengers. Beyond religious significance, they stand as revered symbols in Japanese culture, often deemed as national treasures. The seamless cohabitation of these graceful animals and humans births a truly extraordinary environment, where visitors witness them freely traversing breathtaking landscapes.
Despite its uninhabited nature, the island hosts a handful of quaint stores, fostering unique interactions between deer and day trippers or adventurers. During low tide, inviting sandy beaches emerge, tempting visitors with the pleasures of swimming and snorkelling. Adorning the circular island path are decorative stones etched with haiku poems, amplifying the poetic allure of this picturesque destination.
Spanning a mere 1.5 kilometres, Kashima invites leisurely walks around its circumference and over its central mountain peak. On clear days, the panoramic views from the peak extend over the Seto Inland Sea, gazing at the majestic Mt. Takanawa across the waters. Its compact size makes it an ideal day trip, allowing travellers to savour its wonders at a leisurely pace.
Among Kashima’s remarkable features, alongside its famed deer, stand a pair of unique sea rocks connected by a sacred rope (shimenawa) and adorned with a torii gate, setting a captivating scene at sunset – a perfect Instagram moment. The annual replacement of this sacred rope takes centre stage during the spring Kashima Festival in May, drawing locals and tourists alike to witness this significant ritual.
The Kashima Festival celebrates the island’s cultural and natural treasures, including its cherished deer. Visitors immerse themselves in traditional performances, relish local cuisine, and engage in cultural events showcasing the island’s rich heritage.
Whether captivated by the allure of sacred deer, yearning for panoramic mountain vistas, or seeking a tranquil stroll along the island’s shores, Kashima unfolds as a whimsical sanctuary of peace and cultural marvels.