In one of the weirdest traditions in the world, an island shrouded with mystery, myths and legends in Japan is strictly off-limits to women and is only inhabited by men. The island is Okinoshima Island, off the coast of Munakata, Fukuoka and is considered sacred by the local Munataka tribe. The interesting thing is that here men worship the goddess form of the sea, but there is a ban on women.
Japan’s Okinoshima Island was declared a world heritage by UNESCO. This island is spread over a total of 700 square meters. It is said that from the fourth to the ninth century, this island used to be the centre of trade between the Korean Islands and China.
The island as a whole is revered as a Shinto god. An ancient religion with Japanese roots is called Shinto. Menstruation would pollute the island according to Shinto beliefs, which see blood as impure. This is one theory as to why women aren’t allowed here. Only 200 men were permitted on the island once a year, after they had “purified" themselves in the nearby sea, for generations. Before going to this island, men must bathe naked in the sea, which is believed to purify their souls.
The legend behind the island is interesting. Okinoshima is mentioned in the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki, two of Japan’s oldest historical texts. The sun goddess Amaterasu, according to the Kojiki, fashioned three daughters from a sword and sent them to Japan, where the Munakata clan worshipped them. The goddesses are honoured at the Munakata Taisha, a grouping of three shrines in Munakata. For safety across the water, the locals still worship them. The island itself is regarded as a divinity. As the access to the island is limited, several Okinoshima worship locations are located on the mainland.
Nothing may be taken from the island, not even a single blade of grass. Nobody is allowed to discuss anything they saw or heard while visiting. Priests, researchers, military personnel, and members of the press are the only men allowed on the island.
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