[su_heading size=”20″]Approximately 60 km off the coast of Busan, Tsushima Island and its sleepy port cities of Hitakatsu and Izuhara are quaint spots packed with plenty of things to do, making the island a perfect destination for a long weekend spent enjoying Japan well off the beaten path.[/su_heading]
Travel blogger Tom Shepard has put together five things you can enjoy on Tsushima. It’s by no means a complete list of all the island has to offer, but it’s a great one to use as inspiration to fuel your own adventure.
Rent a Bike
Forget the expensive taxis and tour buses. Whether your ferry ticket has you landing in Hitakatsu or Izuhara, do yourself a favor and rent a bike for about $10 per day. It can be hilly, so electric-assist options are available. With some tourist maps in hand, ride outside of the city to see the villages, forests, streams, mountains, parks and temples. Cruising along the coastal roads and rice paddies with minimal traffic will give you child-like freedom and enable you to see lots while taking in the unspoiled authenticity of Tsushima.
Situated in the north, Hitakatsu offers hotels, guesthouses and even camping sites at the beautiful and tropical-looking Miuda Beach, if you’re the adventurous type. Pop into one of the restaurants and enjoy some delicious, local food, and be sure to make your way around the northern end of the island to see sights like Tonosaki Park (great for an afternoon stroll), the historic Toyo Battery Ruins and the Korean viewpoint.
The largest city on the island, Izuahara is tucked away in the southeast corner of Tsushima and also has several sites to visit within walking or biking distance. You can relax at Ofunae Port or make the journey up the hill to Isaribi Park to enjoy the free foot spa with beautiful views looking out into the sea. Banshoin Temple and the Hachimangu Shrine are located in the city and are definitely worth an hour or two of your time!
Take a Bus Ride Across the Island
Tsushima Island is roughly 70 km long but a mere 15 km across. If you have a full day, take a morning bus ride across the island and you’ll find yourself staring out the window at the beautiful coastal roads, lush forests and farming villages along the way. It’ll give you a great opportunity to explore the opposite end of the island, and the best part is that foreigners can purchase an unlimited-use, one-day bus pass for about 10,000 won.
Enjoy Japanese Cuisine
You won’t find any fast food or chain restaurants on Tsushima Island, but why would you want to eat there anyway? The restaurants scattered throughout Tsushima serve traditional Japanese dishes, many of which have their own local twist. Seafood lovers will rejoice with the sushi, but there’s something on the menu to please everyone. Local dishes include rokube noodles (from sweet potatoes) and soba noodles (from buckwheat). If you’re a foodie, you can hop from restaurant to restaurant and get a taste of it all.
Getting There: There are a few companies with ferry routes connecting Hitakatsu and Izuhara with Busan’s international ferry terminal (1-2 hours, one-way). The schedules and prices change often, so check their websites (www.ferryto.co.kr) for detailed information. Reservations can also be made over the phone, and some ferry companies allow you to bring a bicycle. Don’t forget your passport and plenty of Japanese yen because ATMs are scarce and not always friendly to foreign cards.
Tom and his wife Elicia are from Wisconsin and, as avid hikers, they have visited all 16 of Korea’s mountainous national parks. You can read more from Tom on his blog at klimbingkoreanmountains.wordpress.com.
Photos by Tom Shepard