Kujukushima – how many pretty little islands?

Kujukushima Bay in Nagasaki Prefecture is both a popular recreation/sightseeing spot and a thriving fishing port especially known for its pearl farming and oyster production. Although “Kujukushima” literally means “99 islands”, there are actually 208 islands in the bay not to mention a number of rocky outcrops that don’t meet the technical definition of island. Wait! What?

It turns out that “kujuku” in this context means “innumerable” or “too many to count”. This picturesque bay is just one of a number of places in Japan with names that contain “kujuku” and some geographical feature.

There are plenty of nooks and crannies around the bay that visitors can explore by meandering on foot. In the vicinity of Kujukushima Pearl Resort coastal scenic trails boast occasional signboards explaining the flora and fauna (especially bird life) of the area. Since the shoreline includes sandy beaches and muddy tidal areas, there is particularly high biodiversity.

Perhaps a better way to see the bay is aboard a sightseeing cruise from the Kujukushima Pearl Resort that is the center of tourist activity on the bay.  Large sightseeing boats–including one that looks like a pirate ship!–sail from the marina four or five times a day (more in the summer months) and smaller “eco” tours are also available. There are even dinner cruises in the winter months; perfect for stargazing.  The daytime cruises allow visitors to get a close-up view the island-dotted scenery of the bay and its clear blue water, and even see a few pearl and oyster farms.

The resort also has an excellent yacht harbor. Not a sailor? Here you can take sailing lessons or, if you prefer, sea kayaking lessons.

Kujukushima Pearl Resort also operates a large aquarium featuring the creatures of Kujukushima Bay.  The aquarium has an educational focus on sustainability and eco-friendly enjoyment of the bay’s special nature with the aim of helping visitors appreciate the value of the bay’s very special ecosystem. 

According to resort staff member Tsuyoshi Tominaga, some visitors appreciate the resort more than others.  Tominaga reports: “We have one tank filled with bay water and open to the air. The Pacific Reef Herons that are native to this area keep diving in and stealing our fish.”

The aquarium has an entire room devoted to the bay’s jellyfish with each tank including indicators of how poisonous each species is. Poisonous or not, watching these glowing blobs gently sway in their tanks in the darkened room is extremely relaxing. If there was music, the experience would be like watching ballet.

One of the most popular features of the aquarium for Japanese visitors is the dolphin tank and the daily dolphin shows.  One of the aquarium’s dolphins gave birth in 2018, and the adolescent addition to their family has also been slowly learning to perform in the popular shows. While many Westerners object to keeping dolphins in captivity and might choose to boycott, the affection the handlers have for their cetacean charges is both obvious and touching.

The resort also highlights the oyster farming of the bay with a popular Oyster Eating Festival twice yearly in November and February at the resort. Kujukushima’s oysters are small but packed with flavor. Another popular activity for visitors to the resort is cutting open a pearl oyster to retrieve a pearl.

Tominaga was also proud to share that after the oyster beds of Tohoku’s Sanriku coast were destroyed in the 2011 tsunami, the oyster farmers of Kujukushima sent seed oysters to Tohoku to help the area rebuild its oyster farms.

Eight observation platforms dot the hills around Kujukushima Bay and are particularly popular places to watch the sunset. Most even have signboards indicating where to expect the sun to set on the horizon at different times of the year. It is indeed a peaceful feeling to watch the sky and the water change colors as the sun slowly sinks into the horizon (or into the haze, if , like me, you visit on a cloudy day).

© 2021 Jigsaw-japan.com and Vicki L. Beyer
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