Lifestyles and Traditions Wisdom of the Islanders

The people of the Oki Islands accepted the geological features of their home, created by volcanic activity, and utilized them cleverly to make their lives easier. Some examples we can see are a four-field rotation system designed to utilize the scarce flatlands and nutrient-poor soil to the fullest, and tunnels drilled by hand in the 6-million-year old pyroclastic flow to make travel more convenient.
The contemporary landscape that features an airport and terrace fields reflects the wisdom of the islanders.

The Dōzen Caldera and Makihata Farming

Makihata is the name of a unique farming method developed in the Oki Islands.
The Dōzen Islands are the outer ring of a caldera that was formed by volcanic activity 6 million years ago. With scarce flatland and numerous steep slopes that cannot accumulate soil and nutrients, they are not very suitable for agriculture.
To utilize the little farming land available to the fullest, the people developed a rotation farming method called makihata.

While rotation farming was also carried out in medieval Europe, in the Oki Islands it took the unusual form of a four-year cycle.

  • Raise cattle as a labor force and let them graze the pasture and fertilize the soil
  • Cultivate beans for food manufacturing and to fertilize the soil (through the production of root nodule bacteria)
  • Cultivate millet as a hardy crop (also in the years with poor weather)
  • Cultivate grains as a staple food

By dividing the land into fields where all these steps were implemented in rotation, this cycle allowed the land to be used continuously, yielding the same products without depleting its nutrients.

Stone walls were used to divide the land into fields for makihata farming, which was carried out until around 1970.

Remains of the walls dividing fields on Mt. Akahage (Chiburijima Island)

Even from these stone walls, we can learn about the wisdom of the people who once lived on the islands.

The Only Wide Flatland in the Dōzen Islands

As the outer ring of the caldera, the Dōzen Islands should have no wide flatland suitable for rice cultivation. Yet there is one such area in the northern part of Nakanoshima Island (Ama Town). It is also the only place in the Dōzen Islands where rice is produced commercially.

Flatland on Nakanoshima Island seen from Mt. Kinkō-ji

This flatland stretches from the beautiful Akiya Coast, the pride of Nakanoshima Island, toward Mt. Takuhi at the centre of the Dōzen Caldera. It was created by volcanic activity about 2.8 million years ago. Before its formation, in its place there was a deep inlet. Volcanic activity occurred in the close vicinity, and the resulting flow of magma and ash closed the mouth of the inlet and reclaimed the land.

Lava Plateau and the Oki Airport

Aside from riversides, the Oki Islands are made up almost entirely of mountains, leaving only one possible area to build an airport.
This area is the Misaki Peninsula on Dōgo Island, which now is the site of an airport. This peninsula is a lava plateau, created by basaltic lava that flowed here after an eruption 500 thousand years ago. Until recently, it was used as a pasture and reforestation site.

Misaki Peninsula with the airport seen from the sea (Dōgo Island)

Although the construction of the airport necessitated raising the ground level and flattening hills, it is easy to imagine that similar work at any other location would take much more time and money. In this too, we can see the blessings of nature and the Earth's movements.

Tides on the Sea of Japan and Funagoya Boat Houses

Funagoya are small boat houses where boats can be stored and proctected from the elements. In the Tsuma area (Dōgo Island), such boat houses are made with traditional materials and methods. They are conveniently located right on the seashore.
Twenty boathouses lined up together with Mt. Takada in the background, which has also been a place of mountain worship, form the landscape of a peaceful fishing village. Nearby is a pine grove selected as one of the 100 most beautiful seaside pine proves in all of Japan.

Funagoya boat houses and Mt. Takada in the Tsuma area (Dōgo Island)

It is possible to leave boats in boat houses built right by the seashore because the difference between tides on the Sea of Japan is very small.