One of the many reasons why teaching ESL in South Korea has been amazing is the work-life balance we inherited. Korea observes many national holidays, so with that comes days off of school. Back in early May, we had been granted a four-day weekend, and Elicia and I wanted to do something… epic. With only 96 hours to work with and plane tickets out-of-this-mind expensive, we looked into other options and I stumbled upon the Japanese island of Tsushima. Accessible quickly by ferry from Busan, we booked some tickets and made the most of the four days on this incredible island.
This post will outline 6 reasons why heading to Tsushima for a long weekend should be on the top of your quick get-aways from Korea.
1. Plenty of Information
Upon arriving in Tsushima (Hitakatsu or Izuhara cities – depends on the ferry you take) you’ll be able to find maps and information to help you out. But, I’d recommend printing maps and taking information with you.
If you forget maps, need not to worry. The people of Tsushima are incredibly helpful and they’ll point you in the right direction if you’re lost. We fortunately never got lost (I’m a map and navigational junkie) but several residents went out of their way to check up on us – so many people stopped and wanted to be sure we were doing ok! Much like this guy, below. PS, this was my favorite ‘car’ we saw on the island. One-of-a-kind. Cool dude.
2. Miuda Beach
Miuda Beach is a 45min walk from Hitakatsu, or a short (but really expensive) taxi ride. This was our first stop upon arriving because it looked gorgeous in the pictures. Yup, it was gorgeous! We ended up camping here for all three nights. During the day a couple tour buses stop here for 5 minutes so the group can snap a picture or two, then they go. After 4pm-ish, things really quiet down and we basically had the whole beach and campground to ourselves. In early May it was a bit too chilly for swimming but it sure did look tempting.
3. Rental Bikes
No matter where you find yourself on Tsushima Island, do yourself a favor and rent a bike. For about $10 a day, you’ll be given freedom on two wheels and you can explore as much or as little as you’d like, so long as the bikes are back by 6pm. I found taxis to be ridiculously expensive, so we never got in one. For Elicia and I, we rented bikes for two days in Hitakatsu so we could get out and explore on our terms (not at the mercy of a driver or tour group).
We first headed to Miuda Beach and set up camp, then cruised around a nice little loop in the northern-most part of Tsushima on Thursday afternoon. There’s plenty to see and experience, such as lovely coastal roads like this:
And the Toyo Battery Ruins were really interesting:
I particularly liked Tonosaki Park, which is located between Hitakatsu city and Miuda Beach. It’s located right on the coast, and we enjoyed a nice one-hour stroll on the trails that take you around the park’s peninsula.
We had such a blast on Thursday afternoon, we decided that Friday should be spent out on the bikes once again – this time, making a huge loop. Riding bikes was priceless. Friday’s highlights included things like narrow woods through dense trees:
Beautiful scenery next to the water:
Even though the hills work tough and the six-geared, heavy, beast-of-a-cruiser bike was far from the fastest bike I’ve ever ridden, I couldn’t get over the beautiful coastal roads we discovered while riding on Friday:
If there was only one thing you did on Tsushima, renting a bike and exploring would be my top pick.
4. Public Buses
We found the tiny public bus terminal in Hitakatsu and decided we should take a bus ride down to the southern city of Izuhara. On the way there (early Saturday morning), I gazed out the window along the winding roads and soaked in the landscape of Tsushima. Riding a bus allows you to get a good lay of the land while covering more area than a bike can. Once in Izuhara, we were given a fresh opportunity to see a whole new city. We grabbed some maps from the local information office and set out on foot to conquer all of Izuhara. Some highlights in the Izuhara area included things like the Banshoin Temple and the Hachimangu Shrine, where we learned up on some history of the island and appreciated some unique things like this:
Ofunae Port is a 30 minute walk from Izuhara, but well worth it. They used to do some shipbuilding here.
Isaribi Park was a tough walk up the hill, but worth it. They had a foot bath where we soaked our tired feet for a while!
On top of all this, we enjoyed two delicious meals, and I got to experience the best sushi I’ve ever eaten. Using the public bus system on Tsushima was a great decision – we now felt like we had seen so much of the island by doing a day-trip down to Izuhara and back to our campsite at Miuda Beach. If you’re on Tsushima and have a day wide open – grab a bus schedule ahead of time and plan a day-trip to the other side of the island. We got the schedule from the bus terminal on Friday evening, and rode the earliest bus to Izuhara, returning back to Hitakatsu on the last possible bus. There’s plenty to do and see!
Tsushima is pretty hilly, and there’s no shortage of nice mountains to climb. Time didn’t permit us to do a long hike, but while we were in Izuhara on Saturday we ventured up towards Mt. Ariake to see the Shimizuyama Castle Ruins. If you’re in Tsushima, carve out a couple hours for a hike if you’re up for it – I bet you won’t be disappointed! This particular trail itself wasn’t very steep, and it was a nice 45min walk up to the three different castle ruin sites:
There’s many mountains to climb on Tsushima, give one a whirl and I bet you’ll enjoy the sweeping views of the sea and little cities beneath you, much like this view we had of Izuhara:
6. Quaint Villages
Because we rented bikes and rode many km’s around Hitakatsu and the northern part of Tsushima, we rode through tons of tiny little villages. In some, the concentration seemed to be on farming:
And in others the focus seemed to be on fishing:
All these different types of villages we explored had one very obvious thing in common: quietness. These were slow-paced little villages. Maybe they had a convenience store, maybe not. Maybe a post office, maybe not. The next little village might be 5km away, so things were particularly quiet and peaceful. I noticed that residents were overflowing with joy – they were jolly, full of smiles, and seemed genuinely happy to have run into us exploring their humble communities by way of bicycle.
Whether you ride a bike, a taxi or bus, or just walk on foot to some nearby villages, checking out these quaint villages is a wonderful reason why to visit Tsushima Island, Japan.
So there you have it – 6 reasons why we loved Tsushima Island and why I think it should be on your radar for a long weekend. The island was uniquely beautiful and I appreciated the cleanliness, the helpful people, the delicious sushi. Don’t forget to check out this website to get inspired – there’s a wealth of knowledge and maps available to you.
I’ll look back on Tsushima Island and remember that exploration by way of bicycle is one of the best ways to get intimately acquainted with an unfamiliar place or culture. Go slow, stop and smell the roses, and enjoy what Tsushima has to offer.