Fukue is the largest of the Goto Islands, that pearl of uncut emeralds that float in the East China Sea 60 miles off the coast from Nagasaki. Although it’s still catching up as a destination for those beyond the nearby prefectures of Kyushu, there is much to see and do on the island.
Outside of an Okinawan island in the deep Pacific, Osezaki Lighthouse on the western tip of Fukue is about as far west as you can get in the Japanese archipelago. The lighthouse has been unmanned for the past few decades but it lives on as a stunning vantage point to take in the island and the East China Sea. This distant point was the final piece of Japan that sailors on the kentoshi envoy ships would have seen when departing for China. The surrounding area, especially the cliffs around the outlook, are particularly impressive.
Even though Fukue is the most well-trafficked island in the chain, spots like Tetoba show that there’s still plenty to discover. The manager of this handsome coffee shop formerly worked in the rural revitalization bureaucracy; she saw with her own eyes the renewed interest among locals in making handicrafts but saw a problem: there was nowhere to sell them. Sip a caramel macchiato and browse the products of the island that the shop curates.
The legacy of the kakure Christians that came to the islands to escape torture remains something of an unwritten story, but it’s generated fresh interest in the island’s history. Many of the churches on the Goto Islands, built when the missionaries finally returned, are either still consecrated chapels or sit empty, but Dozaki Church has been turned into a museum, dedicated to the 26 martyrs of Nagasaki and the Christian refugees that made their home on Fukue. English signage is limited but the collection of photographs is very evocative of a bygone way of life on the island.
The mother-daughter proprietresses of Baby Qoo Coffee Shop have become the star of innumerable Instagram stories and travel guide writeups—a not unwarranted celebrity, since the quaint shop and the hospitable mother of the duo do sum up something of the island. Located on the same eastern peninsula that’s home to Dozaki Church, a visit to Baby Qoo for a cuppa and a chat is a prerequisite for those visiting the chapel.
One of the most underrated beaches in Japan, Takahama Beach’s star is swiftly on the rise, so visit now, before it’s on every vacationer’s to-do list. Even in the busier months of July and August, crowds on the white sands are at a minimum. Savvy vendors have moved in, as well, establishing the Beach House Big Wave, dealers in all the beach necessities, including inflatable toys for the kids.
The volcanic eruption that left the green pimple that is Onidake, that domelike mound of a hill on the eastern shore of Fukue, also created the lunar shores of the Abunze Coast. On an island with a surplus of peculiar, stark beauty, the Abunze Coast is definitely a standout. Stop by the visitors center which does a great job of explaining exactly how this unique landscape was formed.