Lighthouses of Japan: Ōsumi Islands

The Ōsumi and Amami islands, together with neighboring groups of smaller islands, form the northern half of the Nansei (or Ryūkyū) Islands (Nansei-shotō or "southwest islands" in Japanese), an archipelago extending southwestward from Kyūshū towards Taiwan. Administratively, these islands are part of Kagoshima Prefecture, the southernmost prefecture of Kyūshū.

Historically the Ryūkyū Islands were a more-or-less independent kingdom paying tribute as needed to either China or Japan or both. Japan annexed the islands in 1879 over Chinese protests; U.S. President Ulysses Grant, called in as arbitrator, ruled in favor of Japan. At the end of World War II in 1945 the Ryūkyū Islands from the Tokara group southward came under U.S. control. The U.S. returned the Tokaras to Japan in 1952 and the Amami Islands in 1953; Japan then attached these islands to Kagoshima Prefecture. Okinawa and the islands farther south remained under U.S. control as the Trust Territory of the Ryūkyū Islands. In 1972, the U.S. ceded sovereignty over all of the Ryūkyūs back to Japan, and the southern islands then became Okinawa Prefecture.

In Japanese, the word for a lighthouse is tōdai or toudai (灯台). The words saki and misaki are for capes and headlands, shima (also spelled sima or jima) is an island, wan is a bay, andis a harbor. Lighthouses in Japan are operated and maintained by the Japanese Coast Guard's Maritime Safety Agency. Lighthouses in the Ōsumi islands are maintained by the Coast Guard office at Kagoshima City, Kyūshū.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. JCG numbers are the Japanese Coast Guard's light list numbers. Admiralty numbers are from volume M of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals. U.S. NGA List numbers are from Publication 112.

General Sources
Lighthouses in Japan - Kagoshima
A comprehensive site, although almost entirely in Japanese.
Kiso's Lighthouses
This site has many excellent photos of Japanese lighthouses.
Region Ten Lighthouses
Information and photos posted by the Tenth Coast Guard Region office, which is responsible for Kagoshima Prefecture.
Lighthouses in Kagoshima Prefecture
Photos by various photographers available from Wikimedia.
Online List of Lights - Japan
Coming soon: photos by various photographers posted by Alexander Trabas.

Kashika Saki Light
Kashika Saki Light, Nishioomote, August 2005
Japanese Coast Guard photo

Mishima Islands Lighthouses
Note: The Mishima Islands are small islands lying roughly in a west-to-east line northwest of the other Ōsumi Islands. Administratively, Mishima is a village under the direct administration of Kagoshima City on the mainland of Kyūshū.
Kusagaki Shima
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 140 m (459 ft); two white flashes every 20 s. 14 m (46 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery, attached to an L-shaped 1-story concrete keeper's house. Entire lighthouse is white. A Coast Guard photo is at right, and Google has a satellite view of the station. The light station has been converted to solar power and has the largest solar array of any Japanese lighthouse. Located atop an isolated and uninhabited island at the north end of a reef about 50 km (30 mi) west of Kuro Shima and 80 km (50 mi) southwest of Kyūshū. Accessible only by helicopter. Site and tower closed. ARLHS JPN-312; JCG-6901; Admiralty M4802; NGA 12988.
* Kuro Shima (Satsuma Kuroshima)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 239 m (784 ft); flash every 5 s, alternately white and green. 11 m (36 ft) square cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery. Entire lighthouse is white. A photo (fourth photo on the page) and a second photo (3/4 the way down the page) are available, Kiso has a photo (1/4 the way down the page), and Google has a satellite view. Kuroshima is the westernmost of three inhabited islands of the Mishima group. The island has a permanent population of a little over 200; a ferry from Kagoshima city calls there two or three times per week. Accessible by road but no parking is provided. Located on heights at the eastern tip of the island. Site open, tower closed. JCG-6901.5; Admiralty M4804; NGA 12990.
* Iō Shima (Iōjima, Satsuma Ioshima)
1972. Active; focal plane 147 m (482 ft); white flash every 4 s. 13 m (43 ft) round concrete tower with gallery. Entire lighthouse is white. Kiso has a photo (1/4 the way down the page), and a 2012 closeup is available, and Google has a satellite view and a street view through some heavy vegetation. In Japanese, Iō Shima has the same name as Iwo Jima, the site of the famous World War II battle. A ferry from Kagoshima city serves the island two or three times per week. Located on heights above the village of Iōjima at the western end of the island. Accessible by road but no parking is provided. Site open, tower closed. JCG-6902; Admiralty M4787; NGA 12992.
Kusagaki Shima Light
Kusagaki Shima Light, Mishima Islands
Japanese Coast Guard photo (no longer online)

Nishinoomote City (Northern Tanegashima) Lighthouses
Note: Tanegashima, the northernmost of the major Nansei Islands, is about 58 km (36 mi) long but only about 10 km (6 mi) wide. The Portuguese adventurer Mindes Pinto arrived here in 1543. The island is best known today as the site of the Tanegashima Space Center, where Japan's satellites are launched. Tanegashima is accessible by air and by high-speed ferry from Kagoshima. Locally the island is often called "Tane."
* Sumiyoshi (Sumiyosi) Misaki
1956. Active; focal plane 23 m (75 ft); white flash every 5 s. 10 m (33 ft) square cylindrical concrete tower rising from a square 1-story concrete equipment room. Entire lighthouse is white. A 2012 closeup photo is available, Tom Yam Muu has a photo, Kiso has a photo (1/4 the way down the page), and Google has a street view and a satellite view. Located on a promontory on the central west coast of Tanegashima. Accessible by road. Site open, tower closed. JCG-6909; Admiralty M4794; NGA 13020.
Mageshima (Kamino Misaki)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 14 m (46 ft); white flash every 3 s. 12 m (39 ft) round tapered white concrete tower attached to a small equipment shelter. The Coast Guard has a photo, another photo is available, and Google has a satellite view. Mageshima is a small island about 13 km (8 mi) west of Nishinoomote. The U.S. has proposed to use the island for practice landings by carrier-based pilots, moving that function from Okinawa; this is the subject of controversy in Japan. Located on the northern tip of the island. Site status unknown. ARLHS JPN-2573; JCG-6903; Admiralty M4791.4; NGA 12996.
Nishinoomote (Nisinoomote)
1998. Active; focal plane 18 m (59 ft); two red flashes every 6 s. 15 m (49 ft) round cylindrical tower with lantern. The lighthouse is built in the form of Japanese H-2 rocket, with two strap-on booster tubes on the sides. Entire lighthouse painted red. A photo appears at right, a 2017 photo is available, and Google has a satellite view and a very distant street view. Located at the north end of the detached outer breakwater of Nishinoomote, marking the entrance to the harbor. Accessible only by boat, but there is an excellent view from ferries arriving from Kagoshima. Site and tower closed. ARLHS JPN-2578; JCG-6904.1; Admiralty M4798.8; NGA 13002.
* Nishinoomote Sinko West Breakwater
1964. Inactive since 2015. 9.5 m (31 ft) concrete post attached to a square 1-story concrete equipment room. Entire lighthouse is white. A closeup photo, a second photo, and a view from the sea are available, and Google has a satellite view and a very distant street view. Located at the end of the breakwater in Nishinoomote harbor; the area north of the lighthouse has been reclaimed and developed as a park. Accessible by walking the pier. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS JPN-2581; ex-JCG-6908; ex-Admiralty M4798.4; ex-NGA 13012.
Nishinoomote Sunosaki (Sonosaki) Breakwater
1964. Active; focal plane 13 m (43 ft); continuous green light with a more intense flash every 6 s. 9.5 m (31 ft) concrete post attached to a square 1-story concrete equipment room. Entire lighthouse is white. This light is at the right in a view of the harbor, and Google has a satellite view. Located at the end of a detached breakwater in Nishinoomote harbor. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS JPN-2579; JCG-6905; Admiralty M4796; NGA 13004.
Nishinoomote Light
Nishinoomote Light, Nishinoomote, September 2006
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Dorothy (catandgirl)
* Kashika (Kasika) Saki
1963. Active; focal plane 69 m (226 ft); red flash every 15 s. 13 m (43 ft) square cylindrical concrete tower with concrete equipment room and gallery, rising from a 1-story concrete equipment building. Entire lighthouse is white. A photo is at the top of this page, Arashi Sanjyuurou has a closeup photo, a 2015 photo is available, Kiso has a photo (4th lighthouse on the page), and Google has a street view and a satellite view. Located on the northern tip of Tanegashima. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS JPN-773; JCG-6904; Admiralty M4799; NGA 13000.
#Shiojiura (Syoziura) Kō
Date unknown. Deactivated and removed in November 2013. 8.5 m (28 ft) post attached to a square 1-story concrete equipment shelter. Google's satellite view and January 2014 street view confirm the removal of the light. Located at the end of the south breakwater of Shiojiura harbor on the northeastern coast of Tanegashima. Accessible by walking the pier. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS JPN-2588; JCG-6915; Admiralty M4800; NGA 13044.

Minamitane Town (Southern Tanegashima) Lighthouses
Kumano Kō Directional
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 28 m (95 ft); continuous white, red green light depending on direction. 7 m (23 ft) square white concrete tower. A 2014 photo is available, and Google has a satellite view. Located on a rocky pinnacle about 800 m (1/2 mi) southwest of Kumano harbor. Site status unknown. JCG-6914; Admiralty M4800.6; NGA 13040.
Otake Saki (Tanegashima)
1951. Active; focal plane 106 m (348 ft); two white flashes every 20 s. 18 m (59 ft) round concrete tower with lantern and gallery, rising from a semicircular 1-story concrete keeper's cottage. Entire lighthouse is white. Bill Ingalls's photo is at right, a 2015 photo is available, Kiso has a photo (1/4 the way down the page), and Google has a street view and a satellite view. This is the oldest and most powerful lighthouse on the island, with a range of 48 km (30 mi). There are launch support facilities adjacent to the lighthouse, including a tall skeletal tower and a building that probably houses radar or cameras. Located on a steep bluff in Minamitane on the southeastern coast of Tanegashima. Site probably closed; it is accessible by road but the area is probably not open to the public. ARLHS JPN-625; JCG-6912; Admiralty M4792; NGA 13032.
Shimana Saki
1968. Active; focal plane 17 m (56 ft); white light, 2 s on, 2 s off. 11.5 m (38 ft) concrete post rising from a square 1-story concrete equipment room. Entire lighthouse is white. The Coast Guard has a page with a photo, Shigekazu Yoshikawa has a closeup street view, and Google has a satellite view. This lighthouse marks the north entrance to the strait between Tanegashima and Yakushima. Located on a promontory in Minamitane on the southwest coast of Tanegashima. Site status unknown. ARLHS JPN-561(=2586); JCG-6911; Admiralty M4793; NGA 13028.
Shimana Kō West Breakwater
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 16 m (52 ft); two red flashes every 6 s. 10 m (33 ft) concrete post attached to a square 1-story concrete equipment room. Entire lighthouse is red. Google has a satellite view and a very distant street view across the harbor. Located at the northeast end of the detached west breakwater of Shimana, a small port in the lee of Shimana Saki. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS JPN-2585; JCG-6910; Admiralty M4793.5; NGA 13024.
Otake Saki Light
Otake Saki (Tanegashima) Light, Minamitane, February 2014
U.S. NASA public domain photo by Bill Ingalls

Yakushima Town Lighthouses
Note: Yakushima is a roughly circular island about 15 km (9 mi) in diameter, separated from Tanegashima by the 16 km (10 mi) wide Yakushima Strait. The mountains of Yakushima have the highest rainfall in Japan and are cloaked with a unique forest recognized as a World Heritage Site. The island has a population of about 15,000 and is accessible by air or ferry from Kagoshima.
* Nagota Misaki (Yakushima)
1897. Active; focal plane 72 m (236 ft); white flash every 15 s. 20 m (66 ft) round brick tower with lantern and gallery, rising from a semicircular 1-story keeper's cottage. Entire lighthouse painted white. The Coast Guard has a page for the lighthouse; one of its photos is at right. A good 2007 photo is also available, Tadahiro Okuda has a closeup, Felix Chao has a 2017 photo, and Google has a street view and a satellite view of the station. This historic lighthouse, the oldest in the Nansei Islands, was long known as Yakushima Light since it was the only lighthouse on the island. Located on the northwestern tip of Yakushima. Accessible by road. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS JPN-747; JCG-6923; Admiralty M4788; NGA 13072.
* Issō Kō
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 14 m (46 ft); continuous red light with a more intense flash every 6 s. 10 m (33 ft) concrete post attached to a square 1-story concrete equipment room. Entire lighthouse is red. A distant view is available, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. Located at the end of the north (main) breakwater of Issō, at the northern tip of Yakushima. Accessible by walking the pier. Site open, tower closed. JCG-6922; Admiralty M4790.4; NGA 13068.
* Yahazu Saki (Issō)
1961. Active; focal plane 44 m (144 ft); white flash every 10 s. 11 m (36 ft) square cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery. Entire lighthouse is white. Kiso has a photo (third lighthouse on the page), the Coast Guard has a page for the lighthouse, another photo is available, a visitor's report has photos, and Google has a satellite view. Located at the end of a narrow peninsula at the northern tip of Yakushima, marking the entrance to the harbor of Issō. Accessible by a 10-minute walk from the end of the public road. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS JPN-2594; JCG-6921; Admiralty M4790; NGA 13064.
Miyanoura Kō
2009. Active; focal plane 15 m (49 ft); two red flashes every 7 s. 11 m (36 ft) round concrete tower with a flared top, attached to a small equipment shelter. Entire lighthouse is red. Shigeru Harazaki has a distant street view, and Google has a satellite view. Located on a detached breakwater on the north side of the entrance to Miyanoura. Accessible only by boat, but there's a good view from ferries arriving from Tanegashima. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS JPN-2574; JCG-6920; Admiralty M4790.6; NGA 13060.
#Haya Saki
1972. Inactive since 2010 and apparently demolished. 13 m (43 ft) round tapered concrete tower. Entire lighthouse is white. Kiso has a photo (2nd lighthouse on the page), but the tower is not seen in Google's distant satellite view. Located on the northeastern point of Yakushima, marking the passage through Yakushima Strait. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS JPN-748; ex-JCG-6919; ex-Admiralty M4790.8; ex-NGA 13056.

Nagota Misaki (Yakushima) Light
Japanese Coast Guard photo (no longer online)
Anbō Kō (Outer Breakwater)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 14 m (46 ft); red flash every 4 s. 11 m (36 ft) round concrete tower attached to a square 1-story equipment shelter. Entire lighthouse is red. No photo available, but Google has a satellite view and a very distant street view. NGA misspells the name of the town as "Ambo." Located on an outer breakwater at Anbō, the principal port on the east coast of Yakushima. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS JPN-2558; JCG-6918; Admiralty M4791; NGA 13052.
Tanisaki Hana (Onoaida)
1973. Active; focal plane 51 m (167 ft); white flash every 5 s. 9.5 m (31 ft) hexagonal cylindrical concrete tower with gallery. Entire lighthouse is covered with tile, white with brown trim. A closeup photo, a second closeup, a 2011 closeup, and a distant view are available, and Google has a distant satellite view. Located on a bluff near Yaku, on the south shore of Yakushima. Site open, tower closed. JCG-6917; Admiralty M4791.2; NGA 13048.

Kuchinoerabu Shima Lighthouses
Note: Kuchinoerabu Shima (Kuchinoerabujima) is a smaller, actively volcanic island located about 12 km (7.5 mi) northwest of Yakushima. About 150 residents were evacuated in 2015 due to an eruption of Mount Shindake.
Mega Saki
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 67 m (220 ft); two white flashes every 6 s. 10 m (33 ft) square cylindrical white concrete tower. Kiso has a photo (1/3 the way down the page), and Google has a satellite view. Located on the southeastern tip of Kuchinoerabu Shima. Site status unknown. ARLHS JPN-339; JCG-6924; Admiralty M4786.6; NGA 13084.
Kuchinoerabu Kō
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 13 m (43 ft); two red flashes every 7 s. 10 m (33 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower attached to a small equipment shelter. Entire lighthouse is red. No photo available, but Google has a satellite view. Located on a breakwater on the east side of the harbor of Kuchinoerabu, on the south side of the island. Site status unknown; there would be good views from arriving ferries. ARLHS JPN-2569; JCG-6925; Admiralty M4786; NGA 13080.
No Saki
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 92 m (302 ft); two white flashes every 14 s. 12 m (39 ft) square cylindrical concrete tower. Entire lighthouse is white. Kiso has a photo (1/3 the way down the page), and Google has a satellite view. Located near the western tip of Kuchinoerabu Shima. Site status unknown. ARLHS JPN-398; JCG-6926; Admiralty M4786.3; NGA 13076.

Tokara Islands Lighthouses
Note: The Tokara Islands (Tokara-rettō) are a group of small islands southwest of Yakushima. Kuchino Shima and Nakano Shima, near the northern end of the group, and Akuseki Shima and Takara Shima, at the southern end, are the inhabited islands. Administratively, the islands are organized as a village, Toshima, under the direct administration of Kagoshima City on the mainland of Kyūshū.
Ōsumi Hira Se
1974. Active; focal plane 33 m (108 ft); white flash every 3 s. 10 m (33 ft) round cylindrical white concrete tower with gallery. Kiso has a photo (last lighthouse on the page), but the islet does not appear in Google's satellite view. Located atop a tiny island about 25 km (15 mi) northeast of Kuchino Shima, the northernmost of the main Tokara islands. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. ARLHS JPN-2583; JCG-6927; Admiralty M4785; NGA 13088.
Kuchino Shima (Kuti-no-Sima)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 17 m (56 ft); red light, 3 s on, 3 s off. 9.5 m (31 ft) round concrete tower attached to a square 1-story equipment shelter. Entire lighthouse is red. A very distant view is available, and Google has a distant satellite view of the harbor. Located on the south breakwater of Kuchino Shima's harbor. Accessible by walking the pier. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS JPN-2610; JCG-6927.5; Admiralty M4784.5; NGA 13092.
* Nakano Shima
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 63 m (207 ft); three white flashes every 20 s. 17 m (56 ft) square cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery, attached to a 1-story concrete keeper's house. Entire lighthouse is white. A photo is at right, Kiso has an excellent photo (third from last lighthouse on the page), A photo is available, Masao Kikuchi has a view from the sea, and Google has a satellite view and a very distant street view. Located at the southeastern tip of the island. Accessible by road from Toshima, the one settlement, but the entrance to the light station is unmarked. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS JPN-422; JCG-6928; Admiralty M4783; NGA 13096.
Gaja (Gayza) Shima
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 207 m (679 ft); white flash every 15 s. 13 m (43 ft) round concrete tower with lantern and gallery rising from a 1-story service building. Entire lighthouse is white. A Coast Guard photo is below right, but Google has only a fuzzy satellite view of the island. Gaja Shima is an isolated high island about 27 km (17 mi) west of Nakano Shima. Located on or near the northwestern point of the island. Site status unknown. ARLHS JPN-2560; JCG-6929; Admiralty M4784; NGA 13100.
Nakano Shima Light
Nakano Shima Light, Toshima, May 2007
Wikimedia Creative Commons photo by Taro Nagoya

Akuseki Shima
2003. Active; focal plane 158 m (518 ft); flash every 8 s, alternately green and white. 15 m (49 ft) octagonal cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery, attached to a 1-story concrete equipment room. Entire lighthouse is white. A fine closeup is available, Kiso has a good photo (next to last photo on the page), and Google has a satellite view. Located on the east side of Akuseki Shima, an island about 50 km (30 mi) south southwest of Nakano Shima. Accessible by road. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS JPN-2557; JCG-6929.5; Admiralty M4782.95; NGA 13102.
Maegomori Kō
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 16 m (52 ft); green flash every 3 s. 9 m (30 ft) round white concrete tower with a flared top, attached to a small equipment shelter. A view from the sea is available, and Google has a satellite view. Located at the north end of the detached breakwater of Maegomori, on the north coast of Takara Shima. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. JCG-6930; Admiralty M4782.9; NGA 13108.
Takara Shima (Araki Saki)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 72 m (236 ft); white flash every 10 s. 16 m (52 ft) square concrete tower with lantern and gallery. Entire lighthouse is white. A 2013 photo, a distant view and a view from the sea and a distant view (click on the photo for enlargement) are available, and Google has a good satellite view. Located at the southeastern tip of Takara Shima. Accessible by road. Site status unknown. ARLHS JPN-618; JCG-6931; Admiralty M4782.8; NGA 13104.

Gaja Shima Light, Toshima, June 2010
Japanese Coast Guard Kagoshima Office photo

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

Adjoining pages: North: Kagoshima Area | South: Amami Islands

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Posted August 27, 2007. Checked and revised October 25, 2017. Lighthouses: 31. Site copyright 2017 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.