The Tokara Islands are a small archipelago in
Japan, south of Kyushu and north of the Amami
Islands. They are also sometimes known as the
Toshima Islands, lit. "Ten Islands", and the name
is preserved in the name of the administrative
division, Toshima-mura, that covers them.
The Tokara Islands are about as off the beaten track as it gets in Japan. Of the 12 islands in the chain, 7 are inhabited, all of them barely: populations range from 40 to under 200, with a total of less than 600 people living in the entire archipelago.
From north to south, scattered over 160 km, the inhabited islands are:
• Kuchinoshima, the closest to the mainland
• Nakanoshima, the largest of the islands in size and population
• Tairajima, where the defeated Heike clan are said to have escaped to
• Suwanosejima, with an active volcano
• Akusekijima, lit. "Bad Stone Island", ringed by cliffs and known for its ancient festival
• Kodakarajima , area 1 sq.km. and easily walked around 30 minutes
• Takarajima, or "Treasure Island", supposedly the burial place of Captain Kidd's treasure
So why "Ten Islands" if there are only seven? The answer lies in a quirk of history — after the Allied occupation of Japan, the line between the mainland and US-held Okinawa was drawn between Kuchinoshima and the three Mishima Islandsto the north, and the division persists to this day.
In July 2009, the Tokara Islands received some unusual media attention when the longest solar eclipse of the centuryswept over the archipelago, with Akusekijima having the longest eclipse duration (6 minutes and 25 seconds) in the entire world. The islands were so swamped with eclipse- spotters that a limit of 1500 visitors had to be temporarily imposed, but there is little doubt that the islands will soon return to their quiet ways.