Onokoro Island: A Search for the Birthplace of Japan

Within the rich tapestry of Japanese mythology lies Onokoro Island, a mystical and enigmatic place steeped in Japanese history. To learn about Onokoro Island is to delve into the heart of Japanese heritage, where captivating stories intertwine with breathtaking landscapes. This article introduces Onokoro Island and its profound significance to the legends of Japan.

What is Onokoro Island?

onokoro island as part of japanese myth

Onokoro Island is believed to be the birthplace of Japan itself, according to the Kojiki, Japan’s oldest existing record of history dating back to the 8th century. The Kojiki covers a wide range of topics, starting from the stories of the gods and the creation of the world, followed by the genealogy of early emperors. 

The island’s name, Onokoro Island, is derived from the Japanese word “onokoro-shima”, loosely translated as “self-forming island”. The name reflects the island’s role in the myth of creation. The Gods Izanagi and Izanami are said to have stirred the chaotic sea surrounding the island with a divine spear, which then coalesced into island.

This myth makes Onokoro Island an essential part of Japan’s origin story and deep-rooted cultural beliefs. It is said to be the very spot where the divine couple, Izanagi and Izanami, first descended from heaven to create the Japanese archipelago and all its inhabitants.

Possible Locations of Onokoro Island in the Japanese Myth

Awaji Island


Awaji Island, in the eastern part of the Seto Inland Sea, sits between Japan’s main island of Honshu, and the island of Shikoku. Widely accepted as the location for the legendary Onokoro Island, specific areas within Awaji have been considered as potential sites for the birth of the country, notably Eshima, Nushima, and Onokoro Shrine.

1. Eshima

onokoro island - eshima

Eshima is near the Iwaya fishing port in northern Awaji Island. The petite island stands out for its layers of sandstone dating back approximately 20 million years. The distinctive erosion patterns of the rare rock formations are a delight to explore.

2. Nushima

onokoro island- nushima

Just 10 kilometers in circumference, Nushima is a small island in the southern region of Awaji Island, shaped like one of the ancient, crescent-shaped Japanese beads known as magatama. While several places are associated with the name Onokoro Island, Nushima may be the most probable candidate, home to a number of legendary sites from Japanese myth and origin, such as Onogoro Shrine and Kamitategami Iwa (Rising and Forming Sacred Creation Rock of Shinto).

Onogoro Shrine plays an integral role in the Onokoro Island Japanese myth. Countless pilgrims have passed through the grand torii gate into this revered power spot believed to bring good fortune for matchmaking and childbirth. Nearby is the “Sekirei-ishi” or the “stone of wagtails”. According to legend, this stone is where the divine couple Izanagi and Izanami witnessed a pair of wagtails forming a marital bond. This sacred spot symbolizes the union of marriage and is cherished as a power spot for couples.

In the southeastern corner of Nushima, Kamitategami Iwa boasts an array of colossal and uniquely shaped rocks sculpted by the relentless waves of the Pacific Ocean.

onokoro island - nushima

A closer look at Kamitategami Iwa reveals a heart-shaped recess at the center of the rock. Remarkably, Kamitategami Iwa is believed to be the very place where Izanagi and Izanami descended from the heavens to Onokoro Island. As the very spot where Izanagi proposed to Izanami, it is often regarded as Japan’s oldest and most iconic location for matchmaking.

3. Onokoro Island Shrine

The towering, 21.7-meter-high vermilion torii gateway of Onokoroshima Shrine ranks among Japan’s 3 largest, alongside those at Heian Shrine in Kyoto and Itsukushima Shrine in Hiroshima. The small hill behind the torii is said to be the exact location of Onokoro Island, earning the shrine a central place in Japanese myth and history.

Shimane Prefecture

One more candidate for the birthplace of Japan is Shimane Prefecture, particularly the Oki Islands and Izumo Taisha. This theory stems from the prefecture’s historical and cultural association with Izumo Taisha, the oldest shrine in Japan, which enshrines the deity known as Okuninushi no Okami. According to creation myths, Okuninushi played a pivotal role as the creator of Japan’s land and held sway as the ruler of Izumo. Over time, he earned a significant role in Japanese folklore and culture as the deity of harmonious relationships and marriages.

Ise, Japan

Finally, there is the theory that Onokoro Island might be found on the Ise Peninsula in Mie Prefecture. This theory draws support from the presence of the revered Ise Grand Shrine, considered the spiritual center of Japan with strong connections to the myth of Izanagi and Izanami.


In this article, we have merely scratched the surface of Onokoro Island’s profound connection to the mythical genesis of Japan. While the exact location remains shrouded in mystery, the symbolic importance of Onokoro Island in Japanese folklore is clear. Its story continues to shape the cultural identity and reverence for nature that permeates Japanese society, making it a captivating subject of exploration and intrigue.