Sanriku Coast

The Sacred Deer of Kinkasan Island

金華山 | Kinkasan Island

Have a mystic experience on this holy island inhabited by cervine messengers of the gods

Photo by Atsuhiko Takeda

Photo by Atsuhiko Takeda

Photo by Atsuhiko Takeda

Photo by Atsuhiko Takeda

  • Davide Bitti


    Chris Echeverry


    Last Update
    October 2, 2023


  • You may have heard about Zao Fox Village, where you can meet dozens of foxes. Maybe you’ve discovered Tashirojima, the small island inhabited more by cats than humans. But did you know that there is also an island where deer are considered sacred creatures and are free to roam as they please? This island is Kinkasan, a holy place protected by Koganeyama Shrine. An island where nature and spirituality coexist.

    Kinkasan is a holy island located off the coast of Ishinomaki City, home to the legendary Koganeyama Shrine. It is said that those who make three consecutive annual pilgrimages to the shrine will be blessed with wealth for the rest of their lives. The shrine was originally built around 750 CE in this area, which was rich with gold at the time. The entire island is actually part of the grounds of Koganeyama Shrine, and the gods are said to protect every step you take.

    The island setting is enchanting, with the deer free to roam inside and outside the shrine grounds, and monkeys in the forest making the whole experience feel wild. No visit is complete without happening upon the Kinkasan deer, who are regarded as messengers of the gods by Shinto priests.

    On the first Sunday of October, an antler-cutting ritual is performed which helps make the male deer safer to be around. The shrine turns the antler cuttings into charms, purchased by the faithful as talismans and by tourists as souvenirs.

    The limited boat schedule can sometimes make a day-trip to the island difficult, so it is recommended to make a reservation and stay overnight at Koganeyama Shrine.

    The shrine is beautiful and the deer lend it an atmosphere similar to Nara, but on a small, mountainous island. To reach the island you will need to take a boat from Ayukawa Port or Onagawa, so consider visiting Kinkasan in conjunction with Ishinomaki or Tashirojima Island. Even if you aren’t be able to go three times, I think visiting even once will bring you peace.


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Kinkasan-5 Ayukawahama, Ishinomaki-shi, Miyagi-ken 986-2523


From Onagawa Sightseeing Pier (観光桟橋): 35 minutes by Ushio Planning boat (潮プラニング定期船). Available Sundays, holidays, & some Saturdays; see timetable here.

Onagawa Sightseeing Pier is a 10-minute walk from Onagawa Station.

From Ayukawa Port (鮎川港): 20 minutes by Dream Liner (ドリーム定期船) or Kaijo Taxi Kuroshio (海上タクシーくろしお) boats. Dream Liner operates Sundays only. For other days and times, Kaijo Taxi Kuroshio motorboat service is available (reservations required). Details for Dream Liner & Kaijo Taxi Kuroshio available here.

Ayukawa Port is 80 minutes by bus from Ishinomaki Station. Board Ayukawa Line (鮎川線) bus bound for Ayukawa Port. Alight at Ayukawa Port (the final stop). Bus timetable here (weekdays) and here (weekends & holidays).


Island & shrine: free

Ushio Planning boat (round-trip): ¥3,500 adults, ¥1,760 children

Dream Liner (round-trip):¥2,500 adults , ¥1,250 children, infants free

Kaijo Taxi Kuroshio (round-trip per-person fare for 5+ passengers): ¥3,000 adults, ¥1,500 children, infants free


Japanese only




Always open (but please be aware of the boat schedule)



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