There are 140 islands, including five main ones: "Fukue Island (福江島 Fukue-jima), "Hisaka Island (久賀島 Hisaka-jima), "Naru Island (奈留島 Naru-shima), "Wakamatsu Island (若松島 Wakamatsu-jima), and "Nakadori Island (中通島 Nakadōri-jima).
The group of islands runs approximately 85 km (53 mi) end-to-end; its center is at.
To the north is "Tsushima Island in the "Tsushima Strait and to the east is Kyūshū and the rest of Nagasaki Prefecture. It is about 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the port of "Nagasaki. The "Tsushima Current (a branch of the "Kuroshio) passes around the islands.
The southern of the two principal islands, Fukue, measures approximately 25 kilometres (16 miles) north-to-south by 25 kilometres (16 miles) east-to-west; the northern, Nakadori Island, measures approximately 40 kilometres (25 miles) north-to-south by 30 kilometres (19 miles) east-to-west at its widest point. Most of Nakadori Island, however, is quite narrow, measuring less than 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) wide for much of its length. Some dome-shaped hills command the old castle town of Fukue. The islands are highly cultivated; deer and other game abound, and trout are plentiful in the mountain streams.
As a result of a merger on August 1, 2004, the city of "Gotō was established. It occupies Fukue, Hisaka, and Naru islands, and seven inhabited ones. The town of "Shin-Kamigotō, itself the product of a simultaneous, separate merger in 2004, occupies Nakadōri and Wakamatsu islands, two of the five main islands of the Gotō archipelago, in addition to the small inhabited islands of Arifuku, Kashiragashima, Hinoshima, Ryōzegaura, and Kirinoko and a great number of uninhabited islets.
An important historical element is the roots of Christianity in Japan within the islands. Some of the inhabitants are descended from Christians of the Catholic Church (""Kakure Kirishitan"), who came to their faith upon the introduction of Christianity to Japan via Portuguese missionaries in the late 16th century. These Japanese were many times persecuted and tortured by the Japanese shogunates for their beliefs, all the way into the early Meiji period. Until recently["when?] Hanare Kirishitans still lived there; the majority either returned to Catholicism after it was legalized in the 19th century or reverted to earlier practices. The islands have numerous Catholic churches, the oldest and most famous of which is Dōzaki church, built in 1868 and located about 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) north of Fukue port.
The islands are famous for a large species of "rockfish, called "Arr-a".
Ferry services from Nagasaki and Sasebo are offered by Kyusyu Shosen Co. Ltd. Both standard ferry and hydrofoil services operate.
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