They were once a source of fortune for Japanese fishermen hunting sea lions and abalone, but now the pair of remote rocks in the Sea of Japan are preventing Japan and South Korea from getting along.

They have been controlled by South Korea since 1954. None of the 1,200 fishermen on Okinoshima, the nearest inhabited Japanese island, have ever been there. While the territorial tensions can ebb and flow, the more nationalistic Abe government and media reports highlighting the dispute have again brought Okinoshima into the public eye.

"It used to be that young people and the general public didn't really care about Takeshima," local resident Shoza Yawata, 86, told reporters in the village of Kumi on Okinoshima, 158 km from the rocks known as Dokdo in Korean. "Recently, there has been a backlash against South Korea's control. As Japanese, our blood boils."