TOTTORI AREA OF THE SEA OF JAPAN COAST, OKI ISLANDS AND MT. DAISEN

SEA OF JAPAN

The Sea of Japan is the marginal sea between the Japanese archipelago, Sakhalin, the Korean Peninsula, and the Russia mainland. The Japanese archipelago separates the sea from the Pacific Ocean. The Japan Sea has relatively small tides due to its nearly separation from the Pacific Ocean. Its isolation also its sea life and salinity, both of which are lower than in the open ocean. The Japan Sea has no large islands, bays or capes. Few rivers discharge into the sea and their total contribution to the water exchange is only around 1 percent. The sea’s water balance is mostly determined by the inflow and outflow through the straits connecting it to the neighboring seas and the Pacific Ocean. [Source: Wikipedia]

For centuries, the Japan Sea had protected Japan from land invasions, most notably by the China-based Mongols in the 13th century. It had long been used navigated by Asians and, from the 18th century, by European ships. Russian expeditions of 1733–1743 mapped Sakhalin and the Japanese islands. The seawater in the Japan Sea has high concentrations of dissolved oxygen that results in large fisheries.. Fishing has long been the dominant economic activity in the region. Squid fishing is particularly common today as evidence by the number of squid fishing boats you see when you fly over the sea at night. Several giant squid have been fished out of the Sea of Japan. One was captured alive off Shinonsen, Hyogo Prefecture.

The Sea of Japan was a landlocked sea when the land bridge between East Asia and Japan existed is the Early Miocene (23 million to 16 million years ago). During this time the Japanese Arc formed and Japan Sea started to open. Today, the sea has a carrot-like-shape and a surface area of about 978,000 square kilometers (378,000 square miles), a mean depth of 1,752 meters (5,748 feet) and a maximum depth of 3,742 meter (12,277 feet). Extending from north to south about 2,255 kilometers (1,401 miles, with a maximum width of about 1,070 kilometers (660 miles), the the Sea of Japan is bounded by the Russian mainland and Sakhalin island to the north, the Korean Peninsula to the west, and the Japanese islands of Hokkaido, Honshu and Kyushu to the east and south. It is connected to other seas by five straits: 1) the Strait of Tartary between the Asian mainland and Sakhalin; 2) La Pérouse Strait between the Sakhalin and Hokkaido; 3) the Tsugaru Strait between Hokkaido and Honshu; 4) the Kanmon Straits between Honshu and Kyushu; and 5) the Korea Strait between the Korean Peninsula and Kyushu.

There are no large islands in the sea. Most of the smaller ones are near the eastern coast. The shorelines are relatively straight and are lacking large bays or capes; the coastal shapes are simplest for Sakhalin and are more winding in the Japanese islands. The largest bays in Japan Ishikari (Hokkaido), Toyama (Honshu), and Wakasa (Honshu). Prominent capes include Soya, Nosappu, Tappi, Nyuda, Rebun, Rishiri, Okushiri, Daso and Oki in Japan. As world sea level dropped during the advance of the last Ice Age, the exit straits of the Sea of Japan one by one dried and closed. The deepest, and thus the last to close, is the western channel of the Korea Strait.

Sea of Japan Coast

Sea of Japan Coast on the western side of Honshu is a region of historic cities, sand dunes, traditional fishing villages and restaurants that serve giant crabs in the winter time. The waves are bigger than those on the Inland Sea but not as big as those on the Pacific. In the winter the sea brings stormy weather and lots of snow to some places. Some coast villages erect bamboo sea walls for protection In the summer the seas are relatively calm and weather can be quite humid. Websites: Sea of Japan description Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Sea of Japan photos japan-photo

The Sea of Japan has historically served as a protective barrier between Japan and Asia. A long chain of mountains runs down the middle of Japan, dividing it into two halves, the "face," fronting on the Pacific Ocean, and the "back," toward the Sea of Japan. On the Sea of Japan side are plateaus and low mountain districts, with altitudes of 500 to 1,500 meters. The Echigo Plain borders the Sea of Japan. Most of Japan’s rivers are very short. The longest, the Shinano, which winds through Nagano Prefecture to Niigata Prefecture and flows into the Sea of Japan, is only 367 kilometers long Hokuriku, a "snow country" coastal strip on the Sea of Japan, is situated in northern central Japan. Japan’s fifth largest lake, Nakaumi and adjacent Shinjiko Lake, are on the Sea of Japan coast in central western Honshsu. They, are threatened by land reclamation projects.

The Sea of Japan coast is generally unindented, with few natural harbors. The central Noto Peninsula and Wakasa Bay serve as exceptions to long curves of flat shoreline. The Korean peninsula — across the Sea of Japan from Japan — is the closest point on the Asian mainland to Japan. The Korean Strait, approximately 200 kilometers (124 miles) across, separates southwest Japan from South Korea and links the East China Sea to the Sea of Japan. The Soya Strait (La Perouse Strait) runs between northern Japan and Russia's Sakhalin Island; this strait links the Sea of Japan to the Sea of Okhotsk. Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaido and Honshu Islands, linking the Sea of Japan to the Pacific Ocean.

Japanese life has always been oriented toward the ocean. The currents that converge offshore create fertile and varied fishing grounds. The Tsushima Current, an offshoot of the Japan Current, transports warm water northward into the Sea of Japan. Two major ocean currents affect this climatic pattern: the warm Kuroshio Current (Black Current; also known as the Japan Current); and the cold Oyashio Current (Parent Current; also known as the Okhotsk Current). The Kuroshio Current flows northward on the Pacific side of Japan and warms areas as far north as Tokyo; a small branch, the Tsushima Current, flows up the Sea of Japan side. The Oyashio Current, which abounds in plankton beneficial to coldwater fish, flows southward along the northern Pacific, cooling adjacent coastal areas. The meeting point of these currents at 36 north latitude is a bountiful fishing ground.

Dispute Between South Korea and Japan over Japan Sea (East Sea) Name

Koreans believe the name of the sea between Japan and Korea should be called the East Sea rather than the Japan Sea, the name that appears on most maps. In the early 1990s both the U.N.'s conference on Geographical Names and the U.S. Board of Geographic names rejected suggestions by Koreans to the change the name of the body of water between Korea and Japan from the Sea of Japan to the East Sea.

In August 2007, the ninth conference for the standardization of geographical names ruled that the Sea of Japan will remain the Sea of Japan. South Korea and North Korea wanted the name to be changed to the “East Sea” or the “Sea of Korea," names which they say have been used for more than 2,000 years. The chairman of the conference said, “I encourage the three countries involved to find a solution acceptable to all of them, taking into account any relevant solutions, or else agree to differ."

North Korea and South Korea joined together to contest the name and argued that the “East Sea” and “Sea of Japan” names to be used concurrently until a common designation could be worked out. Japan argues that the “Sea of Japan” name has long been established and widely recognized as the name of the sea since the late 18th century. In August 2011, the United States said it would continue calling the waters between Japan and Korea “the Sea of Japan” despite efforts by South Korea to recognize it was “the East Sea."

Japan and South Korea have been locked in a dispute over fishing in the fish-rich waters off the Kuril islands, north of Hokkaido, which are occupied by Russia and claimed by both Japan and Russia. Japanese claim the islands and the seas around them. The Russians currently occupy the islands and have given the Koreans permission to fish in the seas off of them. Japan told South Korea that if they continued fishing off the Kurile Islands they would be denied the right to fish in Japanese waters.

Amanohashidate

Amanohashidate (100 kilometers northwest of Kyoto on the Japan Sea) contains a sandspit that is regarded as one of Japan's "Three Best Views" along with Miyajima Island near Hiroshima on the coast of Western Honshu and Matsushima Bay near Sendai in northern Honshu. Amonohashidate Means "Bridge to Heaven. It a 3½-kilometer-long, tree-covered sandspit with just enough of a channel to prevent Miyazu-wan Bay from becoming a lake. The view from a hillside in Kasamutsi-koe Park is said to be the best view. Websites: Kyoto Tourism kyototourism.org ; Amanohashidate Guide joho-kyoto.or.jp ; Wikitravel Wikitravel ; Getting There: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Amanohashidate in the north of Kyoto Prefecture on the Japan Sea. The main town is Tango. Sights in the area include N Kanabiki Waterfall and Daichoji Temple Tango Tourist Information Center (9:00am- 6:00pm, Open everyday, Te: 0772-22-803, Amanohashidate Station on the Kitakinki Tango Railway (KTR))

Amanohashidate-Miyazu Bay Walk begins at Amanohashidate Station. A white sand bar lined with pine trees stretches elegantly across the bay, giving this magical place its name the Bridge to Heaven. Walk through the shadows of the pines, cool in the gentle breeze blowing across the bay, then return by boat on the still blue waters to the most famous spot–Kasamatsu Park. Copy the many other tourists as they turn away from the bridge, bend over and look through their legs, and you are met with the famous illusion of the bridge winding its way to heaven. Take a leisurely stroll back to the station where you can take your pick from the many hot springs and soak in a steaming outdoor bath before continuing on to the old Edo Period town of Miyazu. [Source: JNTO]

Not far from Miyazu Station is Miyazu Catholic Church. Built in the Meiji Period, this Roman-style church looks distinctly European, until you enter its dimly lit chapel and see the floor around the altar is all Japanese tatami. (There's no sightseeing allowed when a Mass is being held.) Back out in the sunlight, you are once again whisked back in time to the Edo Era. The homes of wealthy merchants are perfectly preserved as an informative example of the life of a merchant in feudal Japan. Only Mikami-ke House, however, is open to the public.

Pick up some local souvenirs or stop for a cup of bitter green tea at one of the traditional shops in the town before heading up to Daichoji Temple for a stunning view of Amanohashidate. Before evening falls, head over to Kanabiki Waterfall–one of Japan's top 100, splendid in the autumn colors of the surrounding trees–and then return tired and content in the gathering darkness.

Tottori

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Tottori (4½ hours from Osaka) is an ugly town with 142,000 people. Located somewhat inland from the Sea of Japan coast, it has a number of hot springs. The main points of interest are the sand dunes, the Ibuki Botanical gardens, Ochidai Shrine and the ruins of Tottori Castle.

Tottori Prefecture covers 3,507 square kilometers (1,354 square miles), is home to about 574,000 people and has a population density of 163 people per square kilometer. Tottori is the capital and largest city, with about 194,000 people. It is in the Chugoku area on the southwestern part of Honshu island and has five districts and 19 municipalities.

Mount Mitoku (35 kilometers southwest of Tottori) is a national treasure with a thrilling and dangerous pilgrimage route with panoramic vistas and steep climbs. The path up Mount Mitoku has been said to mirror the Buddha’s own journey to enlightenment. Begin the hike and you’ll soon see why, as you cling to the mighty roots of primeval trees to scale steep and slippery rock surfaces. You’ll be rewarded for your efforts with up-close looks at ancient temples and breathtaking views of the mountainside along the way. It all culminates with your arrival at the Nageiredo—a striking national treasure set in a sheer cliff face whose origins are shrouded in mystery. When you return from the 90-or-so minute journey and cross the river representing the boundary between this world and the next, you’ll truly feel as if you’ve been reborn. Location: 1010 Mitoku, Misasa-cho, Tohaku-gun, Tottori; Website: sanin-japan.com

Websites: Tottori Tourist Guide ottori-tour.jp/en Wikipedia Wikipedia Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Tottori is accessible by air, bus and train several Japanese cities. It is a 75-minute flight from Tokyo. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Tottori Sand Dunes

Tottori Sand Dunes (near Tottori) extend along the Sea of Japan for 16 kilometers north of Tottori and extend inland for about two kilometers. The dunes are whipped up by winds into conical piles, crescent-shaped hollows and various other patterns. The highest dune is a bout 300 feet high. The dunes turn a spectacular crimson red at sunset.

The sand comes from the erosion of the Chunkoku Mountains and has been carried to the sea by the Sendai River, deposited on the beach by waves and the blown inland by winds. The dunes are currently shrinking and being transformed into grasslands. The main culprit of this have been the cementing of the banks of the Sendai Rover, which have reduced the amount of sand, an the plating of trees around the dunes for erosion control. Tobacco, yams, tulips and strawberries are cultivated on the dunes. At the center Hamasaka dune is Tanegaike Pond.

The Tottori Sand Dunes reach a height of 50 meters tall and extend several kilometers along the coastline — always changing with the winds. The area attracts many paragliders who take advantage of the brisk sea breezes and ride high above the dunes. Beginners can give it a try. Experienced staff at the Zero Paraglider School will help you get airborne and make sure you have a gentle soft landing. If you’d rather stay on the ground, hop on an off-road “fat bike” and race across the sands with incredible traction. Zero Paraglider School 2164 Yuyama, Fukube-cho, Tottori-shi, Tottori Website: tottori-inaba-gt.jp

The sand dunes are part of Saninkaigan National Park Websites: Government National Park Site National Parks of Japan ; Geopark Trail sanin-geotrail.net ; Photos Reggie Net

Mt. Daisen

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Mt. Daisen the tallest mountain in southern and western Japan. Rising sharply from the sea, 1729-meter (5672-foot) -high Mt. Daisen has two faces. When viewed from the west it has the conical shape of Mt. Fuji. When seen from the north or south is presents rugged, rocky crags. The densely wooded mountain becomes a skiing Mecca in the winter, when snow depths reach up to seven feet. Daisen is also known as “Hoki Fuji.” Hoki is an old term referring to the western part of Honshu.

Having been worshipped as a sacred mountain since days of old, Mt. Daisen is the site of historic ruins and old temples and shrines. The peak is truly enchanting throughout the year thanks to the fresh verdure of spring, the appearance of mountaineers in summer, the colored leaves of autumn, and the use of the slopes for skiing in winter. In Shizen-Kaiki-no-Mori Forest there is an 800-year-old Chichisugi with exposed mammary-shaped roots. A natural forest of cedar trees in the vicinity has been protected as an object of worship since long ago.

On Mt. Daisen, the wind-swept shrub forest zone situated at 1,300 meters above sea level is populated by alpine flora such as Phyllodoce nipponica Makino, Gaultheria adenothrix, Geranium shikokianum Matsum and Veronicastrum japonicum (Nakai) T.Yamaz. var. austral (T.Yamaz.) T.Yamaz, showcasing splendid alpine meadows in early summer. A deciduous broadleaf forest lies across the hillsides, which is inhabited by a great variety of flora including Luehdorfia japonica and spring ephemerals such as dogtooth violets. The grassland of each area is a habitat and growing environment of rare grassland fauna, and of particular note is Melitaea protomedia protomedia, which only survives on the grasslands around the Chugoku Mountains.

Tourism at Mt. Daisen

The Mt. Daisen area is well equipped with campgrounds, ski slopes, and lodging facilities. Jin Kiyokawa wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “The mountain and its surrounding areas have a certain charm. There is a skiing area that once served as a venue for a winter national athletic meet and a ranch whose soft-serve ice cream is popular with visitors. Additionally, there are other facilities at the foot of Mt. Daisen where visitors can enjoy scenic views against the backdrop of the magnificent mountain. Constructed in 1999 in Nambu in the prefecture, Tottori Hana Kairo (Tottori flower corridor) is one such area. Upon entering the flower park, I spotted a large dome-shaped greenhouse that stands in parallel with the mountain. Against the mountain scenery and Hana no Oka flower hill, which was blooming with poppies of orange, yellow and other colors, the view was in a word, picturesque. The Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography in Hoki in the prefecture also commands a fine view. From the window, I could see an inverted Mt. Daisen reflected in the water outside.”[Source: Jin Kiyokawa Yomiuri Shimbun, June 30, 2013]

Accommodation Areas: Daisenji, Kagamiganaru, Sanbesan, Hinomisaki, Tsuma, Mt. Hiruzen Getting There: From Haneda Airport in Tokyo it takes about one hour 30 minutes to get to Yonago Kitaro Airport. From there take a Hinomaru Bus about 30 minutes to to Yonago Station. From there take a Nihon Kotsu bus about 50 minutes to get to Daisen-ji Temple; Website: Diasen Tourism site tourismdaisen.com

Daisen National Park Centre is located at the entrance to Mt. Daisen, the highest peak in the Chugoku region. In addition to providing information about mountain climbing, walking, sightseeing, and events at Daisen-Oki National Park, visitors can use facilities such as coin showers, changing rooms, and lockers, and a room for resting that is convenient when waiting for the bus. From the second floor deck you can see the Shimane Peninsula that is part of the national park, Mt. Sanbe, and magnificent views from the mountains to the sea, including Oki Islands. We particularly recommend the evening to see the sunset sinking into the Sea of Japan. Location: Daisen 40-33, Daisen Town, Saihaku County, Tottori Prefecture, Tel: 0859-52-2165 Tel: Natural Parks Foundation, Tottori Branch, Mt. Daisen Project Area Hours Open: 8:00am-6:30pm, Closed Open daily throughout the year Daisen Town Tourist Information Center is located on the first floor of KOMOREBITO at the entrance to the path leading Daisen-ji Temple. Here, you can find pamphlets and a wide variety of other information on sightseeing and activities in the Daisen and surrouding areas. There is also equipment available for rental. Location: KOMOREBITO 1F, 45-5 Daisen, Daisen Town, Saihaku County, Tottori Prefecture, Tel: 0859-52-2502 Tel Hours Open: 8:30am-5:00pm, Closed Open daily throughout the year

Tottori Prefectural Daisen Natural History Museum Located with its back facing the north side of the majestic Mt Daisen, Daisen Natural History Museum features a wide variety of permanently available resources including video footage, audio, display panels, models, and samples that provide easy-to-understand explanations about the natural environment and history of Mt. Daisen. It also organizes nature observation groups in the foot of Mt. Daisen, allowing participants to explore the area surrounding the Daisen-ji Temple while listening to the commentary of a specialist guide. Location: Daisen 43, Daisen Town, Saihaku County, Tottori Prefecture, Tel: 0859-52-2327; Hours Open: 9:00am-5:00pm (Summer period: open until 6:30pm), Closed End and beginning of year

Nature Museum of Mt. Sanbe features an exhibit room that introduces the nature of Mt. Sanbe and Shimane Prefecture, a visual dome with support for movie projections across the entire ceiling and planetarium screenings, and an astronomical observatory. The museum is located near a field that includes nature trails, allowing visitors to experience and study the natural environment of Mt. Sanbe. Location: Tane 1121-8,Sambe-town, Oda City, Shimane Prefecture, Tel: 0854-86-0500; Hours Open: 9:30-5:00pm (Saturdays from April to September: 9:30-18:00), Closed Tuesdays (if a Tuesday coincides with a (national) holiday, the museum will be closed on the next weekday); Open daily throughout the summer (July 17-August 31) Admission: Requires a fee

Hiking Up Mt. Daisen

Jin Kiyokawa wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “Visitors can drive up to the start of a mountain trail about 800 meters above sea level that leads up to Daisenji temple. From that point, there is a spectacular view of the rugged north side of the mountain. At the height of its power, Daisenji temple, built in the Nara period (710-784), had more than 100 affiliated temples to train mountain worshippers and 3,000 warrior priests. [Source: Jin Kiyokawa Yomiuri Shimbun, June 30, 2013]

“The area surrounding Daisenji was crowded as cow and horse markets were held there during the Edo period [1603-1867]. But mainly because of the anti-Buddhist movement in the Meiji era [1868-1912], there are only 10 affiliate temples remaining,” lamented Koyu Odate, 53. Odate is a priest at the Enryuin temple, one of the 10 remaining affiliate temples. While walking around Daisenji, I found many traces of old temples.

“Previously, I thought I could enjoy a trip to Daisen without having to climb the mountain. But my view was shaken after Shigeaki Yatagai, 60, director of the Daisen Museum of Nature and History, told me that all the local fifth-grade primary school students trekked up the mountain as a school event” and the “Kage Daisen” (the shadow of Mt. Daisen) was something to see.

“Kage Daisen can only be seen for a limited time at dawn near the mountaintop. At 2:30 a.m., I woke up at the temple I was lodging at and headed to the summer mountain trail. The path was almost straight and had a sharp incline. Thankfully, the terraced slope meant I could make the trek in normal walking shoes.The clean mountain air and vegetarian meal I’d eaten for dinner put me in good spirits. The wonderfully starry sky, the distant night view of Yonago, and the way the sky turned from purple to pink at dawn encouraged me.

“It took 2 and a half hours to reach the summit. The shadow of the mountain loomed over a sea of clouds in the morning sunshine. Beyond the mountain’s shadow, I could see the Yumigahama Peninsula. After basking in the view, I made my way down the mountain. The rest of the day was spent at the Kaike hot spring, which was less than a 30-minute drive from the Sea of Japan. Getting There: : It takes 1 hour and 15 minutes from Haneda Airport to Yonago Airport. From there, it is about 20 minutes by bus to JR Yonago Station. From the station, transfer to another bus to the area around Mt. Daisen. On Saturdays and Sundays during the tourist season, a special round-trip “Daisen Loop Bus” also is available. For more information, call the Tottori prefectural tourist association at (0857) 39-2111, or the Daisen town tourist information office at (0859) 52-2502. Daisen Hiking Trail japan.travel

Daisen-Oki National Park

Daisen-Oki National Park is a 75,000-acre park known for its scenic beauty and its abundant plant life and birds. There are good camping and hiking areas and many old buildings associated with the sacred mountain religion. Websites: Government National Park Site National Parks of Japan ; Daisen Hiking Trail japan.travel

The land area of Daisen-Oki National Park covers an area of 353.53 square kilometers in Tottori, Shimane and Okayama Prefectures. It encompass both mountainous area of Mt. Daisen, Mt. Hiruzen, Mt. Kenashi, Mt. Senjo and Mt. Mitoku and the coastal and island area of the Shimane Peninsula and the Oki Islands. The mountainous area consists of a variety of elements that include dynamic volcanic landforms, rich forests, and a vast grass-covered plain. Depending on the location, visitors can savor views of unique mountains and diverse flora and fauna that adapted to the environment. [Source: Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan]

The seaside and islands feature a range of seashore landscapes formed by a combination of complicated factors, such as volcanic activity, crustal changes, climate changes, alluviation, and erosion, in addition to the biological environment unique to beaches and islands affected by ocean currents. Japanese mythology, Kunibiki Shinwa, was set in this area and the area retains the traditional relationship of nature, inhabitants and their lives.

Mountainous Area of Daisen-Oki National Park

The mountainous area encompassing Mt. Daisen, Mt. Hiruzen and Mt. Sanbe was mainly formed as a result of volcanic activity. Mt. Daisen, the highest peak in the Chugoku region (1,729 meters), is a volcanic mountain marked by a lava dome formed over the stratovolcano, as well as the bluffs on a northern and southern cliff extending to the mountain top present rough mountain scenes.

Hiruzen Sanza (Mt. Kamihiru, Mt. Nakahiru and Mt. Shimohiru) is also a volcanic mountain. The foot of the mountain is the Hiruzen Highland, which was formed as a result of a volcanic eruption parching a lake. Mt. Sanbe has a lava dome and three lakes in circumference, which were also made by repeated volcanic activity.

Mt. Daisen is covered with abundant forests and above all, it is marked by one of the largest natural beech forests in western Japan that spreads over the mountain at 800 meters to 1,300 meters above sea level and the wind-swept shrub zone of Daisen Japanese Yew trees growing at 1,300 meters above sea level and above. Most of the other mountains, besides Mt. Daisen, are also thickly forested, and some of the typical sites include beech forests in Mt. Kenashi and Mt. Sanbe, as well as the evergreen forest and cool-temperate forest in Mt. Mitoku. Another characteristic of this park is the distribution of grassland, which is represented by the ridgeline of Mt. Hiruzen and the summit and foothills of Mt. Sanbe. Mt. Daisen has been traditionally worshiped as a sacred mountain and since the initial opening of the Daisen-ji Temple took place during the Heian era, it was crowded with many worshippers up to the Edo era. Today, remnants from those days are found along the pilgrimage route (Daisen-michi road). In addition, Mt. Senjo and Mt. Mitoku, which are honored as the Hoki Sanrei, along with Mt. Daisen has been regarded as the place of mountain worship since days of old. By contrast, there are grasslands across Mt. Sanbe and Mt. Hiruzen, where people engage in cattle breeding and other operations to make a living. Today, some places still inherit the tradition of initial firing to ensure traditional management methods.

Places Mountainous Area of Daisen-Oki National Park

Mt. Senjo attracts climbers with its unique shape that resembles a folding screen. Partway up its slope, climbers can admire a breathtaking view of a pair of waterfalls as part of Odaki falls and Medaki falls. It is also the place famous in connection with the Emperor Go-Daigo.

Mt. Mitoku is home to a group of religious facilities related to mountain worship as represented by the national treasure, Nageire-do Hall. The area features a vertical distribution of continuous natural forests ranging from evergreen laurel forest such as Quercus salicina to deciduous broadleaf forest, such as cool-temperate beech trees.

Sekiheki has places where visitors can observe the traces when the volcano exploded in primordial times. The sunset cruising takes visitors to see a fantastic crimson hue when the surface of Sekiheki ("Red Wall") becomes enveloped in the evening glow of the setting sun.

Hiruzen Sanza is a mountain range (consisting of Mt. Kamihiruzen, Mt. Nakahiruzen, and Mt. Shimohiruzen) noted for the beauty of its gentle curves. Hiruzen Highland is a highland area lies at the foot of Hiruzen Sanza, and at 500 to 600 meters above sea level. The Yamayaki ("the burning of a mountain") in the Hiruzen region has been one of the annual traditions in spring, though it is recently decreasing.

Mt. Kenashi has colonies of dogtooth violets growing its top while natural forests of beech and other trees flourish on the slopes. This mountaintop also affords fantastic views, such that visitors can see as far as Mt. Daisen, Hiruzen Sanza, and the Yumigahama Peninsula on clear days.

Mt. Sanbe is a group of mountains, including Mt. Osanbe, Mt. Mesanbe, Mt. Kosanbe, and Mt. Magosanbe that encircle Muronouchi Pond. From the grassland at the summit and base to the natural forests on the hillsides, the mountain exhibits various landscapes. Muronouchi Pond is still emitting gases (primarily carbon dioxide), evidence of its volcanic origins.

Oki Islands

Oki Islands(70 kilometers north of the Shimane Peninsula) is a cluster of volcanic islands. Oki is six million years old and has been shaped by eons of intense volcanic activity and erosion. Its current form was sculpted about 10,000 years ago. Oki is where Emperor Gotoba and Emperor Godaigo were exiled during the Kamakura Period (1192-1333). The islands consist of the large Dogo Island and three smaller Dozen islands. The Oki Kuniga, with 800-foot-high cliffs on the sea, on Nishino-shima Island are particularly awesome. The Oki Islands have been designated a UNESCO Global Geopark.

The foundation of the Oki Islands was created during ancient volcanic activity where the land sank into the sea and connected to the mainland repeatedly as a result of crustal and climate changes that followed, forming isolated islands about 10,000 years ago. After the lengthy process just described, a submerged beach and raised beach were formed. As the peninsula eroded from the wintry seasonal winds and ocean waves, a great variety of seashore landscapes encompassing sea cliffs, cave mouths and caverns were generated. [Source: Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan]

On the Okinoshima island, various vegetation coexist in low-lying areas along the coastline, such as Ramanas roses (plant normaly found in Northern Japan), Nago orchids (plant normally found in Southern japan), Aster spathulifolius (continental plant ), and Allium schoenoprasum var. orientale (subalpine plant). In addition, the marine area is home to all of the species of seagrass found in the Sea of Japan and famed as one of the largest seagrass beds. It is also marked by the habitat of Caulerpa scalpelliformis var. denticulate, the only seaweed listed as the National Natural Monument.

On the Okinoshima island, the inland area is inhabited by indigenous Oki salamander, forming unique ecosystems. The Shimane Peninsula abounds with rocky shores that people cannot easily access, making it an ideal breeding ground for seabirds. Above all, the Fumi-shima Island is one of Japan's most vital rookeries for the black-tailed gull.

Both the Okinoshima Islands and Shimane Peninsula are the setting of Japanese mythological tales such as Kunibiki Shinwa. Shimane Peninsula in particular has a number of historical sites and landmarks, which are said to serve as the center of the ancient Izumo culture and associated with the myths, including the Izumo-taisha Shrine, Hinomisaki-jinja Shrine, and Kakanokukedo.

Oki Natural Museum features various exhibits that allow visitors to discover the beauty of Daisen-Oki National Park and Global Geoparks. One of the attractions that can be enjoyed by adults and kids alike is an exhibit about the Oki salamander, a salamander species that is endemic to the Oki Island. Visitors are encouraged to visit the museum as their first step in discovering the Oki Islands. Location: Oki Boat Plaza 2F, Nakamachi Menuki 4-54, Okinoshima Town, Oki County, Shimane Prefecture, Tel: 08512-2-1583 (Tel/Fax) Hours Open: 8:30am-5:30pm (Winter period: closed from 17:00), Closed Open daily throughout the year Admission: Adults 300 yen, children 150 yen * Special rate for groups of at least 10 people

Getting There: Ferries depart for the Oki Islands from Shichirui Port and Sakaiminato Port. Direct flights from Osaka Itami Airport to Oki Airport (Dogo) are also available. To Dogo: 80 mins by high-speed boat, 2 hrs 30 mins by ferry from Shichirui Port. To Dozen: 1 hr 30 mins to 2hrs by high-speed boat from Shichirui Port, 2 hrs 30 mins to 3 hrs 10 mins by ferry from Sakaiminato Port. From Haneda Airport in Tokyo it takes about one hour 30 minutes to get to Yonago Kitaro Airport. From there take a Hinomaru Bus about 30 minutes to get to Shichirui Port. There catch a ferry that takes two ours and 25 to get to Saigo Port. From there you can walk to Oki Shizen Kan (Oki Nature Center) Website: Oki Islands Tourism Association travel-oki-islands

Traveling Around the Oki Islands

One traveler wrote: “I arrived in Dogo, the largest and most populated of Oki’s four inhabited islands, via ferry from Honshu and headed southwest towards the fishing village of Tsuma to take in the old-fashioned wooden ‘Funagoya’ boathouses that line the shore of the harbor. These Funagoya are used to protect the fishing boats from the wind and rain and give you a glimpse of a more traditional fishing industry that has become out-dated in most parts of Japan. [Source: JNTO]

”After Tsuma, I turned my attention to Dogo’s three famed Japanese cedar trees. These giant specimens are easily accessible with-out any need for mountain walks and have been celebrated for cen-turies due to their colossal size and mysterious shapes that give them an almost otherworldly atmosphere. You’ll find the Yao-sugi at Tam-awakasu-mikoto Shrine, the six-trunked Kabura-sugi next to Route 316 towards the north of the island, and Chichi-sugi on Mt. Daimanji.

”Early that evening, I booked myself onto the Candle Island Sightseeing Boat tour, one of the Oki Islands’ most popular tourist attrac-tions. Candle Island is a long narrow rock that protrudes from the ocean. When the sun sets and rests on its summit, it resembles a gigan-tic candle that has been thrust into the sea. The scene might be one of Japan’s most beautiful natural phenomena, and I was excited to finally get a chance to see it. Sadly it was cloudy during my visit; however, the disappointment was short-lived as the tour also enables you to witness a number of the Oki Islands UNESCO Global Geopark’s more interesting coastal rock formations.

”My final stop on Dogo was the long-estab-lished Japanese confectionery store called Shugetsudo, so I could try their famed Sazae Monaka. This scrumptious sweet consists of wafers filled with red-bean paste shaped like a turban shellfish and is not to Steep cliffs topped with unique flora and fauna rise out of the ocean alongside strangely shaped rocks weathered over millennia. Welcome to Oki, a registered UNESCO Global Geopark, that allows you to get back in touch with Mother Nature. Cows and horses graze idyllically on the grasslands of Chiburi’s Mt. Akahage. Chichi-sugi cedar, the god of Oki. Seafood, a specialty of the islands, can be eaten at local inns.

Oki’s Dozen Islands

The traveler wrote: “On leaving Dogo, it was time to explore Oki’s three other inhabited ‘Dozen Islands’ (Nishinoshima, Nakanoshima, and Chiburijima).. First was Nakanoshima for a semi-submersible undersea boat tour departing from Hishiura Port in Ama Town. The tour is called ‘AMANBOW,’ and our initial stop was at a set of rocks named ‘Saburo-iwa,’ or ‘The Three Brothers.’ These three slabs stand tall out of the ocean and, like much of the Oki Islands, are capped in lush vegetation. As we continued, I ventured down to the underwater deck to observe the sub-aquatic environment and particularly relished watching fish dart in and out of the white oceanic rocks. [Source: JNTO]

:I then hopped over to Chiburijima as I wanted to climb Mt. Akahage. I’d been told that it offered the best views in all of Oki and was eager to experience it myself. It certainly lived up to its promise. The observation deck delivers an exquisite panorama of the ‘Dozen Caldera,’ an inland sea surrounded by the ring of the Dozen Islands, which was formed by a massive volcanic eruption and ensuing sea erosion.

”The vistas of the rugged grassy terrain were captivating, as was the sweet scent of the white clematis flowers which were in bloom during my stay. Looking over the caldera was a real treat, and I felt like I had stepped foot into one of our planet’s most idyllic scenes. Mt. Akahage also offers up some fantastic sights of its own. The long dry stone walls used to delineate the fields of the historical Makihata rotation farming still stretch for miles. The system made use of crop rotation and animal grazing in order to sustainably cultivate the barren volcanic land.

”I traveled to Sekiheki or ‘Red Cliff’ for the final leg of my jaunt around Chiburijima. Situated on the island’s west coast, the rock face looks as if it has been rendered by a great painter, and is composed of layers of bright red magma separated by bands of gray rock. I found the cliff to be a dramatic reminder of the violent forces that shaped the Earth millions of years ago.

”My final destination was Nishinoshima, where I headed to Mt. Takuhi, the highest peak in Dozen. My first stop was the Takuhi Shrine, esteemed for its spiritual aura. The shrine sits behind a huge On Kuniga Beach you’ll find the most magnificent cliff face in Oki. The islands are home to many unusually shaped rocks such as Saburo-iwa, and Candle Island.

”Japanese cedar tree and is built directly into a cave: it is a wonderful example of the fine integration between the islanders’ faith and nature. The high point of any excursion to Nishinoshima is the Kuniga coast. The wind-battered Matengai Cliff stands 257 meters above the sea and is touted as world-class scenery. You can get a magnificent view of the Kuniga coastline from the walking track near the top of Matengai Cliff, and Akao Lookout, however, taking a coastline cruise is your best bet if you truly want to appreciate its scale and beauty.

”The rocky cliffs extend for about 7 kilometers and are accompanied by an assortment of different shaped stacks that have been carved by the waves over many years. One of the most exciting moments of the cruise was when we exited the calm waters of the Dozen Caldera and ventured into the rougher waters of the Sea of Japan.”

Image Sources: 1) Japanese Guest Houses 2) 3) Sado Island site 4) 5) 6) Kanzawa City 7) NASA 8), 9) reggie.net 10) Fukui Dinosaur Museum 11) 14) 16) Wikipedia 12) Japan National Parks, 13) 15) Matsue City 17) Wikitravel

Text Sources: JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization), Japan.org, Japan News, Japan Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan Ministry of the Environment, UNESCO, Japan Guide website, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2020


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