Mie & Wakayama

14-15 March 2010

After our brunch at the Yokoyama observatory, which looks out over the bay district, we took the road along the coast and enjoyed the views.

We made a small top to stretch the legs and have a snack, where we had this typical Japanese view :-)

Oir first main stop was the Owase city, where we wanted to see the Doi-chikurin (土井竹林, Doi Bamboo Forest) [Description]. 4000m² and several thousands of bamboo trees sounds like a lot, but 4000m² is less than 65x65m and bamboo trees are very thin... Still, it was a nice stroll, and we enjoyed the rustic park with the old house on the other side of the tunel (next to the huge parking lot with pachinko/slot, restaurants, garden center, etc.)

A small hiking trail went up the hill behind the house, leading to a little shrine or so.

Our goal for the day was to end up somewhere around Shingu city, so we could go easily to the shrine with famous pagoda & waterfall of Nachi. On the navigation unit, I saw the route to Shingu passed very close to three dots as in . After living in Japan, and making several sightseeing tours by car (and always doing the navi), I figured out that this symbol gennerally means that there is something interesting to see there. When only one such gray dot is shown, it is generally not really worth it, but when there are three, it is normally worth stopping, or even worth making a detour.
Well, funny rock, we thought... not knowing what we would find around the corner...

It appeared to be a place called Onigajō (鬼ヶ城) at Kumano city. Later, I found out it is even on the UNESCO list of world heritage! I knew the "pilgrimage routes of the Kii mountain range" were on the list, and that was one of the reasons to visit the shrine and roads through the cedar forest at Nachi, but Onigajō is also mentioned as part of the "natural beauty" along the pilgrimage route:
"Along the Shichirimihamamichi [one of the pilgrimage routes] are excellent cultural landscapes as is represented by the “Kumano no Oniga-jō including Shishiiwa”, a scenic spot well known to people on a pilgrimage. The Shichirimihama is a flat sand and gravel coast which has been serving as an integral part of the pilgrimage route."
and later:
"The Kumano no Oniga-jō including the Shishiiwa is a natural scenic spot characterized by the unique shapes of geological features that are “works of nature’s art” produced through interactions between quartz trachyte cliffs and the weathering processes of waves and winds. The Kumano no Oniga-jō is a series of terraced caves and the Shishiiwa is a lion-shaped rock. They were introduced as a rare picturesque view in a traveler’s’ guidebook written in the 19th century. This valuable cultural landscape is a scenic spot along the Kumano Sankeimichi that many people on a pilgrimage can enjoy." [Nomination file for UNESCO inscription]

On the Japanese wiki I read that the holes were formed by erosion from the waves, and that the whole rock was later pushed upward in an earthquake.

It is difficult to show how large the whole thing is, but it is really quite impressive to walk around on those rocks.

[HDR] Sunset form Onigajō

The next day we headed out to the Nachi shrine, one of the famous places in the "pilgrimage routes of the Kii mountain range" [UNESCO]. Check for an overview of pilgrimage routes, and how they connect Nachi with the Ise shrine and Kōya-san (where we went in 2006, Post14 (1), (2)).

Some little shrine inside a tree just next to the main shrine building

Buddha waiting in the temple just behind the shrine. This temple is a very old building and said to be on the UNESCO list.

The pagoda (concrete building with elevator) and the Nachi waterfall, which would be the most spiritual place along the pilgrimage routes in the Kii mountain range. With 133m, the Nachi falls have the highest drop in Japan (although the Shōmyō Falls [wiki] are taller in total, they consist of several, shorter stages).

Part of the pilgrimage route between the shrine and the waterfall

[HDR] Further on the way we found another along our route. It appeared to be a natural sight called "Hashikuiwa" (橋杭岩), but it was a bit rain and we wanted to go on. Closeby we wanted to make a stop at Shionomisaki (潮岬) which would be famous for its coastline (apart from being the south-most point of Japan's main island Honshū). However, I didn't think the coast line was that impressive, after what I had seen along the Sanriku-kaigan (Post37).

That night we stayed in Minabe town, which is the most famous place for umeboshi (pickled Japanese plums). Unfortunately we were still about a week or two early to see the plum blossoms, which should be a magnificent view here. We did see several of the orchards around the town. Charcoal seems to be another famous regional product.

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