Translated by MATCHA-PR
Onigajō, Mie - A World Heritage Site Created by the Rocks and the Sea
Written by MATCHA-PR
In Kumano, Mie prefecture, you will find a steep cliff that looks like an "oni" (ogre). This is the UNESCO World Heritage site Onigajō and its famous Shishiiwa - the lion-shaped rock. Onigajō extends for 1 km along the coast. Due to earthquake activity an
If you travel to Kumano, Mie prefecture, a site that you absolutely can't afford to miss is Onigajō (鬼ヶ城). Here you can witness the natural works of art created by the winds and stormy seas.
The Origin of Onigajō
Onigajō extends for about 1 kilometer along the coast and, thanks to the interwoven action of both earthquakes and marine erosion over centuries, this coastline has an otherworldly, peculiar atmosphere to it.
The whole area was historically governed by a warrior family called Arima, and it was here that Arima Tadachika built a castle upon the 153 meter tall summit that was formerly called Oni no iwaya (鬼岩屋). This is the origin of the current name of this structure - Onigajō ("Ogre Castle").
Oni no iwaya was the largest mountain castle in this region. A legend says that it was a hideout for pirates and that ultimately it was the place where one of the Emperors during the Heian period is said to have dispatched his armies in order to exterminate all the pirates in Japan.
Highlights of Onigajō - Night and Day
At the entrance to Onigajō stands the Onigajō Center, a tourist information center where you can find pamphlets on this area, buy souvenirs and other famous goods from Kumano city and also enjoy a cafe and restaurant. Kumano's sister city is Sorrento in Italy, that is why the cafe within the center has been named Sorrento.
As you walk up the railed stone slope, you can really get a feel for the effects nature has had on Onigajō. There are rocks that look like ogres groaning and strange ones that resemble crocodiles too.
Along the path you will find various forms of marine erosion including some that look like waves frozen in time.
In the spring, four different varieties of cherry blossoms bloom at the summit, making for a gorgeous display of color against the rough stone and sea backdrop.
All along the Onigajō walking route you get a superb view of the ocean. On clear days, the ocean breeze and sea air here is something you have to experience to believe. It's a feeling of total bliss.
The sound of the waves as they roar and crash against the rocks is truly peaceful. Incidentally, this flat projection of stone is said to be part of the pirates' legendary hideouts.
Photographer: Yutaka Matsubara Design: Sony Digital Entertainment
When the weather is clear, the starry night sky visible from Onigajō will surely leave you speechless.
At night it is quite dark here and there are very few people around. You will feel as though you can enjoy the whole starry sky just by yourself, a rather romantic sort of feeling, don't you think? But don't forget to bring a flashlight with you, just in case.
Onigajō and Kumano's Strange Scenery, the Powerful Shishiiwa
Shishiiwa (獅子岩, "Lion Rock") is the tourist spot that comes to mind when thinking of the neighboring area of Onigajō, Kumano. Standing 25 meters tall, this rock formation resembles a lion (shishi) roaring at the sea. Shishiiwa, thanks to the peculiar marine erosion that took place here, was formed completely naturally, which once again leaves you impressed with the sheer power of Mother Nature. An ancient belief still held in Japan is that gods and goddesses reside inside giant stones, thus Shishiiwa has always been considered to be an incredibly important place.
Shishiiwa is a very popular spot for photography buffs. If you're lucky,ssyou will see the stupendous but fleeting sight of the great stone lion holding the sun in its mouth in the morning.
Every August 17th a large fireworks display takes place here, with over 170,000 people from all over in attendance. At this event the fireworks are launched from boats on the ocean. The powerful sight of Shishiiwa standing tall against a backdrop of brilliant fireworks is a photograph that everyone hopes to take.
But perhaps the most sought-after and most difficult to take photograph of Shishiiwa is that of the lion holding the full moon in its mouth. Every year from November to January many photographers gather here, hoping to catch that fleeting moment on film. According to photographers, the perfect moment when the full moon sits perfectly inside the lion's mouth only happens a few times each year.
Bare Rock as Far as the Eye Can See - Shichiri-mihama
If you pass by Shishiiwa, you will find yourself far from the rugged rock landscape standing on a smooth, gently sloping sandy beach. This is Shichiri-mihama.
Spanning from Kumano city to Kihōchō, this 22 kilometer long beach is the longest pebble beach in all of Japan. The picturesque scenery of this beach has been chosen as one of the "Top 100 Sites to Preserve for the 21st Century" in Japan.
On May 5th, when the Japanese celebrate Kodomo no Hi (Children's Day), streamers of koinobori (*1) are hung along the beach; the sight of untold numbers of the koinobori flags waving against the bright blue sky and sea is impressive.
Strolling along, relaxing on the beach, seeing the curious natural scenery - here you are certain to find the perfect way to enjoy yourself.
Onigajō, a wonder of nature,, has been recognized as World Heritage. It is still a little-known site overseas, and a place where you can truly enjoy yourself. If you are someone who is tired of the same old tourist spots, then, without a doubt, Onigajō in Kumano, Mie prefecture, is the place for you.
*1 Koinobori: a flag designed to look like a Japanese common carp; a decoration used to pray for the healthy growth of children, especially boys.
Woul you like to know more about Mie prefecture? Check out Shiho's breathtaking scenery guide and introduction to Mie here: Shiho's Breathtaking Scenery Trip - Mie Edition
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Address: Mie, Kumano, Kinomotochō 1835-7
Hours: 9:00 - 17:00 (restaurant from 11:00)
Credit cards： Yes
Other Languages: Basic English, Chinese
Nearest Station: JR Kumanoshi station (JR 熊野市駅)
Access: From JR Kiseihonsen line (JR紀勢本線) Kumanoshi station take the Mie Bus for about 10 minutes to the Onigajō West Exit bus stop (鬼ヶ城西口) and then walk for 5 minutes.
Phone Number: 0597-89-1502
Homepage: UNESCO Site Onigajō: Onigajō Center (Japanese)