Written by Susan Spann
Japan, Off The Beaten Path - Hiking The Jogasaki Coast Trail
The Jogasaki Coast, located in the Izu Peninsula, is an area with impressive geological formations. In addition to fabulous ocean views, there are waterfalls and temples to explore in the area. Susan Spann tells us about her hike on the Jogasaki Coast.
Four thousand years ago, the eruption of Mt. Omuro sent a massive lava flow cascading down the eastern coast of the Izu Peninsula. Molten rock surged into the sea, creating a jagged coastline filled with hidden coves and tide pools.
Today this area, known as the Jogasaki Coast, is a nature reserve beside the sea. I love volcanoes and the ocean, so I recently hopped a train and traveled two hours south from Tokyo to explore the hiking trails along the Jogasaki Coast.
Jogasaki - Hiking the Picnical Course
I began my hike at Jogasaki-Kaigan Station, where signs directed me down tree-lined streets to the coast. Birds sang in the branches and sunlight filtered through the leaves to speckle the asphalt road with spots of light. About ten minutes into the walk I caught my first glimpse of the sparkling Pacific Ocean through the trees. I increased my pace, eager to reach the trail.
The trail began beside a rocky beach, at the entrance to a forest of pine and wax myrtle trees. Blue and purple ajisai (hydrangeas) bloomed beside the path, and I saw the deep blue ocean between the branches.
A minute later, the trail reached the coast. Breezes whipped the ocean into white-capped swells that crashed against the rocks at the base of the jagged volcanic cliffs. Near the coast, the water changed from blue to pale aqua, so clean and clear that I could see the rocks beneath the surface.
Signs along the path identified sites of geological and historical interest, including a clifftop battery where cannons once guarded the coast against invasion.
Exploring the Coastal Tide Pools
Twenty minutes later, I emerged atop another set of rocky cliffs and saw the pale white Kadowaki Lighthouse rising above the trees on the far side of Kadowaki Cape. Pale blue surf crashed over massive rocks in the cove created by the cape. People walked along the rocks, laughing and shrieking in the spray as they explored the tide pools near the water's edge.
In the cove, gray and black gobies and pale yellow crabs grazed on algae in the shallow pools created by receding tides. Barnacles and mussels clung to the rocks, and breaking waves crashed over them. When I finished exploring, I sat on the sun-warmed rocks to watch the tide pools and the sea. The crashing waves sprinkled my face and hair with refreshing spray.
Oshima, the largest of the Izu Islands, was clearly visible on the horizon, 70 kilometers to the south. A large white cloud hovered over the island like a hat. Smaller Toshima, farther south, looked like a pyramid rising from the sea.
I could have spent all day enjoying the tide pools and the view, but I still had eight kilometers to walk, so I returned to the trail and crossed the suspension bridge that connects Kadowaki Cape with the rest of the coast. Waves broke on the rocks beneath the bridge, and although some people seemed nervous about crossing such a long suspension bridge, I enjoyed the feeling of its movement beneath my feet.
Ten minutes past the bridge, I reached the New York Lamp Museum and Flower Park, which features Tiffany glass and other historic lamps, along with acres of manicured gardens that bloom in every season of the year. I didn’t have time for a visit, but I bought a delicious chicken sandwich and refreshing iced hibiscus tea from the restaurant window outside the museum and ate at one of the decorative tables on a nearby patio.
A Hidden Cove Near Renchakuji Temple
After lunch, I followed the trail to the gates of Renchakuji, a Buddhist temple established in 1508 as a memorial to Nichiren, a famous Japanese priest who was banished to Izu during the 12th century.
A little way past the temple, I noticed a group of stones that led away from the trail toward the sea. They looked like a path, so I followed them, hopping from stone to stone to avoid trampling the delicate coastal plants. I soon discovered a rocky cove that was completely hidden from the trail.
Small waves broke over the rocks, send knee-deep blankets of foamy, pale blue water racing up the shore. I sat on a rock near the breakers and watched the sea, entirely alone. I listened to the roar and hiss of the waves and inhaled the fresh, clean air. I had never seen anything as vibrant blue as the sparkling sea, or as many shades of blue as the waves took on as they traveled from the midnight depths to the pale cerulean shallows near the shore.
Waterfalls and Suspension Bridges
When I finally managed to tear myself away from the secret cove, I returned to the forested hiking trail that paralleled the cliffs. More hydrangeas bloomed beneath the trees, creating brilliant splashes of color along the shaded path.
Several times, I stopped to watch waves break against cliffs of columnar joint, a unique geological feature created when magma cools into multi-sided prismatic columns. This rare feature is easy to see along the Jogasaki Coast, because the surf runs off the columns in tiny waterfalls.
Farther along the coast, I diverted off the trail again to explore a second set of tide pools and to watch the Tajima Waterfall pour down the cliffs and tumble into the sea.
By the time I reached the suspension bridge at the southern end of the hiking trail, the sun hung low on the horizon.
I had walked almost ten kilometers, but I didn’t feel tired. The unique geological features and the deep, rich colors of the flowers, trees, and sea left me feeling refreshed and happy. The Jogasaki Coast is a wonderful place to escape the Tokyo heat for a relaxing summer afternoon.
Text and photos by Susan Spann
Susan Spann is the author of the Hiro Hattori mystery novels. She lives in Tokyo, but frequently travels across Japan, climbing mountains and seeking adventures off the beaten path. You can find her online at www.susanspann.com.