links to APDL and KCC link to KCC homepage link to APDL homepage

Roads of Oku: Home

Inspiration ...

Matsuo Basho's Narrow Road to the Deep North, Translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa / Google Map: Bashō's Oku no Hosomichi ("Narrow Road to the Deep North")

Journeys ...

Spring 2004: On the Road in Kansai / Google Map
Summer 2005: Roads of Oku / Google Map
Fall 2006: Where Gods Alight / Google Map
Summer 2007: Hōkūle‘a in Yokohama / Map
Winter 2008: Snow Country / Google Map
Spring 2008: Full Bloom & Festivals / Google Map
Summer 2009: Fireflies & Sweet Fish / Google Map
Fall 2009: North Country Colors / Google Map
Summer 2010: Legends of the Land / Google Map
Spring 2011: On the Far Side of Disaster / Google Map
Summer 2012: Travels in the Fifth Moon / Google Map
Summer 2013: Far Roads: Finishing Touches / Google Map
Summer 2015: Saké-Tasting in the Kingdom of Local Brew

Memorable ...

Roads / Seacoasts & Coastal Roads / Bridges / Ferries / Walks & Hikes / Mountains / Ropeways / Rivers / Waterfalls / Lakes / Trees / Rocks / Caves / Hot Springs / Sakura / Fall Colors / Archaeology and History / Castles / Shrines / Temples / Gardens / Festivals / Food / Drinks
Photography: Dennis Kawaharada and Karen Ono

Note ...

On Driving in Japan

Roads of Oku: Journeys in the Heartland

A collection of essays on Japanese culture, history and literature. Available at (Far Roads Press, 2015).


Updated: Summer 2015

Gotobiki, Kamikura Shrine, Shingu, Mie. Spring 2004

Gotobiki is a huge boulder on a cliff of Mt. Gongenyama overlooking Shingu City. It's is worshiped as a kami at Kamikura Shrine. In the morning, for exercise, locals cliimb the steep stone stairs to the shrine.

Gotobiki rocksBoulder

Hashiguiiwa (“Bridge Post Stones”), Wakayama. Spring 2004

Hashiguiiwa (“Bridge Post Stones”) is located along the road to Kushimoto from Shingu.

Hana no Iwaya, Mie. Spring 2004

Hana no Iwaya is said to be the rocks used by the creation god Izanagi to block up a passageway to the underworld, a legend told in first histories of Japan, Kojiki and Nihon shoki, complied at the beginning of the eighth century.

Hana no IwayaBoulders

Tatsukushi (“Dragon Skewers”), Ashizuri, Kochi, Shikoku. Fall 2006

Tojimbo. Kaga Coast, Fukui. Winter 2008

Basaltic rocks along the Kaga Coast, eroded by the sea.

Kaga coastCliff face

Meoto Iwa ("Married Rocks")

Meoto Iwa ("Married Rocks") appear along the coast in several places, joined by shimenawa (rice straw ropes). The most famous Meoto Iwa is at Futami, Mie, where visitors stop to view the sunrise between the rocks.

To left: Meoto Iwa, Spring 2004. Top Right: Noto, Ishikawa, Winter 2008. Below: Kochi Coast, Shikoku, Summer 2009.


Shishiiwa (“Lion Rock”). Mie, Wakayama. Spring 2004

Located on the north end of Shichigahama, Shishiiwa overlooks the rocky beach.

Ningyō Iwa (“Human-Figure Rocks”). Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima. Spring 2011

Located on Nishikata Beach on the shore of the East China Sea, these rocks are named "Ningyō-iwa" because they looks like a parent-child doll set.

ningyō rocks

Sesshoseki (“Killing Stone”). Nasu, Tochigi. Fall 2009

Made famous by Basho on his journey to Oku, this stone is located in a sulphurous valley north of Tokyo, below Mt. Chausudake. He noted “a pile of dead bees, butterflies, and other insects” around the stone.

The story of the stone is this: an evil nine-tailed fox spirit was hunted down and killed in Nasu and congealed into the rock, which emitted a poisonous gas that killled anything that came near it. Later, a Zen priest traveling through Nasu heard about the killing stone. He performed an exorcism to release the spirit. The stone broke apart, and the spirit emerged and asked to be enlightened to the Buddhist Law. After being saved, the spirit promised to do no more evil and vanished.

Sesshoseki path


Kurozuka (“Black Mound”), Nihonmatsu, Fukushima. Fall 2009

This group of rocks at Kanze Temple is said to be the former home of a cannibalistic oni-baba (demon woman), who killed and ate travelers. Her evil spirit was destroyed through the prayers of a traveling priest. The story is told in the Noh drama "Adachigahara," the name of the area in Nihonmatsu where these rocks are located. A pond neaby is called "the Pond of Blood," where the onibaba washed her bloody knife. When we were there a black popped up from behind a rock.

KurozukaPond of Blood

Tatamigaura (“Reed-Mat Coast”), Iwami, Shimane. Summer 2009

From a small harbor town in Iwami, a tunnel leads out to a rocky shoreline where stones protrude like mushroom from the flat surface.


Ishibutai Tomb, Nara. Spring 2008

Turtle Rock (Hand-Carved Face), Asuka, Nara. Fall 2014

Turtle Rocks, Cape Hajikizaki, Sado Island. Summer 2015