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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).

Seacoasts and Coastal Roads

Updated: Feb. 2013


Noto Peninsula, Ishikawa. Winter 2008

Route 249 goes around the Noto Peninsula, along a rocky shoreline.

Meoto IwaNoto pillars

As we drove around Noto in the winter of 2008, we could see snow squalls offshore, sweeping into the coast from the northwest.

Nami no hana, “wave flowers,” occur in the winter when sea foam freezes and floats up in white flakes on the wind, piling up along the rocky shore and tumbling over the coastal road:

Towards the northern end of the peninsula are the Agehama salt farm and Senmaida, “Thousand rice fields.” A light snow storm had just past when we were there, lining the narrow terraces in white:

On the east side of the peninsula, the Suzu coast:

Noto Peninsula, Summer 2012

We drove around the peninsula again in summer 2012.

Past the ricefields of Senmaida is the lighthouse at Rokkozaki, the northernmost point of the peninsula:

South of Rokkozaki, on the east coast of the peninsula, is Mitsuke-jima, a monolithic rock in Iida Bay.

South of Mitsuke-jima is Koiji Kaigan:

Route 136, from Shimoda to Numazu, Shizuoka. Spring 2008

Route 136 follows the scenic coastline of western Izu Peninsula, from Shimoda to Toi, from where the winding Route 17 continues north to Numazu:

In the spring, sakura blooms along the road:

The road winds past the Sanshiro Islands and sea cliffs:

Sanshiro islandsWalkway

As we approached Numata, the snow-capped summit of Fujisan was faintly visible to the north in the mist above the Akashi Mountains:

Route 338, West Coast of Shimokita Peninsula, Aomori. Summer 2005

On the drive from Oma to Mutsu, a troop of wild monkeys appeared walking on electric wires overhead, and foraging in the overhanging trees.

The highlight of this drive was Hotokegaura – rocky pillars said to look like Buddha statues. Strong gusts of winds blowing down from the cliffs darkened the sea surface in patches. At the lookout, we met a man from Osaka who, like us, was on a long road trip.

When we drove the road in the summer of 2013, the cliffs were obscured by mist:

Route 339, Cape Tappi, Aomori. Fall 2009

Having seen Shimokita Peninsula, the northeastern horn of Honshu in summer 2005, we drove to see Cape Tappi, the northwestern horn, in Fall 2009. The first winter storm passed by a couple of days earlier, and the winds were blustery at the cape.

Heading south for Ajigasawa, we descended a winding mountain road to the west coast, with spectacular views of the undeveloped coastline to Lake Jusanko.

Route 45, Rikuchu Coast, Iwate. Summer 2005

Route 45 follows the coast from Ishinomaki to Hachinohe, a 200 mile long drive. In 2005, we stopped at the Miyako Kyukamura Hotel for a night. In a light drizzle, the next morning we hiked the trail along the coast near the hotel.

Rikuchi coastCoastline

Summer 2013

We drove from Hachinohe to Kitayamazaki to see the sea cliffs on the north end of Route 45.

Route 101, Fukaura, Aomori. Summer 2013

Route 101 follows the coast from Ajigasawa to the Oga Peninsula, through Fukaura, noted for its scenic coastline.

Route 359, Nishi Kaigan ("West Coast"), Oga Peninsula, Akita. Summer 2010

Route 359, from Cape Nyudo (left) down the west coast of the Oga Peninsula is narrow and winding, with a scenic coastline. Many of the sites are below the cliffs, with the best viewing by boats, which leave from the pier at the Oga Aquarium. It was pouring rain on the day we drove the route from the north.

Cape NyudoOga Aquarium

In the Summer 2013, the coast was bright in sunshine.

Nyudōzaki, on the northern tip of Oga Peninsula

Matsushima, Miyagi. Summer 2005 / Fall 2009

Matsushima Bay, northeast of Sendai, holds 263 islands. It was selected as one of the three most scenic places in Japan by Confucian scholar Shunsai Hayashi, who traveled around Japan half a century before Basho, in 1643. The other two scenic spots he chose were Miyajima, a sacred island in the Inland Sea near Hiroshima City (above); and Amanohashidate, a sand spit on the Sea of Japan coast in Kyoto Prefecture (below).

Matsushima BayBeach

Matsushima, Summer 2005, Ōshima Island


Matsushima, Fall 2009, from a Tour Boat


Matsushima, circa 1890s. New York Public Library Archives

Photos of Matsushima. Ogawa Kazumasa (1860-1929)

Highway 8, Toyama. Summer 2010 and Summer

The road hugs the steep cliffs between Itoigawa to Ichiburi, past Oyashirazu:

In 2010, a three-day summer storm was battering the coast below the cliff-side road.

Near Oyashirazu was an oddly shaped rock and a park with a giant turtle sculpture.

RocksTurtle sculpture

Highway 8, Echizen Kaigan, Ishikawa-Fukui. Winter 2008

We drove along the Echizen Kaigan from Kanazawa to Tsuruga in winter, 2008. The Kaga (Ishikawa) coast features basaltic rock formations:

Two famous sites are Tojimbo, pillar-shaped rocks eroded by the sea, and Kochomon (“Calling Bird Gate”), a natural tunnel. Kochomon is closed to traffic due to crumbling rocks.


We ended up at Tsuruga Bay in Fukui:

We drove the Echizen-Kaga coast again the summer of 2012, from Tsuruga to Kanazawa.

San-in Kaigan National Park. Spring 2004 and Fall 2006.

San-in Kaigan (Mountain Shadow Coast) National Park stretches for 50 miles along the north side of Honshu, from Tango Peninsula to the Tottori Sand Dunes.

Tango Peninsula, Spring 2004: Route 178 goes around the Tango Peninsula/ At the east end of this route, in Miyazu Bay is Amanohashidate (“Heavenly Bridge”), said to be a remnant of the heavenly bridge from which the creation kami Izanagi and Izanami stirred up the brine to form an island called Onogoro. Viewing the sand spit upside down through one’s legs, from the hill above, gives the impression of a bridge floating in space.

Tango coastTango IneLighthouseCliffsAmanohashidateBeach walk

Tottori Sand Dunes, Highway 9. Fall 2006. We walked out to the ocean on a drizzling morning and looked down the tall sand dune at the ocean. Far-away visitors looked like ants. Filmmaker Hiroshi Teshigahara shot “Woman of the Dunes” (1964) here, a film based on Kobo Abe’s existentialist novel “Suna no Onna” (1962).

Seacoast Near Takeno, Route 11. Fall 2006

SeacoastSanin coast

Route 42, from Ise to Shingu, Kii Peninsula, Mie. Spring 2004

Driving from Ise to Shingu took us along the southeast coast of the Kii Peninsula, to Onigajo (“Demon’s Castle”) and Shishi-iwa ("Lion Rock"). A tunnel lined with tourist shops leads out to the wind and wave sculpted cliffs of Onigajo. We went before the shops opened and enjoyed an uncrowded walk along the coast.


South from Onigajo on the coastal road is Shishi-iwa ("Lion Rock"):

Route 60, Suo-Ōshima , Yamaguchi. Spring 2011

The drive along Rte. 60 on southern coast of Suo-Ōshima, from the beach in front of the Hotel and Resort Sunshine Sazan Seto (1) went past the 1000 cherry blossoms of Gojyo (still in bud, Tateiwa ("Standing Rock"), and Ganmon ("Gate"), which was on a small sandy beach on a short hike over a hill at the end of Ryūzaki (4).

Oshima beachroad sceneStanding Rockrock gate


Route 56, from Kochi to Cape Ashizuri, Shikoku. Fall 2006

Surfing beach near Tosa Irino:

Cape Ashizuri, the southernmost point of Shikoku:

West of Cape Ashizuri is a rocky shoreline formation called Tatsukushi, "Dragon Skewers."

Route 56, Tokushima to Muroto, Shikoku. Summer 2009

Route 56 follows the coast from Tokushima to Cape Muroto, Shikoku's southeastern point. Along the way we stopped at Hiwasa town. Yakuoji Shrine offers a view of a rounded turtle rock just offshore.

Sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs on the beach:

Farther south: Meoto iwa ("married rocks").

At Muroto is a coastal trail, with sites associated with the founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kobo Daishi, who is said to have achieved enlightenment in a cave near the cape. Kobo Daishi is said to have blessed the water of Mearai-no-ike Pond and used it to cure eye diseases:

Cape Muroto, from the cliff-side trail up to the Muroto Llighthouse and Hotsumisaki temple:


Route 226, Satsuma Peninsula, Kagoshima. Spring 2011

The drive along Rte. 226 at southern end of the Satsuma Peninsula, from Kagoshima to Cape Kasasa, goes past Mt. Kaimon, known as Satsuma Fuji:

Passing through small towns, the route hugs the seacliffs, to a lookout at Cape Kasasa:

This cape is said to be a land that Amaterasu's grandson Ninigi, after descending from Heaven, declared was good and where he lived:

This place is opposite to the "land of Kara" [Korea]. One comes straight across to the august Cape of Kasasa; and it is a land whereon the morning sun shines straight, a land which the evening sun's sunlight illumines. So this place is an exceedingly good place. (Nihongi)

It was at this cape that he met his wife, Konohana Sakuyahime no Mikoto, “Princess who blossoms like the flowers of the trees.”


Shiretoko Peninsula. Summer 2005

A coastal road (Route 93) goes north along the west coast past some lakes to Kamuiwakka waterfall fed by a hot spring. The main coastal road (Route 334) goes east, up to Mt. Rausu and Rausu Pass, with a view of Kunashiri Island (photo bottom left), claimed by Japan and occupied by Russia since the end of World War II.

Shiretoko peninsulaRausu Passrausu kunashiri offshorerausu fishing boats