Look out over this beautiful, multicolored national park where people and nature coexist

Look out over this beautiful, multicolored national park where people and nature coexist

Ise-Shima, located within Ise-Shima National Park, is a national park of the sea. From the Yokoyama Observatory you can gain a sweeping view of one of Japan's most iconic sights: the 60 small islands rising out of Ago Bay, and some of Japan's finest ria coastlines. The intricate ria coastlines, and the pearl farming rafts that run alongside them paint a special scene that embodies how man and nature have long coexisted. There are plenty of great spots to view the sunrise and sunset here as well, and the same spot can show you something completely different depending on the season or the time of day you visit, so there's truly no growing tired of the sights on offer.

Written by Nathan Raymond
About the Author:
I live in Gifu with my family and, since moving to Japan, I have learned that it is a country with many interesting places to explore. I enjoy finding new experiences wherever I go and letting other people know about the unique nature and culture of Japan.

I arrived by train at Kintetsu Ugata Station and then picked up my rental car from nearby the station. When I reached Shima City and drove into the countryside, there were some small vegetable farms in the flat areas being tended to by the locals. The elevation soon started to change and I was driving up the mountain with lush green forests on both sides of the road. Being surrounded by the trees and mountains made me feel refreshed and excited to reach the observatory.

The winding mountain road led me to the Yokoyama Visitor Center, which is a large, modern building about ten minutes by car from Ugata Station. I pulled into the parking lot and went into to check out what the center had to offer. Inside the center, I learned that visitors could watch video presentations and participate in activities to find out about the interesting natural diversity and culture of Ise-Shima. It was an informative and fun stop before making the rest of the short journey on foot to the Yokoyama Observatory.

Caption: The Yokoyama Visitor Center provides information and experiences that educate visitors about Ise-Shima.

From the visitor center, it was a short walk up a beautiful mountain path lined with ferns and arching trees. It was a gorgeous day when I visited the observatory and I enjoyed every second of the calm vibe I felt walking through the greenery. The pathway and surrounding forest were in pristine condition and there was no trash to be seen. At the visitor center, I had learned that this was thanks to the Ise-Shima National Park Yokoyama Observatory Cleanup Strategy.

This great program connects visitors to the park with local high school students to create a nature clean-up crew. Participants help to preserve the natural environment, spend time sightseeing with local students and enjoy a delicious seafood BBQ meal together that is prepared by one of the famous Ama divers in a traditional hut. I thought this sounded like an incredible experience and that maybe I would return someday to join in the clean up.

Caption: The short walk through the trees to the observatory was relaxing.

When I first walked out onto the viewing deck, the landscape before me took my breath away. I could sense that the other visitors had the same feeling as we all looked out into the distance at the incredible islands of Ago Bay. The unique ria coastline of Mie Prefecture is truly amazing and the way the land formations appear out of the water creates a picture postcard view. 

At the back of the large outdoor viewing deck, there is a two-story structure that is clean and simple in design. Inside the building, visitors can sit and appreciate the view while enjoying local dishes and refreshing drinks from Mirador Shima, a small take-away café. The café’s menu features simple seasonal dishes made with local ingredients from Ise-Shima.

Caption: The Yokoyama Observatory has a covered area with seating and an open-air deck.

Standing on the viewing deck and looking out at the Shima Peninsula, I was awestruck by the majestic beauty of nature. This part of Japan contains such a unique combination of mountains, ocean, islands and sea life that it seems almost unreal. For visitors to Japan whose home country doesn’t have coastlines like this to enjoy, Ise-Shima should be on their must see list.

Caption: The beautiful landscape of Ago Bay stretches into the distance.

It was a quiet day at the Yokoyama Observatory when I visited and I appreciated the serene atmosphere of looking into the distance as the water and land formations stretched out before me. The beauty of this place stoked the desire inside of me to keep exploring Japan and seeking out new experiences.

Caption: A visit to Ago Bay is a great chance to take some wonderful photos.

In the waters of the bay, I could see pearl farms floating in the water in between the numerous islands. It made me think of the other experiences I could have in Ise-Shima while I was visiting. I thought that a boat tour might be the best way to see Ago Bay from another perspective while learning about the local pearl industry.

Caption: I was amazed by the views of Ago Bay.

As my time at the Yokoyama Observatory was nearing an end, the sun began to move towards the horizon in the late afternoon. It was almost time to make my way back down the tree-lined path to the visitor center and get in my car to head off to my next destination in Ise-Shima. 

Caption: Looking down from the observatory, I felt like I was floating in the sky. 

Caption: The sunset at Yokoyama Observatory is considered to be some of the best in Japan.

My visit to the Yokoyama Visitors Center and Observatory was amazing and I will never forget the spectacular views of Ago Bay and the ria coastline of the Shima Peninsula. Mie Prefecture is a truly beautiful part of Japan with so much diversity. As I made my way back down the mountain, I felt more connected to the nature around me and knew I had a responsibility to help protect it in the future.

This is a great spot to visit after touring some of Mie's other sights. The people of Mie, as well as the nature, scenery, and culture of Mie, have all coexisted together for countless years, and that's what makes Mie what it is. This is the perfect spot to reflect on everything you've experienced in Mie and etch it all into your mind, never to be forgotten.

Tourist attractions covered by this article