Shichiri-hama the longest pebble beach in Japan 22km long
Kumano is set in the beautiful Southern Kishu Mountains and along a unique coastal landscape. Ise-ji, one of the "Kumano Kodo", a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is famous as an ancient pilgrimage trails linking the “Kumano Sanzan,” the three grand shrines of Kumano. But beyond this, the region has so much to offer that cannot be found anywhere else in Japan. I arrived in this gorgeous area around sunset in time to explore the Onigajo World Heritage sight in the Yoshino-kumano National Park.
Exploring the mysterious sea and rock formations at Onigajo
This magical natural wonder is a lovely place to feel the work of nature over thousands of years. This spot feels like something out of a fairytale. The name Onigajo means Castle of the Ogre owing to the fanciful shapes of the rocks and coastline. Onigajo owes its curious carved rock face to centuries of erosion by the wind and sea. It almost feels like an alien landscape.
Fascinating shapes and unforgettable views at the Onigajo Heritage Site
If you arrive by car or tour bus you will be able to park at the Onigajo Center. There is a welcome center with a cafe/restaurant and souvenir shops. Approaching the famed rocks and cliffs along a 1km walking path feels secluded and mysterious. There are wonderful shapes, cracks, and intricate patterns of all shapes and sizes. There are even local stories that in the past pirates hid in the caves here.
From Onigajo I next headed further into Kumano and explored the area of Mihama. Stopping at the Shichirimihama Tourist Information Center. There you can find a wealth of Knowledge about the area, the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes, local specialities and read up on the deep history of the region.
Shichirimihama Tourist Information Center and stopping by the Mihama Blues café
Amazing Tasting set of 3 local types of Mihama Mikan Juice
The tasting set consists of 3 types of rich 100% juice from 3 different varietals of Mikan , 2 are standard offerings and 1 is always a seasonal variety that is changed throughout the year. It was so fun to compare and contrast three flavors at once while I chatted with the local staff and made plans for the next day. You can also buy your own large bottle of juice sold at the souvenir shop to enjoy later.
When you visit this area I recommend staying overnight so you have a chance to enjoy another of the hidden natural wonders. You will need to get up before dawn as we did, but it’s well worth it.
Heading out in the early morning darkness we made our way up into the mountains to go to the Akagi castle ruins where we could see both the Maruyama Senmaida and the famous Sea Of Clouds.
The fog rolling in around Akagi Castle Ruins, Kumano Mie
The Akagi Castle was a Sengoku period Japanese castle located in the Mountains of Kumano. Its ruins have been protected as a National Historic Site since 1989. We went to visit to see if we could spot the Sea Of Clouds. After the ruins were featured in a television program in 2015, photos of the castle ruins above a sea of fog were published, the site has received large numbers of visitors since.
An Ocean of fog through the trees and mountains
To add to the beauty of my morning explorations we had a chance to see the Maruyama Senmaida in the nearby valleys. Translated as "a thousand rice fields", these are some of the most lovely and well preserved terraced rice fields in Japan. The small farmlands climbing up the mountains are beautiful all year long. If you want to visit during a special time of year you can see the rice planting around the last Sunday in May, and harvesting in early September.
Terraced Rice Fields in the fog at dawn
After enjoying the stunning scenery I headed back down to the seaside for breakfast at my hotel featuring a specially prepared locally bento box.
The chef prepared the bento to highlight regional specialities, specifically Mehari Sushi which are rice ballsl wrapped in salted mustard leaves. Everything was delicious which was great because I was hungry after my dawn explorations.
Mihama Bento with local rice balls in salted mustard leaves
Enjoying a specialty coffee on the amazing Shichiri-hama pebble beach
Time to go pick the famous local Mikan (mandarin) oranges
Check in at the market center, purchase a ticket and head to the orchard
Mandarin trees stretch across the rolling hills of Kumano
My time in Kumano was full of inspiring scenery and unique experiences. Many people have traveled here for the famed pilgrimage hiking trails but the area has so many other things to see and do as well.If you decide to stay overnight I highly recommend the Fairfield by Marriott Mie Mihama
Fairfield by Marriott Mie Mihama is a great base of operations for your exploration
Warmly appointed and stylish rooms
The hotel is steps from the pebble beaches and next door to the information center. Local staff passionate about the area can give you great advice and the rooms of this new, and modern hotel feature warm wood furnishing, highest quality amentines and a stylish design throughout. In the well appointed lobby you can access free self serve tea and coffee and purchase local snacks, craft beer and instant noodles in a convenient snack station by the reception desk.
Lauren has degrees in education and art and a background in multicultural businesses. She is a lover of food, wine, travel, design and LIFE! Lauren has worked in Tourism in Japan for the last 7 years. She is a long-time resident in Japan. Her favorite thing is discovering new local stories and connecting with people across Japan.
〇Checking out the Vistors and Information center
〇Kanayama Pilot Farm
〇Fairfield by Marriott Mie Mihama