The Art of Nature in the Tohoku Region
The Tohoku region is a large area full of natural wonders and beauty that continue to fascinate. These places include strange, huge rocks and limestone caves that have naturally formed over time. Among them, we will introduce three spots: "Hotokegaura" in Aomori Prefecture, "Abukuma Cave" in Fukushima Prefecture, and "Sasagawa Nagare" in Niigata Prefecture.
[Aomori Prefecture] Hotokegaura
A Stunning Formation Found in the Northernmost Part of Honshu (The Main Island of Japan)
Hotokegaura is located on the west side of the Shimokita Peninsula, the northernmost point of Honshu. It is a two-kilometer long rocky coastline that stretches into clear emerald green waters. The rocks, created by the rough waves of the Tsugaru Strait, are a beautiful formation created by nature. The contrast between the huge whitish-green rocks, the forest surrounding them, and the clear blue sea is a magnificent sight to behold.
Hotokegaura is a formation of strangely-shaped rocks and stones of many sizes, some of which rise to nearly 100 meters above sea level.
It is designated as a national scenic beauty and a natural monument.
A Magical View that Conjures Images of Paradise
Seeing huge white stones standing high in a forest like a Buddha is truly magnificent and magical. Each of the oddly-shaped rocks is named after a Buddhist deity, such as "Buddha's Head", "Five Hundred Arhats", "Thirteen Buddha Kannon Rocks", and "Paradise Beach". Stand in front of these huge and strange rocks to feel the immense scale and mystique of nature.
Take a Sightseeing Boat Around Hotokegaura
We recommend taking a sightseeing boat, which operates from three different ports between April and October, to enjoy Hotokegaura even more. There are various plans available, from a short 15-minute glass boat ride to a 90-minute course with a guide who will explain the names of the rocks, their origins and highlights. The coast to Hotokegaura is also dotted with huge rocks and cliffs, and the spectacular view from the sea is something only a sightseeing boat can offer.
Around May to July, the courses take you through waters where dolphins may appear. If you are lucky, you may even see a group of dolphins swimming alongside the boat.
A Mecca for Tuna: Hotokegaura
About an hour's drive from Hotokegaura is the town of Oma, famous for its tuna. At Oma-zaki, the northernmost point of Honshu, there is a life-size monument of a 440kg tuna that was actually caught in the waters here. There are also a variety of restaurants where you can eat Oma tuna, famous for the high price it fetches at the market's first auction every year. Enjoy excellent Oma tuna in sashimi, seafood rice bowls, nigirizushi, and, more.
[Fukushima Prefecture] Abukuma Cave
A natural work of art created over 80 million years - a vast number of stalactites, said to be the largest in the East
As you step into the 600-meter-long cave, the beauty of these natural formations created over 80 million years opens up before your eyes. Walk through the cave where you will come across a variety of stalactites with unique nicknames, such as "Yōkai Tower" and "Hakuji Waterfall", that are illuminated by lights.
In addition to the "Regular Course", which is 600 meters long and takes about 40 minutes, you can also take the 120-meter-long "Exploration Course". The "Exploration Course" will make you crouch in narrow spaces and cross log ladders, a great course for more adventurous people.
Takine Goten: A Huge Otherworldly Space
The biggest attraction of Abukuma Cave is "Takine Goten", a huge cavern 29 meters high and 1,000 square meters wide. It is the largest space in the cave and has stairs so visitors can climb up and see rare stalactites illuminated up close. The lights make this breathtaking natural space like something out of a dream.
The "World of the Moon": Expressions of Time
The last part of Abukuma Cave is "The World of the Moon". This is the first time in Japan that a stage lighting system has been installed within a limestone cave. It expresses the changes of the day from dawn to sunrise and sunset over two minutes. It is also a location where you can see all major types of stalactites. The sound of dripping water and fanciful illuminations will transport you to a fantasy world.
Try Caving at Irimizu Limestone Cave!
Irimizu Limestone Cave, located near Abukuma Cave, is a place where you can try an authentic caving experience. The 900-meter-long cave is divided into three courses: A to C. Course A, which is 150 meters from the entrance, can be entered in normal clothes. From Course B, a route completely unaltered by humans, you will be knee-deep in cold water (less than 10 degrees Celsius) and crawl through gaps in the limestone cave with the aid of flashlights and candles.
Experience this adventure world of the underground.
[Niigata Prefecture] Sasagawa Nagare (Sasagawa Stream)
Beautiful formations created by the rough waves of the Sea of Japan
Sasagawa Nagare is located about 15 km north of the city of Murakami, a castle town in northern Niigata Prefecture. The Sasagawa Nagare is an 11 km stretch of rocky coast with strange and monstrous rocks created by the rough waves of the Sea of Japan. The clear blue sea, one of the clearest in Japan, is backed by a varied landscape of strange rocks, reefs, and caves. This magnificent scenery has been designated as a national scenic beauty and a natural monument.
Take a Sightseeing Boat Along Sasagawa Nagare
We recommend taking a cruise boat to truly enjoy the magnificent scenery and breathaking views of Sasagawa Nagare from the sea. A 40-minute ride will take you along the more famous rocks of Sasagawa Nagare, such as Megane Iwa (Glasses Rock) and Kyōryū Iwa (Dinosaur Rock), so named because of how they look.
The cruise is also a great opportunity to feed the seagulls. In the evening, enjoy a romantic sunset view.
Enjoy Sasagawa Nagare By Car or Train
Among the national highways that run along the Sea of Japan in Niigata Prefecture, known as the "Sea of Japan Sunset Line", the stretch of highway that runs alongside Sasagawa Nagare is particularly famous for its scenic views. From the "Nihonkai (Sea of Japan) Sunset Station" along the route, you can watch the sun set over the Sea of Japan.
One need not drive to enjoy views of Sasagawa Nagare. Catch great views from the JR Hanetsu Line that runs between Niigata and Akita prefectures. On a clear day, you can even see Sado Island and Awashima Island floating in the Sea of Japan.
Locals' Favorite Salt from Sasagawa Nagare
The area around Sasagawa Nagare, has excellent water, and has been used for making salt since ancient times. Salt named "Sasagawa Nagare no Shio" is sold at nearby stores, and ice cream containing this special salt can be found at cafes and roadside stations. The salty taste of these items has a refreshing aftertaste.
You can also observe the traditional salt making process at some places.