Saganoseki Cape in Oita Prefecture features a magnificent scenic spot known as Seki-zaki. The southern side of this spot, Kurogazaki, was selected as one of Japan's top 100 beaches.
Adding to the special atmosphere of this beach are the Bishago Sisters Rocks, two rocks linked by a rope. They are a symbol of Kurogazaki as well as famous for a legend about 'ama' (women divers). It is said that when the Kanmu Emperor was traveling east, Izanaginomikoto lost his holy sword in the sea. Isago and Masago, two sisters who were divers, retrieved the sword from a gigantic octopus. The nest day, a thunderstorm broke the rock into two. Ever since, the two sisters have been enshrined in each rock.
Sunrise on New Year's day is a popular time to come to this place, and many neighbors come at this time.
The town of Hinase in Okayama Prefecture is well known among people in the Kansai area for fresh seafood and for fishing.
The most famous specialty of Hinase Harbor is the oyster. The oyster business in Okayama Prefecture is the third largest in Japan, followed by Miyagi and Hiroshima prefectures. At Gomi-no-Ichi ('market of all tastes'), the Fisheries Cooperative Association's market in Hinase town, fish are sold at bargain prices compared with regular markets. Every fish is fresh, making the market very popular not only for locals, but tourists, too. The oysters in particular are known for their size and taste. These oysters can be baked and eaten right there.
The market's name (Gomi-no-Ichi) reflects the abundance of fish available in Hinase Harbor. Numerous varieties of seafood, including shrimp, shore-swimming crab, mantis shrimp, ocellated octopus and sillago can be enjoyed. The marketplace opens around 9 in the morning, but closes once produce is sold out, so it's better to get there early.
Hegura Island is located about 48km north of the Noto Peninsula. The shore has complicated inlets and cliffs formed by exposure to rough waves. The island is about 13m high and some 5km around and is small enough to explore in an hour.
In the past, fishermen from Wajima on the opposite shore would come here during the summer fishing season. But now, the number of inhabitants is increasing. Thanks to currents and landforms, it has many good fishing spots and is especially popular with ama, professional woman divers, who were described in an ancient poem in the Manyoushu (A Collection of a Myriad Leaves).
The views around the island have not changed so much over time and, in summer, many ama come here to dive for fish. In fact, the island is mainly fished by ama, their main catch being abalone, agar, soft seaweed and turban shells.
In addition, the island is a good resting place for birds migrating between Japan and the Asian Continent. In fact, there are some birds that can only be seen here in all Japan.
Mie Prefecture is well known for the many women divers (amasan) who, historically, have caught seafood and famous marine products.
At the end of World War II, Mie Prefecture was reputed to have more than 6000 amasan in the Toba and Shima regions. However, due to the reduction in fishing resources, an unstable and sluggish market, and the harsh working conditions, there have been fewer and fewer women read to do the job. Today there are only about 1300 aging, yet still active, amasan.
The amasan's main targets are awabi (abalone), sazae (turban shells), and namako (sea cucumbers). A few skilled and experienced amasan are able to capture iseebi (lobsters) without a scratch. The fishing methods these amasan use are invaluable to the ecology of the sea as they do not encourage over-fishing.
It can be said that the amasan of Mie are a living link to fishing methods and practises of the past.
Yonaguni (Yona Country) was an ancient state that once existed on Yonagunijima (Yonaguni Island) at the westernmost end of Okinawa Prefecture. The oldest archeological remains verified there are the Tsuguruhama-Iseki. They were thought to be from the late Eolithic age, but recent research shows they may date back to 4400 years ago.
No earthenware has been excavated from this site, which suggests that the people who lived here practiced a culture where pottery was not used. In recent years, further sites have been discovered that lie under water, which may lead to some interesting correlations.
The history of Yonaguni is still vague, but it is known that in the 11th century, the people living in this country established settlements on plateaus. It is also thought that in the 14th century the culture and civilisation of Yonaguni further developed as a result of its position as a marine crossroads.
In 1522, Yonaguni was ruled by the empress Sanai Isoba, but fell before vanishing completely under the domination of the Ryukyu Dynasty. The lost history of Yonaguni is still wrapped in a mystery, and leaves many questions unsolved.
Zanpamisaki is a cape that projects from the northernmost end of Yomitani-son in Okinawa Prefecture.
The cliffs around the cape are about 30m high and stretch for about 2km. The cape lighthouse is a 30m-tall white concrete tower constructed in 1974. Once infamous as a hazardous spot for ships, the cape is lashed by wild and sorrowful waves. Contrary to its menacing image, this spot is both popular and famous for diving and fishing.
From the tip of the cape, the Kelama Islands and Iye Island can be seen, and the sunset views are particularly astounding. The Zanpamisaki Rest Area in front of the cape welcomes visitors with a huge 7m-high 'zanpa' lion, that forms a landmark for the cape.
The contrasting blue of the sea with the whiteness of the lighthouse, accompanied by a beautiful sunset over the Higashi-Shinakai (East Shina Sea) is simply stunning.
Komaka Island is an uninhabited island about 800 meters in circumference and surrounded by white sandy beaches. It lies off Chinen-son in Okinawa.
This area is a must for all marine sports, including snorkeling, diving, swimming and observing the many different colorful tropical fish near the beach. During the summer, many people camp on the island, from where at night they can see the skies full of beautiful stars. From late May to fall, the heartwarming sight of migratory ajisashi (common terns) nesting on the island, laying eggs and raising chicks can be seen.
By walking around the island, nearby islands such as Kudakajima and Tsukenjima can be seen. The island is small enough to walk around in about 15 minutes, and the shallow sea stretches out far and wide.
It seems as if this island came straight out of a fairy tale, like a petite, lovely island floating on the vast open sea.