If you pass along Tenjin beach toward the mouth of the Nagase River in midwinter, you will see the phenomenon of natural ice art.
Water from Inawashiro Lake is blown by very strong westerly winds onto trees near the beach where it freezes in splash formations, a phenomenon that is very rare in Japan. This 'splash ice' is as beautiful as 'silver frost' and you will never be tired of seeing it.
The splashes sometimes make ice formations up to five meters long. The wind is so strong that windbreak forests have been planted along Tenjin beach. Strong cold waves sometimes make the splash ice around the trees. You can see this ice along a 100m area where there are no anti-erosion concrete blocks.
Moreover, you can see various other changing ice formations such as drift ice and ice upheavals that are said to mark the passing of deities.
Yokoku Castle was built in 1602 by the first leader of the Hiji Clan, Kinoshita Nobutoshi, with the assistance of Hosokawa Tadaoki.
The castle was originally called Hiji Castle, Aoyagi Castle or Ukitsu Castle. The third clan leader, Kinoshita Toshinaga, took an excerpt from an old Chinese book called 'Enanji', which stated that: 'The sun rises from Yokoku and shines on Kanchi', and changed the name to Yokoku Castle.
Today, the castle site is used as the Hiji Elementary School, but certain parts of the castle, such as the Kimon tower and the back gate, are being reconstructed.
A park has been established around the castle base, and is a popular spot to take in and appreciate the entire view of Beppu Bay. The seashore at the foot of the castle ruins is called Shiro-shita-karei, and is famous for deriving its name from the Shiro-shita seashore. There is also a spring, which is one source of fresh water for this region.
Jyuroku-rakan-iwa (16 Rakan Rocks) is an area of huge statues carved from rock in the Yuza district of Akumi in Yamagata Prefecture. It has been designated as one of Japan's top 100 historic cultural treasures by the Japanese Fisheries Agency.
Jyuroku-rakan-iwa is carved from volcanic rock that erupted many thousands of years ago from Mt Chokai, a mountain that spans Yamagata and Akita prefectures. Lava from the cone of the volcano flowed into the Sea of Japan and hardened. It was not until many years later that statues were carved out of the rock.
The idea of the statues came from Osho Kankai of Kaizenji Temple who wished for a memorial and a monument to pray for the safety of fishermen and for the peace of the souls of those who had died at sea. The statues were carved by local stonemasons over 5 years. Of the 22 statues, 16 are called 'rakan' (Buddhist disciples) while the rest are Kannon and Buddha.
Because the rock protrudes into the Sea of Japan, they are heavily weathered by wave, wind and snow. But this again may be why the statues make the observer feel the long history and mysteriousness of the guardian gods.
Magaki are cane fences that rise higher than the tops of the eaves of houses, and which can be seen along Nishiho Shore in the town of Monzen, in Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture.
Nishiho Shore has 80m-high cliffs and gigantic rocks and in winter is buffeted by strong winter monsoon winds blowing in from the Japan Sea. Magaki fences are built to protect the houses from these winds. The fences are built to a height of about 5m, using strong whangee canes (a kind of tall grass, often mistaken for bamboo) closely lined together. Magaki help to cool the houses in summer, while keeping them warm in winter. They reveal the wisdom of the Noto people in adapting to their natural environment.
In November, people start mending the magaki in preparation for the strong winter winds; it's a sign that autumn is ending and winter is coming.
Ikuji-naka Bridge spans the Kurobe Fishing Harbor and is the first bridge in Japan that rotates to the side on a fixed axis. The current bridge is actually the 4th-generation version. The original was installed during the Taisho period, with the 2nd built during the early Showa period, and the 3rd during the 30s in the Showa period.
The 3rd generation was installed as an elevating bridge. Due to deterioration and the increase in size of fishing boats, the canal where the bridge was installed was expanded, and the third bridge was rebuilt as part of the general reconstruction.
The new fixed-axis bridge, which was completed in Showa 56, is what spans the canal today. The bridge is 38.4m long, 7m wide, and weighs 307 tons. The bridge can turn up to 78 degrees, and on a busy day, opens between 15 and 20 times.
Meoto-iwa are two rocks which are part of Futamiokitama Jinja shrine in Futami, Watarai-gun, Mie Prefecture. They stand on the rocky seashore near the shrine and got their name because they look like a husband and wife living together in perfect harmony and talking to each other.
From ancient times, the Meoto-iwa have been known as a spot for praying at sunrise because, on clear and fine days, Mt Fuji can be seen creating a majestic and splendid view in the distance.
Another rock, known as the Okitama-Jinseki, or Oki-no-Ishi, is located 660m offshore in the sea. The Meoto-iwa are regarded as the torii (shrine gateway) for the Okitama-Jinseki. The Oki-no-Ishi is considered to hold the spirit of the shrine deity who descended here. It is also believed to be the place where other deities come to visit and return.
The Otoko-iwa (male rock) is 9 meters tall with a circumference of 40 meters. The Onna-iwa (female rock) is about 4 meters tall with a circumference of 9 meters. The rope that connects the two rocks is 35 meters in length. During May to July, especially before and after summer solstice, the sunrise seen between the two rocks is magnificent. The Meoto-iwa are also known as a symbol for good conjugal life, and relationships, motivating many people to visit this charming spot.
Futamiokitama Jinja is a shrine located in Futami, Watarai-gun, Mie Prefecture. It is famous for the Meoto-iwa (Husband and Wife Rock) that is located in front of it on the seashore. The shrine's deities are Sarutahiko and Ukanomitamanokami (also known as Jingu Geku-toyouke-no-okami).
In 1909, Okitama Shrine and Mimiya Shrine (with the deity Ukanomitamanokami) were joined to become the Futamiokitama Jinja. In the past, it was a custom for people to purify themselves at the Futaminoura before paying homage at the Ise-Jingu. Nowadays, that custom has changed, and people now cleanse themselves with purified salt at the Futamiokitama Jinja. People who wish to participate in the 'okihiki' (carrying of building material) and 'oshiraishimochi' (bringing rocks for building) for the rebuilding and repair of the shrine, must, even today, go through a traditional cleansing and purification ritual known as 'hama-sangu'.
Futamiokitama Jinja is a shrine connected to the Ise-Jingu. Besides its remarkable scenery, it holds an enthralling and important place in the history and myths of Japan.
Nagaki are enclosures made of rocks that enable fish to be caught using the sea's tides. At high tide, when the nagaki is under water, fish move inside; when the tide goes out and the sea level drops below the walls, the fish are trapped and easily caught.
This fishing method is practiced not only in Okinawa and Kyushu, but in Polynesia and in parts of Southeast Asia. In Okinawa, the nagaki is famous for its use especially along the Sawada coast of Irabu Island and the south coast of Kohama Island.
The nagaki in Kohama are up to 12m wide by 1200m long, making them the biggest in the world. It is said that in old times, nagaki were first built for a lady born in Kohama who served in the court of the Ryukyu King.
Ovet the centuries, most nagaki have collapsed, but some are still used. Nagaki is a way of fishing that lets you feel a sense of fun.