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.
Tsurugahara is a beauty spot in Kusu, Oita Prefecture. The area features a pond surrounded by strange stones and it is said that a cottage belonging to the Mori domain head used to stand here. Since long ago, the beautiful water scenery has been famous.
Standing grandly in the weathered Yaba valley that surrounds the pond, are large round stone column joints and pillars as well as rocky mountains. The rocks and red pines are reflected on the silent surface of the pond.
A small island covered with pines and azaleas lends further calm to the ambience of this spot. It's almost as if you were in a Japanese garden.
There are numerous Buddhist stones as well as 13 Buddhist statues set in 88 places. The weathered surface of the Buddhist stones adds to their intriguing aspect.
Tsurugahara is a beauty spot that gives us different views in each of the four seasons: fresh green in spring; red leaves in autumn; and snow in winter.
Tachihada is a beauty spot in Kusu, Oita Prefecture, and is also known as Sunset Pass. From the Prefectural Highway Mt Kusu that runs alongside it for about 1km, one can see the rocky hills.
Tachihada is a famous spot within Ura-Yaba Valley. In autumn, the area takes on a red color that makes it even more beautiful. The rocky mountains reach up and appear to touch the skies while the green vines add to the wonderful sight. This view harmonizes with the farmhouses that dot the foothills to make a pastoral landscape that seems straight out of a folk tale.
The area is rich in edible wild plants such as bracken, royal fern and 'udo'. At 'Interactive Teahouse', fresh vegetables and dumpling soup are served and many tourists enjoy the different tastes of the seasons. Persimmon trees and local dwellings further complement the landscape. It is indeed a friendly mountain village.
Tachihada is full of scenes that you will never tire of seeing.
Yufu River Valley is a beauty spot in Higashiyama and lies between Beppu and Hasama in Yufu, Oita Prefecture.
Prefectural Highway 601 runs for 12 kilometers from Beppu to Yufu through the valley, which is lined with 60m cliffs.
More than 40 waterfalls run down the rock in various places, and there are some 100 inlets, big and small, that produce a mysterious beauty, lending this area the nickname Eastern Tirol. Over time, the Yufu River has eroded a path through the Yufu Tsurumi Mountains to form this valley. The gently curving rockface is unique.
Each year, on the second Sunday of July, Yufu City and Hasama Town hold the Yufu River Valley Festival. The festival is held as a prayer for the people's safety and locals enjoy traditional dancing and music as well as a treasure hunt.
Yufu River Valley is a wonderful scenic area with extraordinary cliffs and waterfalls.
Shishi-Iwa is a lion-like rock, located inside the Yoshino-Kumano National Park near Kumano city in Mie Prefecture.
Shishi-Iwa is a mass of rock, 25m high and 210m round, and is also known as the Japanese Sphinx. It was formed by the upheaval and erosion of the surrounding rock and gets its name from the fact that it looks like a lion roaring at the Pacific Ocean. There seems to be no end to the tourists visiting for the beautiful scenery, which continues from Oniga Castle.
Shishi-Iwa is also highly regarded for its academic value. Along with the Shinsen cave, it is considered as one of the guardian dogs of Oma Shrine, which lies upstream of the nearby Idogawa River.
Shishi-Iwa is illuminated on New Year's Eve and is one of the events relating to the '108 fireworks of the watch-night', creating a fantastic atmosphere. Shishi-Iwa is a national scenic monument made by nature, and stimulates the viewer's imagination.
The Awa Dochu are earth pillars located near Awa in Tokushima Prefecture. In 1934 the area was designated as a Natural Treasure.
Over millions of years, this gravel terrace was eroded by wind and rain, leaving these strange pillar forms. The Awa Dochu are more like an earthen wall than earth pillars.
These dochu were formed about 1.3 million years ago, when the area was under a river. At Hatouga-take, there are many 10m-high pillars standing in an area about 9km from north to south, and 50m from east to west.
Awa is one of three major sites in the world where earth pillars can be seen, the others being Tirol in Italy and the Rocky Mountains in the North America. Earth pillars are very rare landforms and are studied by geologists.
These pillars appear to be art forms created by nature; the sight of them fills us with an awe of ancient history.
Iwami-tatamigaura is a section of raised coastline located near Hamada City, Shimane Prefecture.
This platform is situated at Kane beach near the town of Kokubun. It is about 25 meters high and formed by wave erosion and by the upheaval of the area by an earthquake over a hundred years ago. There are three layers: the top layer and the lower layer are similar, and are composed of magma and sandstone.
The top layer was once the sea floor, and is now a platform. This vast eroded platform has cracks regularly crisscrossing so that it looks as if many Japanese tatami mats were laid out on the beach. This is why it is called ‘Tatamigaura’ or ‘Senjoshiki’.
Shell fossils from 15 million years ago as well as fossilised driftwood, whale bones, and other traces of ancient animals are some of the things that can be found at Tatamigaura.
You can also see special landforms such as rifts, sea caves and a chair-like round rock caused by wave erosion. There are many eroded nodules where you can observe the remains of ancient sea creatures.
There is a sea cave called Hole-Kannon and out in the sea is the famous view of the Dog and Cat Islands, which is very popular with tourists.