By Hiroshi Nishida / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterStanding atop Shionomisaki Tower near the coast of Shionomisaki cape, visitors can see a stunning ocean panaroma, the view unobstructed all the way to the horizon.
To the west is Shionomisaki Lighthouse — built during the early period of the Meiji era (1868-1912), it guides ships at sea from its clifftop perch. The sight of the lighthouse bathed in the rays of the setting sun is breathtaking.
The sea off Kushimoto is part of the Japan Current, and the coast is dotted with rocks eroded into fantastical shapes by the waves. One of the most striking is the Umi Kongo formation on Kii Oshima island, which can be reached by bridge from central Kushimoto.
Closer to town are the Hashiguiiwa Rocks, a group of more than 40 boulders laid out in a nearly straight line stretching for about 850 meters.
This is a popular spot to watch the sunrise, as the rock formations floating in front of the rising sun are a fantastic sight.
The warm waters of the Japan Current have created beautiful coral reefs off Kushimoto, a rare sight for Honshu.
The reef ecosystem can be experienced at Kushimoto Marine Park. Table coral and colorful fish are visible through underwater windows in an observation tower built into the sea.
The aquarium’s exhibits feature marine life from the sea off Kushimoto. There is a tunnel underneath a large tank, providing a thrilling view of sharks, rays and other large fish swimming overhead.
“Tropical life brought by the Japan Current has mixed with creatures from the original temperate zone. The biota of the sea off Kushimoto is incredibly rich,” said Keiichi Nomura, the director of the aquarium.
“However, the effects of global warming may have led to a recent proliferation of branched coral, which we didn’t have before. This and other signs show the area is becoming more tropical, which is tied to the loss of the original marine scenery of Kushimoto,” he added.
Sea areas close to Kushimoto have become fishing grounds for the tuna that migrate with the Japan Current. Groundbreaking work on tuna aquaculture has also been conducted here.
The Kindai University Aquaculture Research Institute on Kii Oshima successfully conducted a breeding of tuna from eggs in 2002. Izakaya pubs in Tokyo and Osaka now market the institute’s fish as “Kindai Maguro.”
“At first, the surface tension of the tank caused the fry to die off. Then, raw feed worsened the water quality, killing off fish that had grown to about 3 centimeters. We went through a lot of trial and error, improving the water flow, feed and other factors. It took 32 years to succeed,” said Yasuo Agawa, a lecturer at Kindai University.
In 1791, about 60 years before “black ships” arrived in Japan, a U.S. vessel visited Kushimoto requesting trade. There are records of local residents interacting with the sailors.
In 1890, the Turkish warship Ertugrul sunk in a typhoon off Kushimoto as it was heading home. A total of 587 people perished, but the people of Kushimoto managed to save 69 lives.
This incident helped deepen ties between Japan and Turkey. In 2015, it was turned into a movie titled “Kainan 1890.”
These historical events can be explored in detail at the Japan-U.S. Friendship Memorial Museum and the Turkish Museum.
Jutting out into the Pacific, in the path of typhoons and the Japan Current, Kushimoto is a point of contact with the outside world.
It takes about 1 hour 40 minutes by Shinkansen to reach Nagoya from Tokyo. From Nagoya, it takes another 4 hours 30 minutes on the JR Kisei Line limited express and other trains. Another option is to go by bullet train from Tokyo to Shin Osaka, which is about 2 and a half hours. Then it takes about 3 hours 15 minutes from Shin Osaka via the JR Kinokuni Line limited express.
Inquiries: Kushimoto Town Tourism Association at (0735) 62-3171.
To find out more about Japan’s attractions, visit http://the-japan-news.com/news/d&dSpeech