Historic site, Nagasaki

Road Tripping the Northern Tsushima Island

Tsushima is the nearest island to both the Eurasian continent and Korean Peninsula and here cultural exchanges are flourishing. I wanted to visit and see Tsushima Island as a trading hub and the gateway to the continent.

Watatsumi Shrine

When I arrive on any islands, I always like to visit the lookout to see the overall picture of the island. On Tsushima Island, I went to Eboshi-dake lookout located in the middle of Tsushima.Eboshi-dake lookoutOn the way, I dropped off at Watatsumi Shrine, which is mentioned in “Kojiki”, a  book of mythology composed in the early 8th century. To make a long story short, the common theme of the myth is that two brothers had a fight. The younger brother was at a loss what to do while standing beside a well called Tamanoi, when his older brother complained that the younger brother had lost his fishhook.Tamanoi WellWhen I drove to Watatsumi Shrine, I encountered the Tamanoi well firstly. The surroundings are solemn and calm and it is moving to see the well that is featured in an old legend.Wadatsumi Shrine ToriiWalking on a path along the coast, you will see 3 torii shrine gates in the sea. Watatsumi means the god of sea in Japanese. The way of construction seemed to lead a god to the shrine from the sea. The small valley was surrounded by rocky cliffs and the water was so calm. The scenery made me very relaxed. The shrine itself is small and it takes less than 30 mins to see around, but it’s definitely a must-see spot.Wadatsumi Shrine ToriiI drove up to the Eboshidake from Watatsumi Shrine. After climbing the mountain path in a short time, I reached the top of the top of the lookout. The 360-degree landscape of Aso Bay rias coastline is like looking at a huge diorama. This view helped me grasp the landscape of Tsushima Island. It is a rocky island, but is full of green forests.Wadatsumi Shrine


I wanted to see small coastal villages and the Mogoya area offers an insightful look into the coastal village’s historical past. I stopped by the Kisaka area which is a onehour drive from Tsushima airport. There is something about the area that just captures your heart. It’s the area I certainly felt was the most primordial landscape of any coastal village. I was convinced this was reason enough to have traveled so far.A village near Mogoya houseMogoya, constructed by stones, is a warehouse to pile seaweeds for fertilizing the fields. It is not a major way, but is said to increase minerals into the soil. In Tsushima, water-retaining capacity is low and the fields are not fertile, so seaweed is the best solution to add fertility.MogoyaThe size of a Mogoya is much bigger than I had expected. Goya means a shed in Japanese, so I imagined it might have been very small. However, there are three connected buildings standing in rows. A small hill was towering behind the Mogoya. The way of fertilizer is primitive compared to the present way, but it is nice to see coexisting activities of human effort and the blessing of nature.MogoyaIn front of the Mogoya, stones were piled up to pray for sun worship at Omaehama Beach. On Tsushima Island, there are harvest festivals combining the belief to pray for the sun. It seems very normal to pray for the natural surroundings as mountains, forests, blue sky and sea all feature in the Kisaka area.Yakuma Festival

Observatory in Northern Tsushima (Kami-Tsushima)

Northern Tsushima (Kami-Tsushima) is where I longed to visit to see the Korean Peninsula with my own eyes and to know the distance to the nearest continent.

What I had to prepare beforehand was to make sure of the distance from Tsushima airport to the northernmost observatories by car. I started to drive from Tsushima airport to Hitakatsu Port in northern Tsushima around noon dropping by several sites in Kami-Tsushima. When I arrived at Hitakatsu Port, I was so exhausted and it was getting darker and darker. The distance was about 71 km or more to drive.View from the lookoutIf the weather permits, you can see the mountains of the Korean Peninsula at Korean Observatory and Ikokunomieruoka Observatory. It is about 50 km from Ikokunomieruoka Observatory to the Korean Peninsula. Japan is not connected with any continents, but it is not isolated at all.LookoutIn the Asuka era (7th century), the battle of Hakusukinoe between China and Japan was fought. After this battle, Japan constructed a beacon tower to light a signal fire lined from Tsushima and Iki islands to the mainland. Sekimori coast guards were also drafted to Tsushima and Iki islands. It is said that the Sakimori defense post was located in Tsushima in 664.

In Manyoshu, the oldest anthology of poems, assembled in the 7th to 8th centuries, several sad poems teach us of Sakimori guards who were parted from their family and friends. I was alone at the observatory between the blue sea and towering cliffs just behind me. A strong sea wind was blowing at me. How lonely it was! Finally, I understood a little bit of the sadness of the poems.

Hitakatsu Port

MIT store: During my drive to Hitakatsu Port, I dropped off at the Sasuna area and visited mit shop. During the long drive from Tsushima airport, I could not find any villages on the way. After driving through a long tunnel, I found a small cute shop.

I met the female owner who used to work as a community-reactivating cooperator in Tsushima. In Japan, the government started a project called community-reactivating cooperator squad to revitalize the countryside. She came to Tsushima from Tokyo and stayed and opened the shop.Souvenir from TsushimaShe is a designer and created new products for Tsushima reactivating. The northern Tsushima area is the habitat of the Tsushima cat, so I bought Tsushima rice designed with a cute Tsushima cat and a calendar showing the Tsushima cat. I chatted with her and asked where is the best to have dinner around here. She recommended to go to Shinichi Izakaya at Hitakatsu Port. During my research on the Internet, I couldn’t find any appropriate place, but she introduced me to the best place for dinner.

Shinichi Izakaya: Shinichi Izakaya is Japanese casual dining and is equivalent to a Spanish tapas bar. It has a cosy atmosphere which welcomes you in to try out their food. Nagasaki Prefecture has the largest catch of anago caught at a depth of 150-200m under the Japan Sea. The owner’s brother catches anago (conger-eel) and the izakaya prides itself on providing the most delicious anago to customers. It is well worth a try.Sushi restaurant ShinichiAt the Izakaya, a waiter brings hot or cold hand towels and a small appetiser. Omakase or daily special Sashimi has a seasonal price and local fish and vegetables connect you with the seasons. I had a seat in front of the bustle of the open kitchen. The kitchen is perhaps no bigger than a closet. I may be almost within touching distance of the owner chef who prepares my food.Sushi restaurant ShinichiIt was first time for me to eat raw, delicious anago. In my hometown, I usually eat anago when cooked with sticky salty-sweet sauce, but raw anago was crunchy crisp and delicious. Anago Sushi at Shinichi was also delicious.

Hitakatsu Port is the second biggest city on Tsushima Island and serves as an international port to go and come to Korea, so there are several dinner places and shops.

Hiking Mitake

What I’d like to do on my next visit to Tsushima Island is to climb Mount Mitate (479m), the highest mountain on Tsushima. Mount Mitake is popular for hiking to enjoy tall trees, deep forests and rocky mountains. I couldn’t hike Mount Mitake on this trip due to the bad weather. If you prefer to go hiking, it is good idea to secure one additional night to stay in the Hitakatsu Port area.

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