Oniga-jo Rocks 鬼ヶ城
Oniga-jo ("Demon's Castle") is a spectacular rock wall stretching about 1.2km around a small cape near Kumano-shi in Mie Prefecture.
Many travelers on the the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route, through Mie and Wakayama prefectures, take time to take in this incredible natural phenomenon, which can be reached by a path off the trail over Matsumoto-toge Pass.
Oniga-jo is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range (紀伊山地の霊場と参詣道) which is a centuries' old path of religious devotion, now popular with modern travelers.
If you are coming from Matsumoto-toge, walk south from the statue of Jizo at the summit to the Oniga-jo Center, past the scant ruins of the Muromachi Period Oniga-jo Castle. From the Oniga-jo Center a narrow path leads around the headland for superb close-up views of the cliffs. This path will bring you back to Kumano-shi and offers superb views not just of the rocks but also out to sea.
Onigajo Castle & Onigajo Center
Many visitors will also arrive by hire car or tour bus along the road to the Oniga-jo Center. Here tourists can enjoy the cafe/restaurant and souvenir shopping, as well as heading out to see the rocks.
A number of regional specialities are on sale here including ice cream made from the local citrus fruit called shinhima, seafood senbei (rice crackers) and croquettes cooked with delicious Kumano chicken.
Walking the Oniga-jo Promenade
The so-called Oniga-jo Promenade stretches 1.2 kilometers around the cape from the Oniga-jo Center back into Kumano-shi town near the small Benten Shrine. The narrow, single-file path, which may be closed in bad weather, is protected by metal barriers and a chain, in places, to prevent walkers and anglers from falling into the sea.
The path offers superb views of the cliffs, which are best in the afternoon sunshine and also out to sea.
The cliffs are formed from tuff, a soft, volcanic stone, easily carved that is composed of volcanic ash spewed from a vent during an eruption. The weird shapes of the rocks at Oniga-jo have been formed over millennia by the erosive forces of wind and waves.
Legend has it the rocks were the homes of oni or devils as well as pirates, though the tales may confuse the two.
Kumano-shi Station in Kumano city or the previous station to the north, Odomari Station are the best starting points for getting to Oniga-jo. From Kumano-shi Station head towards Shichiri-mihama Beach and the sea, walk past Kinomoto Jinja and you will see the signs pointing to the path to Oniga-jo.
The first express train to Kumano-shi Station from Nagoya Station is the 8.05am Wide View Nanki that arrives in Kumano-shi at 11.13am. The present fare is 7,050 yen.
Buses back to Nagoya leave from behind the Tourist Information Center opposite Kumano-shi Station. Other buses from Kumano Station run to Shingu (50 minutes) and the Seiryu-so Onsen near the beautiful Kitayama River (also about 50 minutes).
Close to Kumano-shi is Shishiiwa ("Lion Rock"), a uniquely-shaped, 25m-tall rock that seems to roar out into the sea. A short walk south from Shishiiwa on National Highway 42 is Hana-no-Iwaya Shrine, the legendary tomb of Izanami-no-mikoto, thought of as the mother of Japanese deities. The shrine is said to be the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan.