The Kuniga Coast, Nishinoshima, 国賀海岸
The Oki Islands, located in the Sea of Japan off the north coast of mainland Shimane in western Japan, has some of the most dramatic and stunning coastal scenery in all of Japan, so it is no surprise that the islands were made part of the Daisen-Oki National Park in 1963, and more recently being designated a UNESCO Global Geopark, in 2013.
One of the most sensational and impressive sites is the Kuniga Coast on the northwest side of Nishinoshima Island, one of the Dozen Island group. Here you will see a veritable sculpture gallery of cliffs, sea caves, natural arches and spires sculpted over millions of years by the forces of the sea and wind, a master-class of geologic erosion.
An overview of the whole coast can be had from the Akao Lookout at the southern end of Kuniga Bay. From this 220 meter high vantage point you can see down to the beach area with its collection of sculpted rock formations, caves, and the Tsutenkyo Arch.
Beyond, to the north, the majestic Matengai Cliff, a sheer drop of 257 meters down to the surf below, one of the tallest cliffs in all of Japan. Matengai Cliff itself is the other great viewpoint this time with an overview looking south.
Both Akao Lookout and Matengai Viewpoint can be reached by car, and both areas are unusual for Japan, being open grasslands rather than forest. Horses and cattle can be found peacefully grazing, seemingly indifferent to the stunning views, another unusual sight in Japan.
As well as views looking down on the Kuniga Coast, there are expansive views over the Dozen Islands sea caldera. From Matengai a footpath heads down the grassy slope to the beach and the heart of Kuniga Coast.
It's 2.3 kilometres down, or up if you start at the bottom, and is ranked as one of the top 100 walks in Japan. In between Matengai and the Akao Lookout is the Kuniga Beach area. From the parking lot it is a ten minute walk down to see the amazing formations close up.
Known as Tenjokai, the Heavenly World, most of the rock stacks have names, like Kannon-iwa (Buddhist Deity Rock), Zobana-iwa (Elephant Nose Rock), Kaeru-iwa (Frog Rock) etc. If the sea is calm it is possible to clamber down and explore the tidal pools and view the rock formations from different angles.
The path leads to what is perhaps the most iconic view in the Okis, the Tsutenkyo Arch, "Bridge to Heaven". Formed when a sea cave collapsed, the different colored layers of rock tell a geologic story. There are numerous picnic tables and a large covered area so it is a great spot for a picnic. From here the path continues on up to Matengai Cliff.
Kuniga Coast By Boat
At several spots around the area, as at most other sites of interest around the Oki Islands, are excellent signboards with diagrams, photos, and information in English that really help to understand what you are looking at and how it was formed. A trip to the Okis will certainly expand your understanding of geology!
Of course, being coastline, the other way to view it, and possibly the most dramatic, is from the sea itself, and from April through to the end of October there are two different scenic cruises available, weather permitting. The longer cruise of 2 hours and 10 minutes starts at Beppu Port and ends at Urago Port, and the slightly shorter one of 90 minutes starts and ends from Urago Port.
As well as seeing the Kuniga Coast from a completely different viewpoint, the cruise takes in much more of the breathtaking scenery that simply cannot be seen from on land, and, if the seas are calm enough, includes going into and through some sea caves.
Full details including times, dates & prices:
Kuniga Beach area is four kilometers from Urago and ten kilometres from Beppu.
Kuniga is reachable by bus from Beppu, the main town and port of Nishinoshima, however driving, cycling, walking, or taxi are doable. The bus to the Kuniga Coast is infrequent and only runs late April - late October, but other forms of transport are available daily. Reservations are recommended for taxi or car hire.
Akao Lookout and Matengai Cliff have no bus service. Contact the Tourism Office on Nishinoshima for details of tours that include Kuniga and for an English bus timetable. (or download a PDF: nkk-oki.com/english/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Nishinoshima-Town-Bus-2016.1-2.pdf)
Getting Between the Oki Islands
A fairly frequent and fast ferry service connects the three islands of Dozen, but between Dozen and Dogo you need to use the car ferry or fast ferry.
Read more about access to the Oki Islands and getting around the islands.
Useful Oki Island Resources
- Oki Islands UNESCO Global Geopark
- Oki Islands Events Calendar
- Oki Islands Nishinoshima
- Oki Kisen Ferries