A day at the seaside – nature, art, palatal pleasures and more
It is in the nature of the city slicker to develop a certain yearning for some “green” around her/him, for some “nature” and for a little solitude. Fortunately, at least the Tōkyōite doesn’t have to leave this yearning unsatisfied, as the megalopolis is practically surrounded by charming places to visit and unexpected gems of nature – and many of them have “one-day-trip” written all over them.
One of them is the wonderful pensinsula of Manazuru (真鶴 / まなづる) (which can be casually translated with “crane”, but which is also the name of the white-naped crane), roughly two hours by train from Tōkyō, charmingly located at the Sagami Bay (相模湾 / さがみわん), in the Kanagawa prefecture (神奈川県 / かながわけん), not too far from its capital, Yokohama (横浜 / よこはま).
It is about time that I told you a little about the day which I had the joy of spending there recently. And by doing so, I wouldn’t mind, if you got tempted yourself to put this pretty place on your itinerary. The trip was organised by the incomparable Alice Gordenker – and if you have read this blog carefully, the name may sound familiar to you, as she was also “behind the scenes” by organising and leading the excursions, when I wrote my articles on the “Toguri Museum of Art“, on the project of “Amputee Venus” and the “Teien Art Museum“. Also you will find Alice Gordenker’s blog in my blogroll.
In this particular case the Kanagawa prefecture was sponsoring the tour, as they are aiming at attracting more foreign tourists.
But let’s go back to the cape of Manazuru – and back to when it was created:
The peninsula emerged from volcanic activity around 150 million years ago (unfortunately, I am unable to furnish you with pictures of those events, as even I was too young 150 million years ago to be able to take pictures…). The grounds of the area are rather stony and mountainous and provide little base for farming. In the old days people were living from fishing and quarries – signs of the latter can be found almost everywhere alongside the coast. The castles of Odawara (小田原 / おだわら) and Tōkyō (東京 / とうきょう) – formerly Edo (江戸 / えど) – made use of this high quality andesite (a volcanic rock) which is called “komatsu ishi” (小松石 / こまついし) around here. But also today this kind of stone is rather popular in gardening. However, the quarries date back into even older times – already as early as in the Kamakura era (鎌倉時代 / かまくらじだい) in the 12th century, stone was broken directly at the coastline, as transportation via ship was much easier and much more efficient than carrying the heavy loads overland.
In our days only a few people can still make their living from working in the quarries and/or fishing. Like in other rural disctricts, also Manazuru’s population as declined – from more than 10,000 to about 8,000. People have moved closer to where work/business can be found, to urban areas in the Kantō region (関東地方 / かんとうちほう). Nevertheless, recently also some “U-turn”-tendency, a “back to nature”-approach can be witnessed, of which Manazuru and its splendid location could benefit.
In order to gain an overview of the peninsula as a whole, nothing could have been more appropriate than chartering a boat. And that’s exactly what we did. The 30-minute “Discovery Cruise“, which is offered once an hour (except during the winter months) wasn’t just great fun, it also provided more understanding for the particular topography of the cape. Most likely, you’ll have just as much fun with the seagulls that usually follow the boat – begging for food – but don’t forget to pay some attention to the rocks of the pensinsula and its impenetrable forest. And last, but not at all the least, there are the mystic rocks at the southeastern tip of the peninsula, called “Mitsu Ishi“ (三ツ石 / みついし) – a sacred place of the Shintō religion. The two biggest of the andesite monoliths are connected by a “divine rope”, a “shimenawa” (注連縄 / しめなわ) adorned with sacred paper strips, called “gohei” (御幣 / ごへい). The main rock also carries a shining red “torii” (鳥居 / とりい) – a Shintō gate – and a small shrine in the same blazing red.
On the north shore of the cape you will see gigantic fishing nets, so called “fixed nets” (定置網 / ていちあみ), laid out by the fishing cooperatives of Manazuru. Due to the extreme depth of the waters here (it’s just a very short distance from the shore to get into waters that are several hundred meteres deep) the area enjoys an abundance of species of maritime life.
Our first station “onshore” led us to the Kibune Shrine (貴船神社 / きぶねじんじゃ), which dates back to the year 889 when fishermen found 12 wooden “statues” – or what the fisherman took for “statues” – and had the shrine erected for them. Before the strict segregation between Shintō and Buddhism that was imposed during the Meiji Restoration (2nd half of the 19th century), the name was Kinomiya Daimyōjin (貴宮大明神 / きのみやだいみょうじん).
The long flight of stairs that lead up to the main buildings of the shrine used so start directly at the sea shore. Now they are separated from the waters by a road that was reclaimed from the sea during the early Shōwa era (2nd quarter of the 20th century). In the old days the fishermen used to visit the shrine from their boats directly, as this was much less troublesome than approaching it via the hills and dark forests around the shrine.
Over the centuries the shrine as become a place for prayers of the local people, asking the gods for protection in their daily life – which was, as one can imagine, full of incalculable risks, keeping in mind the dangers that come from fishing in deep waters and working at quarries. For that reason you can also see a rather rare piece of sculpture here: One of the dogs/lions guarding one of the shrine’s buildings is shown protecting a small/young dog/lion – a sign for the shrine’s care also for those children who may have lost their parents (or at least their farther) in conjunction with occupational hazards.
During the visit to the shrine I also had the opportunity not only to witness a Shintō ceremony of spiritual clensing and protection, but also to receive some insight in the most precious garment Shintō priests are wearing during those ceremonies. The grandson of the shrine’s main priest (who is holding this position in the 30th generation – the grandson will represent the 32nd generation once he will follow his grandfather and father in this position) and this father (yes, you are right, that must be the representative of the 31st generation) was showing us how these garments are being worn. And at the end of the ceremony every participant received an amulet (御守 / おまもり) – protecting the group for the rest of the day (and surely beyond) by the local god’s blessings.
Manazuru’s biggest festival is also linked to the Kibune Shrine: The Kibune Matsuri (貴船祭り / きぶねまつり), that is celebrated every year on 27th and 28th of July – one of the most remarkable festivals of its kind in Japan.
One of the special features of Manazuru is its very old tree population, which is covering almost the whole pensinsula and which is called Ohayashi (お林 / おはやし). It represents a very rich example of forestation dating back to the Edo period (1603 to 1868) – at that time also pursued in order to create the building materials for the nearby Odawara (小田原 / おだわら) and its castle. Thanks to a visionary approach to the care of this forest, and due to the fact that its beauty hadn’t been ruined during the wars of the 20th century, when wood was in particular demand, you can still find truly old trees (200 to 400 years old) around here. The most impressive ones might be the old camphor trees.
Right next to one of the entries into the forest we also visited a “branch” of the Kibune Shrine which was built here to be close to those who worked at the quarries.
A considerable part of this forest remains, almost like a jungle, largely untouched by forestry. This almost mystic forest is also called a “fish-protection forest” (魚付き保安林 / うおつきほあんりん). It is said that woods so close to the seashore form a benefictional symbiosis with the sea:
- Fish gain addtional nutrition by insects falling from the trees,
- Fish love the shadow provided by the forest,
- and the forest delivers additional nutrients, which cater for a particularly rich coastal plankton.
Hence, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that the waters around Manazuru are home to a still very plentiful maritime life.
Around lunchtime there was a chance to take a view of the sea’s blessings from yet another angle. Located in a small lemon plantation we were welcomed but Ms. and Mr. Saso of the “Orange Floral Farm” (since 2002 a member of the Italian slow food association) – up in the hills of the Manazuru pensinsula overlooking the Sagami Bay in northeastern direction. A most convincing fusion of Mediterranean attitude towards life and Japanese cuisine was waiting for us on the occasion of a barbecue that was just as hearty as it was homey. I guess the most impressive were the fresh fish that were put on the barbecue – complete seabreams (真鯛 / まだい) and gorgeously red fish called “splendid alfonsino” (金目鯛 / きんめだい) – just slightly salted and with olive oil cooked in aluminium foil on charcoal. Pure indulgence! But just as delicious were the Asari shells (浅蜊 / あさり) cooked with garlic, vegetables and mushrooms, the grilled shrimps (the only non-regional animals) and last but not least the local beef (和牛 / わぎゅう) with its distinct texture that everybody was allowed to prepare by her-/himself. Lemon water, prepared with the local produce, was a welcome and most delicious refreshment.
As much as a trip to these rich seashores invites to sample the “fruits of the sea”, it also offers a lot for those who are more interested in art. The Nakagawa Art Museum (中川一政美術館 / なかがわびじゅつかん) is practically a must for all those who know about the life and art of the multitalented Kasumasa Nakagawa (中川一政 / なかがわかずまさ) – or those who would like to learn more about it. Nakagawa used to live in Manazuru for more than 40 years, after he had moved his studio to here in 1949 to paint the landscapes of the peninsula – and simply stayed here. As a gesture of gratitude for his work the city of Manazuru had this museum built in 1989 by the famous architect Takahiko Yanagisawa (柳澤孝彦 / やなぎさわたかひこ) (among other things he is also the architect of Tōkyō Opera City, the National Theatre and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tōkyō). Even if you don’t care too much for Nakagawa’s colourful paintings, his calligraphy and his works of pottery, you may find this small but extremly nice and highly modern museum building intriguing. Its architecture alone is worth a visit. And while you’re there, pay attention to the wood grain of the concrete and the lobby’s floor made of local volcanic stone.
One of the special features of the museum is a particularly beautiful and bright room for tea ceremony that was installed on the artist’s demand, as he was very fond of Japanese tea ceremony. It suggested itself that we were granted a little lesson in this ceremonial art.
Should your interest be less on the artistic side, but more on the side of nature studies, Manazuru is the place for you. Not just because of its magnificent landscape and bounties of the sea, but also because of the remarkable Endō Shell Museum (遠藤貝類博物館 / えんどうかいるいはくぶつかん).
This striking museum is home to one of the most important and most complete collections of shells in the world. The foundations for these treasures were laid by Haruo Endō (遠藤晴雄 / えんどうはるお), who spent most of the 91 years of his life collecting shells. When he died in 2006 the whole collection was donated to the city of Manazuru. Presently the museum houses about 50,000 shells of roughly 4,500 species – from the common shell everyone finds at the seashore to breathtaking rarities (e.g. the smallest shell of the world, measuring just 0.6 mm in diameter – virtually impossible to recognise as a shell with the naked eye).
The exhibition is divided into three sections:
- Exhibition hall 1: Shells from the waters around the Manazuru pensinsula and the Sagami Bay, including a diorama displaying maritime life at the Mitsu-Ishi (三ツ石 / みついし)
- Exhibition hall 2: Shells from Japan
- Exhibition hall 3: Shells of the world
Due to the topographic pecularities of the area around Manazuru, it is particularly rich in maritime life – including shells. The protective “Ohayashi”, but also the extreme depth of the water close to the shore and the sea currents of the Pacific Ocean all contribute to that. At the Manazuru peninsula one can find more than 200 different kinds of shells, the Sagami Bay is home to about 3,000 more (which represents a rather astonishing diversity, if one keeps in mind that there are “only” about 130,000 different species of shells in the world).
Maybe only of particular interest for the German visitor, but nevertheless worth mentioning: One of the founding members of the “Deutschen Gesellschaft für Natur- und Völkerkunde“, the German zoologist Dr. Franz Hilgendorf, who taught at the Imperial Medical Academy Tokyo (1873 to 1876) (now Tōkyō University (東京大学 / とうきょうだいがく), contributed to the collection with a rather rare discovery: He found a specimen of the family of the slit shells (pleurotomariidae), which is called “okina ebisu gai” (オキナエビスガイ) in Japanese. These shells are also called “living fossils”, because their basic structure has not changed or evolved since the days of the dinosaurs. And his discovery was not only remarkable because of the rarity of such shells, the circumstance how he found it, made it even more remarkable: In fact he had discovered the shell in gift shop in Enoshima (江の島 / えのしま), not too far away from Manazuru. This kind of shell had been mentioned in Japanese documentation as early as 1843 – twelve years before western science declared it as “discovered”. After Hilgendorf had donated his shell to a museum in Germany, the British Museum became aware of it and they contacted him, asking that he obtain a specimen for their collection as well, and provide the necessary funding. This was done, with the assistance of a Japanese contact. He was paid 40 yen for it, which was a huge amount of money then. Probably the equivalent of 3 million yen now. Who wouldn’t love to be the owner of a gift shop under these circumstances?
And to wrap the day up, the steep coast beneath the museum could be enjoyed in the splendour of the late afternoon sun. From there one cannot only enjoy a spectacular view of the Mitsu Ishi (三ツ石 / みついし), but also have a stroll along the paved path through the rocky beach. The perfect final chapter of a perfect day.
How to get there:
From the eastern parts of Tōkyō it is easiest to take the JR Tōkaidō line (JR 東海道線 / JR とうかいどうせん) direct to Manazuru station (真鶴駅 / まなづるえき), passing through Yokohama (横浜 / よこはま), but there is no need to change trains. .
From the western parts of Tōkyō take the Odakyū line (小田急線 / おだきゅうせん) – if you want to spoil yourself a bit, take one of the comfortable “Romancecar” (ロマンスカー) express trains – from Shinjuku (新宿 / しんじゅく) to Odawara (小田原 / おだわら). Change trains in Odawara for another 12 minutes on the JR Tōkaidō line (JR 東海道線 / JR とうかいどうせん) to Manazuru (真鶴 / まなづる.
Details “Discovery Cruise”
1197-42 Manazuru, Manazuru-machi,
Tel.: 0465-68-3255 (9:00 am to 5:00 pm)
Departure times of the cruises:
10:00 am to 4:00 pm once an hour (not in January and February)
Cruises are being conducted only, if there are two or more passengers.
Adults: 1,200 Yen
Children: 600 Yen
Pre-school children: free
Details: “Orange Floral Farm”
1147-4 Manazuru, Manazuru-machi,
The farm is open to visitors mostly from 10:30 am to 5:00 pm, however, it is recommended to make prior arrangements by telephone (Ms. Saso also speaks English).
Details: Shell Museum
1175 Manazuru, Manazuru-machi
Daily (except on Thursdays): 9:30 am to 4:30 pm (last entry: 4:00 pm).
Should Thursday be a holiday, the museum stays closed on the next following weekday.
Adults: 300 Yen (for groups of 20 or more persons: 200 Yen)
Children: 150 Yen (for groups of 20 or more persons: 100 Yen)
Are you interested in more about tour off the beaten tracks of average tourists in Kanagawa prefecture? Then have a look at the following:
– Kanagawa does it again: A day of culture and nature at the foot of Mt. Fuji
Minami Ashigara (南足柄)
– And yet another day of adventure and experience in Kanagawa
New Year Fire-Festival in Ōiso (大磯)
– Where the gods ensure an annual win-win-situation