Seto Inland Sea National Park is the largest national park in Japan, spanning 1 prefecture and 10 prefectures, with an area of over 9,000 square kilometers.
Going to the seaside B&B in Atami for vacation, cycling along the coastline of Shikoku, visiting the Kumano Kodo along the seaside of Wakayama, following the footage of “Slam Dunk” to the Kamakura High School… Recalling every trip to Japan, There are always images related to the sea. The slightly intoxicating tidal wind and rolling waves are enough to form a layer of romantic filter, which will be unforgettable for a long time.
A country shaped by the ocean
Japan is an island country surrounded by sea water. Its coastline stretches for about 35,000 kilometers, and its total length ranks sixth in the world.
When the available arable land resources are limited, the sea is the fertile land. People live near the sea, fishing for fish and shrimps, boiling salt, transporting supplies, and obtaining life necessities. When the islanders yearn for the watering of foreign civilizations, the sea is also a link with the outside world. From Nara to the Heian period, the Japanese court sent more than 10 ships to the Tang Dynasty.
Japan’s history, culture, and customs are largely attached to the coast, and religious beliefs, folklore, and artistic creation are also closely related to it. According to the Kojiki, the gods appeared from the other side of the sea, brought wealth and helped to build the nation of Japan. In the legend of “Urashima Taro”, the fisherman was taken to the underwater dragon palace by sea turtles and lived a fairy-like life, but when he returned to the shore, he found that the world had already changed. In “Beach Boy”, “One Piece”, “Haijie Diary” and other good film and television films, there is always a sea that leaves a long tail in our youth.
The coastal beaches, gravel beaches, mud flats, rocky reefs, tidal flats, cliffs and other terrains not only provide a variety of habitats for marine life, but also create many scenic spots and leisure resorts. Thousands of ports have brought great convenience to the lives of residents.
As a veritable marine nation, in order to express gratitude and pray for the prosperity of the country, Japan will set the third week of July every year as Ocean Day, which is a legal holiday in Japan.
In the Seto Inland Sea National Park, the port town of Tomonoura.
Under the trend of working from home due to the epidemic, Japan’s Ministry of the Environment has begun to support many national parks to increase mobile network (wifi) access points, and to assemble rentable workstations in hotels and campsites to attract office workers to return to nature.
The Naruto whirlpool in the National Park is one of the three largest whirlpools in the world.
For cycling enthusiasts, the Shimanami Kaido, which connects Honshu and Shikoku, is the only bicycle path in Japan that crosses the strait. It passes through 6 small islands and 7 sea-crossing bridges. The supply and station facilities on the road are mature and worthy of Call it the perfect sea-view cycling route.
Kinto Hira Palace, one of the three great sea temples in Japan, enshrines the guardian deity of the sea known as “Golden Pira”.
Torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima.
However, the sea can sometimes turn hideous. In this country with frequent typhoons and earthquakes, coastal areas are inevitably affected by disasters such as tsunamis and storm surges. Moreover, when the population and industries are concentrated along the coastline, problems such as water pollution and coastal erosion are inevitable. The coast of Japan is mainly composed of natural coasts, semi-natural coasts, artificial coasts and estuaries. The survey data shows that the natural coast is showing a shrinking trend, and about 1.6 square kilometers of sandy beaches disappear every year. Even if the annual budget of 200 billion yen is invested in coastal protection, it is just an artificial coast built with hard concrete. Over the years, the proportion of artificial coasts has approached that of natural coasts.
National Park Conservation System
A large part of Japan’s important coast lies within the confines of national parks. Japan’s national parks are national parks in the usual sense, and belong to the same category of natural parks as national parks and prefectural natural parks. National parks can be regarded as outstanding representatives of natural scenic spots in Japan. They are designated by the state based on the “Natural Parks Act” and are directly managed by the state (Ministry of the Environment). On March 16, 1934, Japan first designated three national parks, the Seto Inland Sea, Unzen, and Kirishima; in 1957, the “National Park Law” was revised, and the “Natural Park Law” was formulated, establishing the current natural park system.
Through the provisions of the “Natural Parks Law”, we can see that the significance of national parks is not only to protect local natural landscapes, but also to promote their widespread use and contribute to national health care, recuperation, and education. To achieve a balance between the regulation and relaxation of special protected areas, protection and utilization. The Ministry of the Environment will do some renovation projects in the park’s group facilities area, such as the construction of national holiday villages, visitor centers, hiking routes, nature trails, and campsites. Outside the park area, lodging facilities are usually provided, so that the surrounding convenience is close to that of general tourist spots.
The number of national parks increasing year by year is distributed all over Japan, and there are currently 34 national parks, accounting for 5.8% of Japan’s land area, and more than 300 million people use it every year. What is different is that it is not uncommon to encounter farmland and villages in Japan’s national parks, and some of them are even “God’s Domain” – managed by the Imperial Palace or Jingu Division Office, which may be called Japanese characteristics.
The Japanese archipelago, which spans about 3,000 kilometers from north to south, is rich in natural landscapes such as snow-capped mountains, volcanoes, and coral reefs. The characteristics of national parks must be diverse. Going back to the early formulation of standards for national parks in Japan, most of them are based on the original natural scenery such as the old relics of famous places and mountains and famous mountains. At the beginning of the second half of the 20th century, highly natural ecological landscapes, sea landscapes, wetland landscapes, and wildlife habitat landscapes were all included in the reference range, which also provided more possibilities for natural environment protection including coastlines.
Seto Inland Sea National Park: “Japan’s Mediterranean Sea”
As one of the first designated national parks in Japan, the Seto Inland Sea National Park is quite strong. You can hardly even describe its specific scope at once, it is completely a “bulk package” state. To apply its official definition, that is, the vast sea area with Bizan Seto as the center, surrounded by the four straits of Jidan, Naruto, Kanmon, and Toyo, the islands and the outlook area on the land, all belong to the park area. .
Seto Inland Sea National Park spans Osaka Prefecture, Hyogo Prefecture, Wakayama Prefecture, Okayama Prefecture, Hiroshima Prefecture, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Tokushima Prefecture, Kagawa Prefecture, Ehime Prefecture, Fukuoka Prefecture, and Oita Prefecture, with a land area of about 669.34 square kilometers , with a total area of more than 9,000 square kilometers. The largest national park in Japan by land area is Daisetsuzan National Park in Hokkaido, covering an area of 2,267.64 square kilometers, but if the sea area is included, the Seto Inland Sea National Park ranks first.
The inland sea multi-island landscape consisting of more than 1,000 islands with a long and winding coastline is a distinctive feature of the Seto Inland Sea National Park. Due to its warm climate and livable scenery, it is also known as the “Mediterranean of Japan”. The Seto Inland Sea is the largest enclosed sea area in Japan. The seawater is rich in minerals and is an ideal habitat for creatures, including rare creatures such as finless porpoises and horseshoe crabs. Moreover, with the sea area as the center, various ecosystems such as tidal flats, algae fields, seashores, and tidal wetlands have been established. Nanchong, the island of Zhoufang, is the largest colony of Japanese jasmine (coral), and Miyajima is the only habitat of the spotted gray dragon in Japan.
Since ancient times, this area has been a hub for maritime traffic, and there are naturally many stories left behind. As for the scenic spots, it is a “big gift package” mode with a wide range of content. There are not only natural landscapes such as Naruto whirlpool, Mt. Rokko, and Kanmon Strait, but also the ancient port town of Tomonoura, the Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima (a World Heritage Site), the Golden Sword Hira Palace in Kagawa, the villages and terraces of Kashima, and Kurashiki. The beautiful area and other cultural landscapes are even more famous. The currents and topography of the Seto Inland Sea are complex, and the Shio-sama Mizuo and Murakami Sailors who were good at handling boats were very active, and many relics were left. Friends who have traveled in Japan will be more or less impressed by these place names.
Such “feng shui treasures” are enough to achieve the great creations of writers and artists. The records of related famous places are often found in the classical masterpieces represented by “Wan Ye Shu”, “Gu Shi Ji” and “Taiping Ji”. We can also see familiar landscapes in modern literary works such as Natsume Soseki’s “Brother”, Shiga Naoya’s “Walking in the Dark”, and Hayashi Fumiko’s “The Wanderer”. Of course, the Seto Inland Sea Art Festival is best known to young literary and artistic people. Artists from all over the world have connected 12 small islands and 2 ports with their works, presenting an “Island Hopping” art award. For cyclists, Shimanami Kaido, which connects Honshu and Shikoku, is a holy place. This is the only bicycle path across the strait in Japan, passing through 6 small islands and 7 sea-crossing bridges. The supply and station facilities on the road are mature, making it a perfect sea-view cycling route.
However, such a “bulk” giant park will inevitably face some tests in operation. Especially after the baptism of the post-war period of high economic growth (1955-1973), Japan’s urbanization process accelerated, and the conflict between economic development and environmental protection was inevitable. The tentacles of human activities are increasingly extending to deeper and farther areas, and industrial waste water along the coast is discharged at will, resulting in abnormally high levels of heavy metals such as copper, lead, and mercury in seawater. Red tides, shellfish poisoning, and heavy oil spills continue to occur. Minamata disease, which shocked the world, is one of the bad consequences. The loss of algae fields, tidal flats, and natural coasts caused by sea sand mining and land reclamation is becoming more and more important. The habitat of marine life and the living environment of coastal residents are in jeopardy, and even a fertile sea such as the Seto Inland Sea has become a “sea of death”.
Fortunately, protection measures are not absent. Specifically, the designated cultural heritage in the park is protected by the Cultural Heritage Protection Act, state-owned forests are under the protection of the Basic Law on Forestry and Forestry, and the Law on Special Measures for Environmental Protection of the Seto Inland Sea is under the protection of water pollution, etc. A series of harms caused by the problem act as an inhibitor. In addition, unofficial environmental organizations have also played a positive role.
The Tottori Sand Dunes in San’in Kaigan National Park are a rare sight in Japan where “one side is sea water and one side is desert”.
Unfortunately, these measures do not cover the entire region. To truly achieve harmonious coexistence with this beautiful sea, there is still a long road ahead.
San’in Kaigan National Park: “Coastal Terrain Museum”
San’in Kaigan National Park is located on the side of the Sea of Japan, starting from Tango City, Kyoto Prefecture in the east, and Tottori City, Tottori Prefecture in the west, with a coastline of about 75 kilometers. It was designated as a national park in 1963.
Due to the continuous erosion and weathering of strong winds and waves, the rocky coast here has gradually formed sea cliffs, sea caves, rock reefs and other landforms. When we walk in the San’in Kaigan National Park, it is like coming to a “Coastal Terrain Museum”, where there are granite, basalt, rhyolite, andesite, sandstone, and mudstone, which have been recognized by UNESCO as a global geopark.
In addition, the Tottori Sand Dunes in the park are a rare sight in Japan with “one side is sea water and one side is desert”. The coastal sand dunes formed by sea erosion or estuary sand are 16 kilometers long from east to west and 2.4 kilometers wide from north to south, making them extremely vast and magnificent. One of the largest sand dunes in Japan, it is not only designated as a national natural monument, but also one of the top 100 geological sites in Japan. The changing scenery throughout the year can bring different shocks. People can ride a camel here for a sand dune walk, visit sand sculpture-themed art galleries, experience sand dune yoga facing the sea, or glide freely between heaven and earth…
Oyama Oki National Park: The Mythical Connection of Mountains and Seas
Go west along the side of the Sea of Japan and you will come to the area of Oyama Oki National Park. It has a land area of about 353.53 square kilometers and spans Tottori, Shimane and Okayama prefectures and was designated in 1936. The mountain landscape (Oyama, Hiruzuyama, Sanbosan) and the coastal landscape (Shimane Peninsula, Oki Island) are harmoniously integrated, and the representative scenic spots in the central part of the San’in region are gathered.
At 1,729 meters above sea level, Daisen is the highest peak in the 5 western prefectures of Honshu and has the largest beech forest in western Japan. This volcano has been a holy place for mountain worship and Shugendo since ancient times. Sanpingshan, which is also a volcano, erupted 4,000 years ago, and the caldera and the lava domes on the inside are very spectacular.
Under the influence of volcanic activity, crustal changes, climate change, alluvial action, erosion and other factors, the coastline is full of spectacular scenery such as sea cliffs, cave doors, and caves. Just go to the Kuniga coast of Oki Island to understand the wonders of nature. The 257-meter-high Ferris Cliff stands vertically above the sea and is Japan’s leading sea cliff. The green space above the cliff is flat, and cattle and horses are grazing leisurely. People can take excursion boats to observe various cliffs and rocks from the sea up close.
The Angel Road in Shodoshima is actually a sandbar that appears when the tide rises and falls. Legend has it that couples who walk the path of angels hand in hand will reap happiness. Today it has become the most popular “punch place”.
Stretching for about 7 kilometers from east to west, the most famous skyscraper cliff on the Kuniga coast is about 257 meters high, and it is the leading sea cliff in Japan.
The Izumo Taisha Shrine is Japan’s most famous shrine for bonding, and there is an endless stream of visitors throughout the year.
The Seto Inland Sea Art Festival in 2022 will use “people” as the main visual subject for the first time, showing the “smiles of grandparents” of the three vibrant aborigines on the island. This reflects the theme of the art festival: to bring the Seto Inland Islands back to their former glory when nature and human beings interacted with each other.
The Shimane Peninsula is also the stage for the Izumo mythology such as the Kuniyin myth. The Izumo culture centered on the Izumo Taisha Shrine has a long history, and the imprint of the gods can be traced along the coast to this day. The Izumo Taisha Shrine is Japan’s most famous shrine for bonding, and there is an endless stream of visitors throughout the year. The history of the Izumo Taisha Shrine originated from the age of the gods, and it is a shrine that many Japanese must visit once in their lives. Legend has it that every year in October of the old calendar, 8 million gods from all over Japan gather here for a meeting, so most places call October “Kami no Moon”, and only the Izumo area calls it “God in the Moon”. In order to welcome the gods, the Izumo Taisha Shrine holds ceremonies such as the God-Welcome to the Gods and the Gods’ Festival. If you visit at this time, it is really a precious experience that can be met but not sought after.
There is the largest seaweed field in the Sea of Japan, and all 6 types of seaweeds in the Sea of Japan can be caught here. In addition, the only seaweed designated as a national natural monument in Japan, Kuroki Tsuta, grows in the shallows around Oki. The Shimane Peninsula has mostly rocky shores, and before you know it, it has become a favorite breeding place for seabirds. The island of Himisaki is a famous sea cat breeding ground in Japan.
Inherit the sea to the future
To pass on the beautiful sea area to the next generation, it is necessary to spare no effort to implement marine education and protection measures, so that more people can participate. For example, the “Sea and Japan Project”, which was established under the promotion of the Nippon Foundation, the Headquarters of Comprehensive Marine Policy, and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, has carried out thousands of marine activities across Japan, with a total number of 3.3 million participants. There are more than 10,000 cooperative enterprises and groups.
How much you love the sea, will inspire how much inspiration, such a fire is passed down, enough to spread to every sea. On April 14, 2022, the Spring Festival of the Seto Inland Sea Art Festival will open as scheduled. From August to November, there will be two events in summer and autumn waiting for art lovers to visit. At the beginning of April 28, the 11-day Zushi Coast Movie Festival was held in Zushi Coast, Kanagawa. The coast at night is the most beautiful movie theater.
By the time this article is written, summer is on its way, and all I want is to escape to the coast. Even if you don’t do anything, just walk along the coastline and watch the tide rise and fall and the sun rise and set, you can feel joy in your heart. In the moist sea breeze, there is longing for beauty and freedom.