Cape Muroto Global Geopark
Cape Muroto Global Geopark 室戸世界ジオパーク
- Geopark Visitor Center
- Meoto Iwa
- Raiei Temple
- Muroto Skyline
- Whale Watching
- Japan Parks
Muroto Global Geopark has dramatic coastlines and seascapes
Jutting out sharply into the Pacific Ocean like a knife, Cape Muroto in the south east of Kochi Prefecture in Shikoku has dramatic seascapes and landscapes and from its tip both sunrise and sunset can be viewed.
Cape Muroto is a UNESCO Global Geopark, which means the area has geological features that are important on an international scale.
Cape Muroto is what is known as a subduction zone. This is an area where two tectonic plates meet and one is pushed under the other causing a variety of geological features, not the least of which is volcanic and earthquake activity.
Just off the eastern coast of Muroto is the Nankai Trough, a deep underwater trench where the two tectonic plates meet. Geoparks are primarily concerned with geology, but they also focus on the natural history of the area as well as the human history and culture of the zone.
Muroto Global Geopark Visitor Center where you can find information in many languages on the sites and attractions of Cape Muroto in Kochi
Geopark Visitor Center
A good place to start is the Geopark Visitor Center located on the east coast of the cape, a little north of the southernmost point.
Here you can learn about the features of the area and pick up information in English on all the sites and attractions on offer.
Most of the displays explain the geology in easy to understand language. It is even possible to take classes and make a reservation for guided walks around the coastline. There is free WiFi and also a cafe.
Geopark Visitor Center
1810-2 Murotomisaki-cho, Muroto-shi, Kochi 781-7101
Tel: 0887 23 1610
Open 9 am to 5 pm every day.
Meoto Iwa, "Married Couple Rocks" on the coastline of Cape Muroto
A nature trail out among the tide pools and rocky outcroppings of the Cape Muroto coastline
When I visited I came down the east coast and then up the west coast, so that is how I will introduce the spots to look out for.
The east side of the cape is the less inhabited, though there are a few small coastal villages and fishing harbors sandwiched in between the sea and mountains.
About 13 km north of the cape there are a series of rock pillars rising from the coast. These are Meoto Iwa, "married rocks" with a pair joined by a sacred rope (shimenawa). There are quite a few of these around the Japanese coast but the most famous pair is in Futami in Mie.
Searest, a resort with various bathing experiences using water from the depths of the ocean
Closer to the cape, after passing the Geopark Visitor Center you come to Searest Muroto (シレストむろと), a large health spa and bathing resort with an unusual feature. The water is deep sea water brought up from 1000 meters below the ocean surface in the deep trench just off the coast.
Nearby is a research center that has been exploring the properties of this water and it is suggested that it is in someway healthier than surface seawater. The main facility of Searest is a massive heated indoor bathing pool with great views out to sea. There are also smaller onsen type baths, jacuzzis, foot baths, saunas, and a restaurant.
Further down the coast you come to a path that leads out and among the rocky outcroppings of the shoreline. The path is concrete and with guardrails in places and passes through many tidal pools. Some of the rocks have names and in places informative signboards explain the geology of what you are seeing.
Giant statue of Kobo Daishi and a golden reclining Buddha at Cape Muroto
On the opposite side of the road you will see a pair of orange Nio, temple guardians. This is the entrance to Raiei Temple looming over which is a giant statue. This is the biggest statue in Japan of Kobo Daishi, probably the most famous religious figure in Japanese history.
As a young man in the late 8th century he spent a long time in a cave nearby until he attained enlightenment. The sea cave is called Mikurado and, while not deep, is open to the public. Kobo Daishi went on to found the Shingon sect of esoteric Buddhism and is credited with creating the hiragana syllabary.
Almost certainly on your visit to Cape Muroto you will see many white-clad pilgrims walking the roads. These are following the 88 temple pilgrimage known as Ohenro, which circumnavigates the island of Shikoku and is dedicated to Kobo Daishi.
A Buddhist nun walking the Ohenro pilgrimage route near Hotsumisakiji Temple on the tip of Cape Muroto
High atop the cape at about 170 meters elevation is Hotsumisakiji Temple, the 24th temple along the pilgrimage. There is a footpath up to temple on the eastern side of the cape, or a road switchbacks up on the western side.
The road continues on past the temple along the ridge of the cape and is known as Muroto Skyline. For those visiting in a car there are some fantastic viewpoints along the road. Also just a short walk from the temple is the Cape Muroto Lighthouse, a very popular spot for viewing sunrise and sunset. Within the Geopark are another two of the Ohenro pilgrimage temples, Shinshoji and Kongochoji.
Muroto Dolphin Center
The western side of the cape is more densely inhabited. In Muroto is the Muroto Dolphin Center which along with watching and touching the dolphins you can also don a wet-suit and get in the water alongside them.
Muroto Dolphin Center
6810-162 Murotomisaki-cho, Muroto-shi, Kochi 781-7101
Tel: 0887 22 1245
Open 9 to 4 everyday
Basic entry is 435 yen for adults, 325 yen for kids. Touching the dolphins and swimming with the dolphins have higher fees.
Looking down on the town of Muroto from atop the cape
Whales can be found off the coast of of the peninsula, and coastal whaling was once a traditional activity in the area. Further up the coast outside of the Geopark are several places where you can take whale watching boat tours, but within the Geopark is the Kiramesse Muroto Whale Museum that has exhibits on whales and the traditional whaling methods. It's a modern museum with some VR technology.
Another traditional industry from Cape Muroto, which unlike whaling, is still in operation, is the making of high quality charcoal.
A kind of oak that is prevalent on the cape, called ubamegashi. More than 100 years ago the town of Kiragawa was booming because of the charcoal trade and streets have enough remaining traditional architecture that it is registered as Preservation District.
For those with an interest in Earth Sciences and the fascinating story of how our world was created, Muroto Geopark is a great place to visit, but for everyone else there is plenty of other things to see or do, and because it's a UNESCO site there is plenty of information in foreign languages.
A complete range of accommodations are available on the cape including resort hotels, cheaper business hotels and traditional ryokan There are also cheaper minshuku as well as campgrounds.
The large number of pilgrims who visit the cape means that there are many cheaper lodgings available. Most of the hotels are on the west coast of the cape, but there are some on the east side, too.
Some places to stay include the four star UTOCO Auberge & Spa, the Hotel Ake no Hoshi, a traditional ryokan and the Himitsukichi guesthouse.
The best way to visit is by hire car, but it is possible to use public transport. You can approach from either Kochi or Tokushima.
The only public transport is a bus that runs around the cape between Nahari Station on the western side of the cape where the Tosakuroshio Railway Asa Line terminates, and Kannoura Station on the eastern side of the cape where the Asakaigan Railway terminates.
The bus stops at or near all of the main sites of the Geopark.
Trains from Kochi Station in Kochi take 70 minutes to Nahari on the Tosa-Kuroshio Gomen/Nahari Line and cost 1,330 yen.
The Japan Rail Pass is valid on the JR Dosan Line to Gomen but not on the Gomen Nahari Line.
Fishing harbor at Shina with trucks being loaded with tuna
Book Hotel Accommodation in Shikoku Japan
Books on Japan
Cape Muroto Global Geopark in Kochi Prefecture, Shikoku has dramatic seascapes and landscapes and is a UNESCO Global Geopark.