Exploring Kumano on land is an easy way to see the sights, but to really appreciate the beauty of the area in all its glory, consider booking a sightseeing cruise, and experience the Kumano coast from a whole new perspective. The Tategasaki Sightseeing Boat Tour, also known as The Tatetasaki Pleasure Boat Cruise, is a 70- to 90-minute journey along the diverse coastal landscape of Kumano. To ensure you catch it all, here’s a guide to some of the boat tour’s most impressive sights.
Extending around one kilometer along the coast is Onigajo, one of the unique rock formations in Mie Prefecture. Legend has it that this jagged wall of volcanic rock was once home to Kumano’s demons, known as ‘oni.’ Also referred to as ‘The Castle of Ogre,’ it’s one of Kumano’s most popular world heritage sites. The moon-like cliff-faces were formed from layers of volcanic debris and naturally sculpted by the erosive powers of the salty ocean wind. The spot is stunning all year round, but it’s a must-not-miss location in spring, when four varieties of cherry blossoms bloom along Onigajo’s seemingly barren summit, making for an almost surreal contrasting display.
Given its geometric, almost too perfect pattern of vertical stone pillars, it’s near impossible to believe that Tategasaki isn’t a man-made, massive contemporary-art sculpture. Jutting into Nigishima Bay, Tategasaki stands about 80 meters in height, cutting an impressive, photogenic figure over the deep, almost indigo blue waters of the surrounding sea.
Peeking out of the ocean, running along the coastal cliff faces is where you’ll spot Umikongo. These pointy formations look like a partially submerged family of grey rocky pyramids with their sharp tips. Keep a lookout for the scattered rocks along the coast that resemble the aquatic version of the Swiss Alps. Along the way, you’ll also find other oceanside islands covered in a carpet of lush, undisturbed foliage. The sheer geological variety is enough to make even the most casual shooter seriously consider a career in landscape photography.
Cruising along to Tategasaki, you’ll bypass Gama no Kuchi, known in English as the ‘Blue Cave of Kumano.’ This imposing rock looks almost like a gaping mouth, filled with clear, aqua-blue water that shimmers in the sun. Thanks to its otherworldly, enigmatic beauty, Gama no Kuchi is also occasionally referred to as ‘Kumano's Grotto Azzura,’ a reference to Italy’s mysteriously beautiful illuminated water cave.
The tour begins and ends at Matsuzaki Port and departs three times daily between 10 am and 2 pm. The maximum tour group is 30 passengers. Also, it’s worth noting that the docking port is easy to miss, so ask the tour organizer for detailed directions on how to get there from your planned point of departure (ph: +81-597-89-2229, email: firstname.lastname@example.org).