Driving to Irago Misaki is a great way to see the Pacific Ocean in Japan
One of the advantages of living abroad for an extended time is you have many opportunities to explore parts of the country that hardly make a blip on the tourist radar. I love seeing these parts of Japan. Like Irago Misaki.
One such experience happened this summer when my husband and I took an impromptu road trip. I really wanted to go somewhere pretty, away from tourists, and I wanted to drive.
We decided to drive to Irago Misaki on the end of the Atsumi Peninsula.
Since we don’t have a car, my husband made a reservation online, and we picked up our little rental car the next morning. With the navigation set, we hooked up my iPhone for the music, and I got behind the wheel. I promptly turned on the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal.
I’ve only driven a few times in Japan, and I’ll be honest – I still get nervous driving on the left side of the street, especially in the city. It’s much less nerve-wracking on the highway because everyone is driving in the same direction. It’s also easier when there is a Japanese person in the passenger’s seat directing you where to go and what to do. Lucky me.
We didn’t really have much of a plan for the day. Just drive to Irago Misaki because there is a lighthouse. That’s about it. The rest we were just going to make up as we went along.
Driving out of the city at 10:00 in the morning, there was little traffic.
It was a Monday, and my husband had a random day off. A perfect time to do some driving. The buildings around us started to get shorter and further apart, and the rice fields started to get wider. We passed a ferris wheel.
After about an hour, we pulled in to a tourist information centre to try and figure out exactly what we were doing. In the town of Tahara, I discovered that it was peak melon season. Melons, melons everywhere. Japanese melon is far from my favourite fruit, but in the moment, I bought some melon flavoured candies. Since they were covered in sugar, I had high expectations. Disappointment ensued.
Looking at the tourist map, we got an idea of the drive ahead of us and the things we wanted to see, like Akabane Long Beach and a general coastal drive before reaching the lighthouse. According to our car navi, it should take about an hour to reach the lighthouse.
Back on the road, there were glimpses of ocean to our left, and we realized that we were driving down the peninsula.
Being in the Japanese countryside is always such a pleasant experience after being cooped up in the cities. I love seeing the old-style houses, little farms, and the empty roads. It was all made even better knowing that the ocean was just behind the trees.
We missed our turn off that would take us to the ocean, and ended up getting a bit lost here. Such is a road trip. Eventually, we turned around and found the road that leads to the beach.
It was finally time to get out of the car. The parking lot was quite large and quite empty. A few other people were at their vehicles, getting their surfboards ready.
Did you know you could surf in Aichi?
It was windy, and the air was humid and salty as we stepped onto the sand. We made our way down to the water where people were perched on the surfboards in the water.
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We watched the surfers for a long time
It is a bit funny to watch surfers. They paddle out on their bellies until they find a good spot to wait. Then they sit on their board and stare out into the ocean. What exactly are they looking for? Waves obviously, but how can they tell which swell is going to turn into a good wave?
When the find a nice one, they turn around, quickly start paddling, then stand up as the wave reaches them. If they are skilled at their sport, they can actually ride the wave and maneuver artfully without falling off. Though it seemed like they spent more time waiting than actually surfing.
A lot of the time, the surfers we watched didn’t last very long. Though there was one guy who I could tell right away he knew what he was doing. His confidence walking into the ocean told me. I said to my husband, “this guy knows what he’s doing.” And I was right.
I grew up near the mountains, so I learned how to snowboard. But I think if I grew up near the ocean, I would have learned to surf. It looks like so much fun, and I always feel a pang of longing when I see people surfing. For some reason I think I would be good at surfing. It’s also a very solitary sport, and I think I would like to be in the ocean by myself all day.
After a while, we continued down the empty beach toward the raised concrete dock
There were a few old men out fishing, and I saw a some dried fish and eels on the ground. For a few moments the sun came out, and the grey ocean revealed it’s teal and turquoise brilliance. A dead sea star found me, which I carried with me for the rest of my day, much to my husband’s disgust.
It was around 2:00 now, and my husband and I were both hungry. Luckily there was a little beach house at the parking lot, so we found an open restaurant and filled up on a the most delicious meal of tempura on rice.
This was still not our final destination though, so we headed back to the car and drove a bit further. The next stop was another beach. This beach was not a surfing beach – I think it would be too dangerous because of all the jagged rocks peaking through the water. Though it was a lovely place to walk.
We walked down the beach and climbed over some large rocks. In the distance was visible the end of the peninsula. The scenery on either side of us was beautiful, and we marvelled at the wonders of the world before turning around.
Back at the car, we loaded up for the last stretch of road to Irago Misaki
We were finally going to make it to Irago Misaki (misaki means cape). The little parking lot was already covered in shadows and was empty save for one or two other weekday adventurers.
This section of the beach is apparently a very romantic place, and is a popular place for couples to get engaged. There were love locks from past couples who had written their hopes for a lasting relationship and locked it to the fence. And a photo prop area for the love birds.
However, it was going to get dark soon, and we still hadn’t reached our final destination. Did you remember that our main goal was to see the lighthouse? We headed over to the pathway to battle the fierce ocean winds. Thankfully it was summer, otherwise I’m sure I would have been a cold, complaining mess.
The walkway turned a corner, and we were again greeted by the setting sun. And the Irago lighthouse. It’s just a lighthouse, but it was very pretty. I can understand how this little corner of the Japan has earned itself a romantic reputation.
It suddenly occurred to us, we took a long time to get here, but now we would be able to see the lighthouse at sunset. How accidentally perfect.
Along the way, some horrendous smell wafted our way. I immediately knew it was the smell of a dead animal because I definitely know what a dead animal smells like. Sure enough, it was a rotting sting ray. Complete with graffiti, because why not? Not such a romantic walk anymore.
As it was starting to get late, and we had to think about getting the rental car back, we turned back around to watch the sun set behind the lighthouse for a few minutes.
Our mission was complete. It took us seven hours to reach our destination that, according to our car navi, was supposed to take two. But we had a lot of fun stops along the way and saw some lovely ocean views. So it turned out to be a perfect day trip.
On our way back to Nagoya, I spotted the random ferris wheel again where we decided to go for a late night ferris wheel ride. One more unexpected spot of fun in our day.
My sea star even made it all the way back to Nagoya, where it remained propped up on top of our post box. It mysteriously disappeared while I was in Thailand. How odd.
Practical information about Irago Misaki
Irago Misaki (Cape Irago) is on the end of the Atsumi Peninsula in Aichi Prefecture. The main attraction here is the Irago Lighthouse, which you can see from the cobbled walkway around the tip of the peninsula.
Koijigahama beach is located next to the parking lot that leads to the lighthouse. On top of the cliff is Irago Hotel, which surely has amazing views for a romantic weekend.
To drive from Nagoya takes about two to three hours (or seven if you stop a lot). It’s about one to one and a half hours from Toyohashi city. Alternatively, get off at the Mikawatahara station on the Atsumi Line (35 minutes) and a bus to Toyetsu Koijigahama (55 minutes). Official website in English is here.
What’s the most recent road trip you’ve taken, and what kinds of things did you see. And let me know what you thought of this post. I’d love to read your thoughts in the comment section.