Hirado and Ikitsuki November 25th.
Ikitsuki Ohashi michi no eki
A mild night at Ikitsuki Ohashi michi no eki, which proved to be an excellent place to stay. The toilets are clean, if basic, but boast a heated seat washlet which was a surprise. The car park has a view of the bridge, you are almost underneath it, and the sea is next to you. There are benches and picnic tables if the weather allows outside dining. In season it is probably very busy but at this time of year, November, there were only a couple of other vehicles overnight.
Obae Lighthouse and Shiodawara cliffs 大バエ灯台、塩俵の断崖
We set off for Oobae Lighthouse on the northern tip of Ikitsuki Island. This is a pleasant, leisurely, traffic free drive mostly through overgrown agricultural land. On reaching the lighthouse, we park at the lower car park and opt to walk the last 250 metres. It is possible to drive further and most people appear to, but to park lower down and enjoy a short walk with excellent views is the choice I would recommend.
From this lower car park there is a hiking course heading away from the lighthouse back towards Shiodawara Cliffs. At these cliffs there is another car park, so it is possible to park there and do a return hike of about 6 kilometres. The exact distance I don’t recall but it is marked on a sign.
The lighthouse is well worth a visit. It stands on a headland of basalt columns with precipitous drops to the rocks below. These rocks are popular with fishermen and the cliffs, I noted, had ropes to enable access. There were also signs warning of the danger of death in the attempt.
Unusually, the lighthouse has a viewing platform which offers a splendid panorama, out over the expanse of sea or back towards the headlands, islands and inlets. Today, an expanse of silver and greys as the strong sun breaks through the cloud cover and reflects on the water.
Leaving the lighthouse, we stop at the Shiodawara Cliff. This offers a good view of the sheer basalt columns and the oceans expanse and, as noted, the start of a hiking trail. I have not taken this route, but it looked reasonably well travelled.
Ikitsuki Sunset Way
Next, we follow the sunset way on the western side of the island. This is a good drive of about 10 km. In this season with almost no other traffic. It presents towering heights of woods and rocky outcrops on one side and rough pasture dropping down to the sea on the other. Famous for sunsets and use as a setting for car commercials.
We cross the Ikitsuki Bridge back to Hirado Island. Further along this route there are noted sandy beaches with very shallow water, popular with families. The water of Neshiko beach is wonderfully clear and today a brilliant blue. I paddled here with my children when they were very small.
From the beach, we move on through increasing narrow lanes not entirely sure where we are, but emerge near the opposite end of the island. This area is famous for fishing but is not especially scenic, more functional.
Hirado and VOC Warehouse
Turning round, we drive up north to Hirado city deciding to take a look at the Dutch East India Company Warehouse (VOC) before heading home.
The warehouse turns out to be an imagined replica, detailed information of the original being incomplete. It houses a small collection of original documents and some weapons but mostly provides information with pictorial explanations. Most of these are not in English. Nevertheless, it gives insights into the early trade with European powers that facilitated or, possibly, took over and dominated trade in the Asian Pacific area.
Japan imported silk and exported mainly silver which comes as some surprise. However, on consideration, we have visited the silver mines in Shimane where we learned that Japan was the world’s largest silver exporter in the sixteen hundreds. Also, Hirado was a Dutch trading outpost for some 50 years, before, by a decree from the Shogun, it was force to close and relocate to Dejima in Nagasaki; a more famous location for early Japanese/European interaction. If such things are of no interest to you, the VOC replica warehouse in Hirado is best avoided.
＊VOC Warehouse ; 310 yen / adult
The small town of Hirado itself is more interesting than I expected. The main street still is recognisable as an Edo era town, low and largely timber. There are areas to explore, a harbour and a castle on a headland overlooking the town and the water.
The sun is setting as we head home after a short trip – fulfilling in unexpected ways. It was good to be back on the road after a long break.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.