Driving around Happo’s geopark sites
Spend a summer day exploring the rocky coastline of northern Akita.
Happo town is famous for the geopark sites that dot its shores. These sites are areas that have been nationally recognized as having some geological significance, and are often great access points to breathtaking landscapes.
In total, there are twenty geopark sites in Happo. We’ve listed some of the top sites, which are easily accessible via Route 154 off of the main road that runs between Akita and Aomori prefectures, Route 101.
These eight sites stretch over about 10 km of Happo’s coastline and can be visited by car or bicycle. Geopark sites are marked by signs that explain the area’s importance in both Japanese and English (Note: Some sites are a bit hidden and may require a short walk to find). Click here for a Google Map of this route.
Tsubaki Sea Shore
Right off of route 101, this site features angular, columnar rocks that jut out like stairs from the ocean floor.
Black Sand Beach
A popular destination among locals for swimming and kayaking (which can be reserved through the Shirakami Taiken Center’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org). Sea kayaking costs 5,000 yen per group (2 people = 2,500 yen each, 5 people = 1,000 yen each).
Sphinx (?!) of Shirakami
Okay, this might be a stretch but in the right light and from the right angle this rock is said to resemble the face of the Sphinx.
To get to this site we had to hike a short distance from the road down an overgrown path, but it was well worth it.
Monument of Remembrance
This memorial pays tribute to those that lost their lives in the 1983 Sea of Japan Chubu earthquake and tsunami. Up until this tragedy, it was believed that tsunamis did not occur in the Sea of Japan. Areas that have suffered from natural disasters are often given support through the Japanese Geopark Network.
A sandy beach that’s great for laying out or taking a dip. The noticeable boulder (tate-iwa translating to vertical rock) is the subject of local folklore where a young man slowly turned into rock after playing his flute for an unrequited love.
This is a popular swimming spot among local families in the summer. Venture off from the main area and look for small crustaceans in the shallow pools of water.
The most northern geopark site along Happo’s coast, this site has a short walking path that takes you out to sea. In the winter time, many local fishermen come here to catch Akita’s famous hatahata fish. Bathrooms are available here.
Although it’s easy to hit all of Happo’s coastal geopark sites in one go, picking a few to visit and pairing it with another activity in the area is another way to explore.
Other activities in the area…
On weekends, grill some fresh fish at Hachimori Kankoichi fish market.
Grab some ice cream from Sazaesan and enjoy the views of Kanoura Observatory.
Or relax your muscles at Hatahata kan’s oceanfront onsen.
Then grab some souvenirs next door at the market, Sanchoku Buriko.
Photography by James Bryant, see more of his work here.