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Release | Kentaro Kimura

Witness the hidden lands! I experienced “Iwabe Cruise” in Fukushima-Cho which started from the Reiwa Era

There are many amazing landscapes and hidden lands in Hokkaido. Many people offer various cruising tours to see such magnificent sceneries in Hokkaido, and the new cruising tour appeared in the first year of the Reiwa Era. The name of the tour is “Iwabe Cruise,” in Fukushima-Cho, Matsumae-gun, Hokkaido. I participated in the tour which shows attractions of the hidden land Iwabe Beach, which even locals and people in the south Hokkaido even don’t know.

▲ドローンで撮影された絶景の岩部海岸。こちらは福島町パンフレットの表紙にもなっています(提供=岩部クルーズ)▲Iwabe Beach with a fantastic landscape; the picture was taken with drones. The picture is used for the cover of Fukushima-Cho’s pamphlet. (Iwabe Cruise provided the picture)


Table of Contents

What is Iwabe Beach?
The whole town trying to make the cruising tour as the new tourism business
I participated in the tour! The fantastic sceneries were beyond my expectations, and there is “Blue Grotto” 
There was a surprise! 


What is Iwabe Beach?

Fukushima-Cho in the south Hokkaido is a small town with a population of 4,020 (as of July 2019). The town is located at approx. 60 kilometers southwest from Hakodate. Because a shaft for building the longest tunnel in the world, Seikan Tunnel, was in Yoshioka District, Seikan Tunnel Museum gathers lots of visitors. Also, it is the birthplace of two Yokozunas; Chiyonoyama and Chiyonofuji who was also known for the nickname “Wolf.”
However, they needed a unique tourist destination because there is one of the biggest tourism city Hakodate and the only castle town in Hokkaido Matsumae-Cho with beautiful cherry blossom flowers. “Iwabe Cruise,” which shows the hidden land Iwabe Beach, was created for that reason. It was a 10-year project. I will explain the history later.
▲受付・集合場所となる福島町岩部交流センターです▲Fukushima-Cho Iwabe Koryu Center is the meeting place and registration office for the tour. It is at the end of Hokkaido Road no. 532 which runs the coastline in the east of central Fukushima-Cho. 
Iwabe Beach is a beach in the east part of Fukushima-Cho. It is in approx. 30 kilometers long “Matsumae Yagoshi Prefectural Nature Park,” which connects the coastline of Matsumae-gun Matsumae-Cho, Fukushima-Cho, and Shiriuchi-Cho. Approximately 5 kilometers precipitous cliff has abandoned people from entering the area from ancient times. Untouched nature still remains today because of that. 
Even locals don’t know the whole figure of Iwabe Beach except fishers. “Iwabe Cruise” is a tour to see around the hidden land Iwabe Beach for approx. 90 mins. 

▲乗船場所となる岩部漁港も非常に小さな港です(提供=岩部クルーズ)▲Iwabe Fish Port, the starting point of the tour, is also a tiny port. (Iwabe Cruise provided the picture) 
The west part of Fukushima-Cho has many 25 million years of faults and complicated. It is called the specimen of faults, but on the other hand, the east part of the town consists of newer volcanic rock faults near the beach compared to the west region. Together, it creates mysterious cliffs. The faults and geological features of the area around the beach have been researched from 1945 for Seikan Tunnel drilling project. Geological history has been more evident than other regions because of that. 


The whole town trying to make the cruising tour as the new tourism business

As I have written, the project to use Iwabe Beach for tourism kept appearing and disappearing from approximately 10 years ago. However, the project started to drive since the current mayor Kiyoharu Narumi succeeded. The 31 citizens and Fukushima-Cho each invested 100 million yen and established the government and private sector joint LLC “Fukushima-Cho Machizukuri Koubou.” 
Shoju Hirano, the director of the company and operation manager who works as a guide for the cruise, told: “Iwabe Beach is one of the most hidden places in Hokkaido. No one visit here unless they have an objective. I wanted to make this place stand out, and customers want to visit. I started the project three years ago.” 
▲車で岩部漁港まで向かう道程も断崖が続き秘境感タップリです▲Cliffs continued towards Iwabe Fishing Port, and I felt I am in an unknown land. 
It is truly a part of the tourism business that involved the whole town! 
Hirano was born in Fukushima-Cho but was away from the town since high school. He went to a high school in Eniwa City and worked in Tokyo. However, he came back to Fukushima-Cho to succeed his family business, and the project of the cruising tour came up at the same time. He decided to take the chance. 

▲ガイドを行う平松さん。自身も岩部海岸に魅せられている1人です▲Hirano is speaking during the tour. He is one of the people who were attracted to Iwabe Beach. 
He started to understand about Iwabe Beach. He read Fukushima-Cho’s history and publicity paper of the town in the 1960s and 1970 to learn about history and topics. He got on the boat himself as the season turned to spring and practiced to speak like a guide. He spent one year to test the tour. 
At the same time, he registered papers to the Transportation Bureau and got certified. In fact, they were planning to start the tour last year by using the fishing boat for Konbu fishing. However, the town got a budget to build a new boat. They decided to postpone the starting date of the tour and spent approximately 8 million yen to build a boat which can equip 11 people and a glass floor so that people can see the seabed. 
They tested the tour to 240 residents of the town by using a small boat. The test could gather many positive feedbacks, and they decided to start the tour from this June when the new era Reiwa started. 


I participated in the tour! The fantastic sceneries were beyond my expectations, and there is “Blue Grotto” 

wrote too much about the background story, but from here I would like to write about my experience of the tour! The fee is 3,000 yen for an adult, which I felt very reasonable compared to other cruising tours like this. 
▲岩部交流センターからトンネルと覆道を抜けて岩部漁港に向かいます。期待感が高まります▲We walked to Iwabe Fishing Port from the Kouryu Center through a tunnel and snow shed. My expectation kept rising. 
▲岩部漁港は本当に小さな港です。クルーズ船以外は漁船も見当たりませんでした▲Iwabe Fishing Port is a tiny port. There was no fishing boat other than the cruising boat. 

The tour was canceled because of winds and high waves when I reserved the tour first time. Multiple tides meet at Tsugaru Strait, water flows fast, and there are quite a lot of days with strong winds and high tides. The tour has the possibility of being canceled. They try to make the operating rate higher than 60% but prioritizes the safety of customers. 
The wave was calm on this day, but the weather was cloudy and foggy. However, Hirano said: “Iwabe Beach has different attractions on every season, every weather, and every time of the day.” He emphasized that there is a different encounter every day. 
▲低く雲や霧が垂れ込める天候も、逆に幻想的な風景になっていました▲Cloudy and foggy weather made the landscape look magical. 
As the boat left the port, cliffs, big rocks, strange-shaped rocks soon catch our attention. “Ghost Rock,” which makes us feel the power of the ocean, appears soon. 
▲正面から見るとよくアニメや絵本に出てくるオバケや妖怪に見えます▲It looks like ghosts or Yokai that appears in animation or picture books when we see from the front. 
The biggest attraction of the first part of the tour is Tatami District with three monuments. The district has the most transparent water and many sea urchin abalones live in this district, too. 
▲崖の尾根から流れおちる畳の滝です。岩部集落の山奥に浄水場があるため、一年中水量が一定とのこと▲Tatami Fall, the waterfall flows from the ridge of the mountain. There is a water purification plant deep in the mountain of Iwabe Village. Therefore, the amount of water is the same throughout the year.
▲グラスボートの船底から海中が見られます。分かりにくいですがムラサキウニがゴロゴロしていました▲You can see under the water from the bottom of the glass boat. It is difficult to see, but there were many purple sea urchins. 
▲岩部海岸は海鳥の宝庫。写真はハヤブサです。ほかにもミサゴ、アオサギ、ウミウ、イワツバメなども見かけました▲Iwabe Beach is a heaven for sea birds. The above picture is a falcon. I also saw osprey, Japanese cormorant, House martins, etc. 
The giant strange-shaped rock “Ear Rock” is the icon of Tatami District. A hole has been made because of waves, and it named “Ear Rock” because it looks like a person’s ear when seen from the front. 
▲耳岩です。確かに人間の耳に見えますね。高さは50mで近くに寄るとその大きさに圧倒されます▲This is Ear Rock. It looks like a person’s ear. The rock is 50 meters height, and I was amazed by its size. 
The next rock is Shitan Rock. Japanese cormorant and seagulls nested here and I saw baby seagulls. 
▲手前のシタン岩と耳岩を入れた絶景が平松さんイチオシのフォトスポットです。霧が垂れ込め幻想的な景色ですが、晴れていればより映えたはずです▲The scenery with both Shitan Rock and Ear Rock is Hirano’s recommended picture. It was magical with fogs but it would look more beautiful when the weather was sunny. 
▲ドローンで空撮したシタン岩と岩部海岸。海の透明度がスゴイですね(提供=岩部クルーズ)▲The picture of Shitan Rock and Iwabe Beach, taken with a drone. I was surprised by the transparency of the ocean. (Iwabe Cruise provided the picture) 
Hirano also answers to requests to take pictures with drones. This is the first challenge within many cruising tours in Japan. It would be an excellent opportunity to make a memory! 
▲霧で隠れていますが、最大200mの高さがある切り立った岩部断崖は大迫力!雨の日などはいくつもの大小の滝が現れます。▲It’s hidden under fogs, but Iwabe Cliff which has 200 meters height at highest, was powerful! Many large and small waterfalls appear on rainy days. 
There was not only amazing views but also a reef which records the history: Funakakushi Island. 
▲箱館戦争の舞台となった船隠島です▲Funakakushi Island was a site for the Battle of Hakodate. 

In 1969, the deserters of the former Tokugawa shogunate army built a fortress to fight with the armies of the newly formed Imperial government who were trying to reach Hakodate. The ship of the newly formed Imperial government shot countless bullets to the island. According to local fishers, there are many ruins of shells and bullets.  
The name of the island came from people who came to Hokkaido by secret passages because they hid their ships at the back of the island. 
In a way, the main attraction of the cruising tour is 80 meters “Blue Grotto.” There are other Blue Grotto in Otaru and Shakotan. There is another one in Fukushima-Cho! 

▲青の洞窟入口です。外見は普通の洞窟に見えますが、漁師さんにとっては神聖な地で無闇に踏み入ってはいけない場所でした▲The entrance of Blue Grotto. It looks like an ordinary cave, but it was a sacred place for fishers, and we could not enter casually in the past. 

▲洞窟の中に入ると神秘的な光景が広がっていました▲A magical landscape appeared in the cave.
Blue Grotto looks different every day. On some days it looks blue and bright and other days look more like emerald green when water becomes muddy. There are also days that it does not look blue at all. Weather, angle of the sun, speed of tides, and transparency of the ocean affect the color. 
▲かつては人が住んでいたというツヅラ沢。右側の松の木が名残だそうです▲Tsuzurasawa, where people used to live. The pine tree on the right is the proof of that. 

As the boat kept going east from the Blue Grotto, a big swamp called “Tsuzurasawa” appeared. Thirty-five former residents of the town who came back from former Karafuto Prefecture live here for three years from 1948 after the World War. They made a living by fishing squids and sharks, exporting shark fins to the mainland Japan and salted squid guts to Sapporo. 
Also, if you are lucky, you can watch brown bears, Ezo deers, and Ezo red fox visiting the swamp. 
The goal of the cruising tour is Yagoshi Cape ad the east side of the cape is Shiriuchi-Cho. You can find the torii of Yagoshi Shrine in the middle of the cliff. 
▲船でしか来ることができないまさに秘境の神社です▲This is a truly hidden shrine where you can visit only by boats. 
The shrine, Yagoshi Hachiman Shrine, has a long history. It was established in 1655. Three tides meet in the sea area, and there have been many marine accidents. Moreover, there were many battles between the Ainu people. It is said that the shrine was built to pray for the safety of marines and victory of the battle. 
People used to spread alcohols every time they pass the area to pray for the safety of fishing and traveling. 
Also, the place has Yoshitsune Legend, and the name “Yagoshi” came from the legend. Please participate in the tour and ask the guide about the details. 
This shrine is the last stop of the tour and boat turns around to go back to Iwabe Fishing Port from here. 


There was a surprise! 

On the way back to the fishing port, there was a place where countless seagulls and black-tailed gulls. A group of yellowtail was chasing small fishes, and sea birds were fighting for fishes. 
▲餌の取り合いは熾烈です。可愛げはなく厳しい野生の世界を垣間見ました▲Battles to fight for food are fierce. There is no cuteness, and I could see the glimpse of the cruel world of wildlife. 
And surprisingly, tunas were jumping up and down over the group of yellowtails! 
▲かなり遠い距離で豆粒ほどですがマグロを写せました!▲I could take a picture of tuna, although it was very far and tuna is as small as a bean. 
“Yellowtails are common, but we don’t see tuna that often.” The captain said. “It was my first time to encounter tune in three years!” Hirano also said excitedly. Tsugaru Strait is one of the most famous producers of Pacific bluefin tuna. It was my first time to encounter such scenery! 
▲こちらもマグロです。小さいですが小魚も飛んでいるので、追って食べようとしているのでしょう▲This is also a picture of a tuna. There are also small fishes jumping around. I guess that tuna was trying to eat small fishes. 

It should be only the south area in Hokkaido where you can see tuna like this. I also heard that dolphins appear until mid-June. 
The landscape here changed every day according to season, time, climate, and weather. The encounter with tuna this time was a miracle. 
Fukushima-Cho is planning to build “Iwabe Experience Village.” Putting the cruising tour in the center, they are planning to make use of nature in Iwabe District and use empty houses and empty lands so that tourists feel attractive. Iwabe Cruise made a great start of the tourism business in Iwabe-Cho. 

▲2月から青の洞窟をイメージした「青の洞窟サイダー」も販売しています!▲They also started selling “Blue Grotto Soda” from February! 

“I have much more feedbacks than I expected as the first year. Positive feedbacks and wows of visitors really encourage me.” Hirano said. The cruising tour is available until the end of October this year. Why don’t you visit the one-of-a-kind cruising tour? 
  • Witness the hidden lands! I experienced “Iwabe Cruise” in Fukushima-Cho which started from the Reiwa Era