The Oki Islands – A Geological Paradise

The Oki Islands – A Geological Paradise

- San'in Travel Diary Vol.1 -

Hi, I’m Tom Miyagawa Coulton and I live on the small island of Osaki Shimojima in Hiroshima Prefecture. I’m traveling around the San’in region and along the Sea of Japan coastline from Tottori down to the tip of Shimane. I’ll be writing about my journeys in these travel reports. I hope you enjoy them!

By Tom Miyagawa Coulton

Mount Akahageyama and the Red Cliff

A few kilometers downhill was the famous Red Cliff. This geological phenomenon is an exposed cliff-face showing clearly the huge volcanic activity that created this landscape.
Although the archipelago is a haven of peacefulness, its origins are anything but. It was formed roughly 6.4 million years ago from violent volcanic eruptions. A glance at a map will reveal the western islands form an enormous submerged caldera. The Oki Islands with its geological history, eco-systems and human traditions led it to be designated as a UNESCO Global Geopark in 2015.
The Red Cliff is probably the finest showcase for this Geopark. It was easy to see the immense power and scale of the volcanic activity that formed these islands. The different strata of rocks catapulted out of the earth were clearly visible. A word of warning, there are no barriers at the edge of the Red Cliff and it’s a long way down, so be careful!


Chichi-sugi Cedar Tree of Iwakura

Before we drove back to Saigo Port, Murakami-san took us to Shirashima Observation Deck on the north of the island. I was apprehensive about walking up to the observation deck in the strong wind and the rain, but we ventured on regardless. Lucky we did. As we reached the deck, there was a sudden change in the weather and beams of sunlight broke through the clouds. In that instant, a pristine double rainbow materialized in front of us. As quickly as it came, it disappeared again into a blanket of heavy rain, but it was enough to leave us speechless.
As I boarded the ferry and prepared for the journey across to the mainland, I peered out of the window. As I gazed out, bright sunshine flooded into the harbor breaking up the haze of the rainclouds. I don’t know if it was the sunlight, the drop in temperature, or the rain, but suddenly wisps of mist and fog danced across the surface of the water in the harbor. It looked like we were setting sail on a sea of clouds.
The other passengers didn’t bat an eyelid. I guess it comes with the territory when you live on a natural geological paradise.

When you visit the Chichi-Sugi Cedar tree of Iwakura, please stay behind the rope. It’s there to protect the tree.


Tour Guide-Interpreter Request

Although the journey out to the islands is not a short one, what awaits you at the other end of the ferry ride makes it truly worth the effort. It was a privilege to witness this geological paradise and this short trip has left me yearning to go back. Maybe next time in slightly warmer weather. (Visited in November 2017)

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