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  • Writer's pictureOlivier

Japan: The 5 Best Spots to Photograph Around the Ariake Sea

Updated: 4 days ago

The Ariake Sea in Japan offers immense potential for minimalist photography. Its vastness, low tides, shrines, and traditional fisheries on stilts create clean and poetic compositions. The interaction between natural light, water, and human structures brings an ideal contemplative dimension to the image.


Japan: The 5 Best Spots to Photograph Around the Ariake Sea

This region, known for its reflections and subtle shades, is ideal for capturing minimalist images that invite tranquility and reflection, aligned with themes of quietness and suspended time.


Introduction

The Ariake Sea, located in the southwest of Japan, is an emblematic place that harmoniously aligns with an artistic approach characterized by minimalism, tranquility, and timelessness.


This vast body of water is famous for its spectacular tides, the largest in Japan, which transform the landscape at regular intervals. During low tides, immense expanses of mudflats are exposed, revealing natural patterns of mud and sand that create graphic and clean compositions.


Moreover, the Ariake Sea is dotted with traditional fishing huts, called Tanajibu, which offer a striking visual contrast with the vastness of water and sky. Similarly, the many aquaculture farms sketch geometric structures on the water's surface with thousands of nets and culture stakes. They are perfect subjects for capturing the essence of a peaceful seascape. These human elements add a narrative and emotional dimension to the images, while maintaining visual simplicity.


The light in this region is characterized by subtle and changing shades throughout the day, especially at sunrise and sunset. These moments offer unique opportunities to capture images that evoke tranquility and reflection.


The natural environment and traditional human activities of the Ariake Sea combine to create an ideal setting. The simplicity and natural beauty of this region can be captured through your lens to produce images that transcend time, while celebrating the very essence of minimalist photography.


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My equipment for long exposures: GITZO Mountaineer S3 and S3 ball head. The ultra-stable and lightweight carbon tripod. The ultimate reference for landscape photography and long exposures. An investment for life.


This article is a summary of my articles dedicated to the Ariake Sea. It is intended for readers who wish to have an overview of the potential the Ariake Sea offers for minimalist photography. I wanted to synthesize what constitutes the best places I have visited and still visit to photograph or document this magnificent bay.


Naturally, there are many other sites that will surely capture your attention and will be added to this list.

Also, if you wish to delve deeper into the subject and have all the necessary information for each of these sites, I recommend reading my other specific articles dedicated to the Ariake Sea. You can read them here.

 

Contents of this article:


 
Japan: The 5 Best Spots to Photograph Around the Ariake Sea

Fine Art Print © O. Robert


1. The Tanajibu Fishing Huts

The Tanajibu are small huts perched on stilts connected to the shore by a wooden bridge. They are reminiscent of the stilt huts found in the Arcachon Basin in France, albeit on a different scale. Similarly, several structures like these can also be found along the Normandy coasts.


Each of these Tanajibu has a large square-shaped net that operates with a pulley system. At high tide, these huts are perfect for photography. The imposing pillars, reminding us of the significant tides in this area, are completely submerged. The nets are often raised and just above the water's surface.


You can find these clusters of huts in several places, but not all of them allow for close access as one might wish, or are unfortunately poorly positioned from a photographic perspective in relation to the background. I would recommend three quality spots for photographing these Tanajibu around the Ariake area.


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Spot No.1: The Tanajibu of Yanagawa

These Tanajibu are located in the Fukuoka Prefecture, north of the Ariake Sea. It is imperative to get there by car. In this location, you will find numerous huts behind an imposing dike that stretches as far as the eye can see. About ten Tanajibu are aligned along this dike, each with different characteristics.


Naturally, tidal conditions will strongly determine the photographic interest of the scene. Therefore, plan to visit at high tide or close to it. Otherwise, you risk having to include imposing concrete elements in your images. This site is a 1 hour 30 minute drive (70 km) north of Kumamoto along the coast or a 1 hour 15 minute drive (50 km) east of Kashima. Head towards the Yanagawa City Hall where you can easily park. It is located 200 meters from the dike.


Japan: The 5 Best Spots to Photograph Around the Ariake Sea

Fine Art Prints © O. Robert

 

Spot No.2: The Tanajibu of Tara

This Tanajibu is located on the west coast in the Saga Prefecture, near the town of Kashima. Here, you will find a single hut located behind a significant rest area and a tourist information center, the "Taramachi Sightseeing Information Center". Therefore, you can park without any issue and stay as long as you like.


At this spot, the Tanajibu is very close to the shore, so you have to deal with a lack of distance for composing your shot. With a wide-angle lens, you can capture the imposing structure of this hut in your images. This site is located a 15-minute drive (11 km) from Kashima, heading south.


Japan: The 5 Best Spots to Photograph Around the Ariake Sea

Fine Art Print © O. Robert

 

Spot No.3: The Tanajibu of Kashima

These beautiful Tanajibu are located not far from the previous spot. Here, you will find two fine examples that are still in use. This is arguably the best spot. The openness is ideal, the background is completely clear, and water is present regardless of the tide state. There is also a large parking area available. You can then go to the dike made of natural rocks, which are less intrusive than concrete blocks if you need to include them in the image.


Japan: The 5 Best Spots to Photograph Around the Ariake Sea

Fine Art Print © O. Robert


It is clearly the best possible viewpoint for photographing these Tanajibu with a vast expanse of water in the background. The compositions are also more varied as it is possible to move easily on these rocks. This site is located a 10-minute drive (7 km) from Kashima, heading south. The Tanajibu are located behind the “Roadside Station Kashima” shopping center and gas station.

 
 

Spot No.4: The Torii of Oouo Shrine

Also, take the opportunity during your stay around the Ariake Sea to photograph the Torii gates of the Oouo Shrine. There are four of them, three of which are located in the sea. This site is part of my selection of the 5 most beautiful Torii in Japan for long exposure photography. Read the article here. The significant tide submerges these three Torii up to their halfway point, while at low tide, it is possible to walk there, passing under these sacred gates. Learn more about the symbolism of Torii.


Japan: The 5 Best Spots to Photograph Around the Ariake Sea

Fine Art Print © O. Robert


Evidently, this spot is extraordinary for photography. Not only for the stunning long exposures that result from this unique scene, but also for the timelapses that can be captured there. If this is your intention, then plan for at least 4 hours to fully capture the movement of the water in a timelapse. This set of Torii gates is located in Tara.


The site has a large parking area. Nearby, there is also a small store (konbini) where you can grab a bite to eat and buy hot drinks, which can be a comfort during long hours of waiting in the winter...


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Spot No.5: The Two-Lantern Torii of Einoo Shrine

Another spot that was relatively unknown to photographers until recently, this shrine features a Torii gate on the sea, flanked by two stone lanterns. At this location, the sea rises slowly and not very high. It is possible to achieve quality long exposures here if the weather conditions are favorable.


Japan: The 5 Best Spots to Photograph Around the Ariake Sea

Fine Art Print © O. Robert


Indeed, the background is quite cluttered, and on sunny days, its presence can easily ruin your patience and work. Prefer days with light mist or cloudy skies to minimize the impact of this background.


Einoo Shrine is not easy to find. It is imperative to get there by car. A small parking area can accommodate 2 or 3 cars maximum. The shrine overlooks the Ariake Sea and offers an extraordinary viewpoint over the bay.


Its Torii and two lanterns are, of course, located below. You reach them via a small staircase leading to a little beach where you can take your time to photograph this unique scene.



Surprisingly, this small shrine has a Dohio, which is the Japanese name for the "sacred" surface on which Sumo wrestling matches take place. To this day, I still do not know the reason for this as no one could provide information on this point during my visits.


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The Final Word

The Ariake Sea, with its vast expanses and changing tides, embodies the very essence of minimalist philosophy in photography: finding depth and meaning in simplicity. This place reminds us that beauty often lies in the uncluttered, in the art of subtracting rather than adding.


It highlights the importance of space, time, and reflection, fundamental elements in the quest for timelessness and tranquility. Each landscape of the Ariake Sea is a visual meditation, where the vastness of nature meets the discreet presence of man, creating a harmony that invites contemplation.


These landscapes offer a window to the eternal, reminding us that in a world of perpetual motion, there are moments of absolute calm where time seems to stand still, offering a new and deeper perspective on our existence.

 
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