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  • Writer's pictureOlivier

Japan: The Amaharashi Rock in Takaoka

Updated: Mar 8

Undoubtedly, Japan is filled with these natural spots that photographers like for landscape photography. Particularly wild, its coasts are incredibly rich due to their volcanic origin. And the Japanese are masters at preserving the mystery of these wonders when it comes to turning certain places into tourist attractions. This is the case with the Amaharashi rock, also known as the Onnaiwa rock (literally the 'woman's rock') or the Meiwa rock. Like many places, these volcanic rocks have allowed vegetation to take root in their crevices, much to the delight of photographers.

Japan: The Amaharashi Rock in Takaoka

The Tree and the Rock: A Precarious Balance

The Uradome coast located in Tottori in the San-in region is particularly representative of this uniqueness. Unfortunately, the trees that establish themselves on these rocks do not have an extraordinary lifespan because the climatic conditions are harsh along the Japanese coasts.

Therefore, local governments and prefectures maintain these plants to ensure the long-term appeal of these places to tourists. The tree located on the top of the Amaharashi rock is a good example. It is, in fact, held in place by a system of poles and cables that provide it with perfect support and resistance to the strong winds that sweep the coast at this location.

Observing the Sunrise

The Onnaiwa rock is perfectly positioned as it faces due east, allowing for the observation of the sunrise directly along its axis. This is a spectacle that the Japanese greatly enjoy, and it is particularly remarkable at this location.

To photograph this little wonder of the Japanese landscape, one must arrive at the location very early. In Japan, the day breaks early, so it is advisable to be there by 5:30 AM. It's another wonderful opportunity to gently wake up to the spectacle of nature and fill up with positive energy. There's nothing like it to start the day off right.

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The Amaharashi Rock

The Onnaiwa rock is located in the Toyama Prefecture on the Amaharashi coast, from which it takes its name. It is a must-visit landmark during your stay on the Noto Peninsula. The Amaharashi coast is also famous for its fine sandy beaches and majestic pine trees, often mentioned in Japanese literature through poems and famous texts.

The tree that crowns this rock is accompanied by two other smaller conifers that grow over time and are starting to compete with this formerly solitary and beautiful subject. Hopefully, the local government will consider reducing the expansion of these two conifers so that they can remain 'companion' trees rather than competitors.

At a height of approximately 10 meters, the rock is easily recognizable from a distance in the landscape. Perfectly isolated along the coast, this rock is also influenced by the tides. Depending on the time of year, it will either be exposed on a sandy beach or surrounded by water. This will certainly change your approach to photography.

Once you arrive at the location, you won't be alone. As mentioned earlier, the Japanese love to observe and photograph the sunrise as a personal way to connect with these magical moments in a meditative sense. These very simple moments indeed allow everyone to reflect on the richness of this country, its natural wonders, and the privilege we have to contemplate them.

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Where to Photograph the Amaharashi Rock

The Amaharashi rock is generally photographed from a distance. The landscape formed by this rock formation and its open background is particularly distinctive. If you visit during low tide, you can easily approach it. Once the sunrise spectacle is over, the locals do not linger. As soon as the sun is high in the sky, they leave the area. So, you can take advantage of this opportunity to get closer to the rock without risking spoiling the photographs of your fellow photographers.

It is possible to vary the viewpoints of this rock. By placing your camera at water level, it is easy to capture the elegance of this scene. The tree at the top suddenly becomes more significant in the image, where it appeared less prominent from a distance due to the angle that didn't showcase its branches. Indeed, the view from the favorite spot of photographers doesn't seem favorable to this tree and doesn't truly capture the beauty of its structure.

You can also move along a promontory dike located below the road and then continue on the sand dunes to get closer to the rock during high tides. The viewpoint is also interesting but certainly less spectacular than from sea level.

My library: Japan The Beautiful Landscapes

My library: Japan The Beautiful Landscapes

What is the best time to photograph the coastal landscapes of Amaharashi

If you're a regular reader of my articles, you probably know of my fondness for winter in Japan. Here again, I recommend visiting Amaharashi in winter to photograph the coast, and there are several reasons for this. Firstly, the tree that proudly stands atop this rock is deciduous, not evergreen.

This means that in winter, you can capture the delicacy of its structure and branches, adding significant value to the image due to the striking contrast between the massiveness of the rock and the fineness of the branches. For the rest of the year, the leaves give the tree a more massive presence.

Lastly, the Onnaiwa rock is also aligned with the Tateyama mountains, which are particularly beloved by the Japanese. It's true that this mountain range, which rises to over 3000 meters, adds balance to the overall scene. Unfortunately, it is not always visible. Even on clear days, it is not uncommon for heavy mist to obscure these mountains. So, it's a matter of luck.

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Getting to Amaharashi Coast

1. By Train

Although there is a train station very close to this rock, making it possible to get there by train from the central Takaoka station, it is impossible to arrive at 5:30 in the morning. The first JR Himi Line train (included in the Japan Rail Pass) departs much later. Therefore, it is imperative to have a private vehicle.

2. By Car

If you are not staying in the city of Takaoka, you can reach this spot by car by exiting the Naoetsu highway at the Takaoka interchange. The rock is about 15 minutes in the direction of the coast. Takaoka city is approximately 230 km from Nagoya and 320 km from Kyoto (3 hours by car).

3. By Shinkansen

You can also get there by Shinkansen from major cities in the country if you want to save time. Takaoka has a recently built and well-located Shinkansen station, Shin-Takaoka Station. You can reach it directly from Tokyo as well.

The Amaharashi rock is 15 km from Takaoka's Shinkansen station. Allow another 30 minutes to get there by car from this station. The observation point has parking nearby (service station).

Accommodation Nearby

Across from this station, you will also find a Toyoko Inn hotel. This business hotel chain is present throughout Japan and even in other countries in recent years. They are an ideal solution for my photo trips in Japan, and I stay there regularly.

Additionally, they are particularly affordable. Very well-located, they have a parking lot (for a fee) that allows you to have your vehicle close at hand. This detail is particularly appreciated in the morning when it's time to leave very early and avoid traffic.

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