The Monolith of Wakayama: Ichimai-Iwa
Wakayama prefecture is quite a popular touristic place that offers many natural spots such as huge waterfalls, beautiful beaches, numerous mountains, and unusual rocks. But while some places attract locals as well as foreign tourists throughout the year, others stay in the shadows. And I'm going to introduce one of the most beautiful spots of Wakayama prefecture hidden in the Kozagawa area: Ichimai-Iwa Monolith.
Ichimai-Iwa Monolith (一枚岩) is a huge rock 100 meters wide and 500 meters long, formed as a result of volcanic activity. Its massiveness will amaze you at first sight – you won't even be able to fit it into one picture if you take it from the observation deck right in front of the monolith.
Ichimai-Iwa Monolith is one of the biggest rocks in Japan, and local people even fondly refer to it Japan's Ayers Rock. There are some nice legends about this unique monolith: for example, it is believed that the rock is protected by a dog, whose shadow can be seen on the rock at a certain time. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see any dog-shaped shadow, but as a stamp collector I got a nice stamp with the rock and its personal protector – the dog.
Also, local people believe Ichimai-Iwa will bring you happiness if you go there on a rainy day. But even if you come on a sunny day, don't be upset – you'll get amazing views of the huge rock, massive forests, mountains and magically clear and light-blue water of the Kozagawa River.
The place where the bus brings you offers an observation point, a café where you can try local yuzu citrus dishes, a shop with various souvenirs, toilets, and even a Wi-Fi spot. The observation deck is also equipped with stairs which you can use to go down to the riverside. But don't just stay there, go further and explore the surrounding area! If you walk around, you can find various hiking trails. You can also cross the bridge over the river, from where you can enjoy spectacular views, and then go to the side of the Ichimai-Iwa.
Just behind the monolith there is a small area with lovely cherry blossom trees and benches hidden between mountains and the rock. Unluckily, the cherry blossoms had already passed their full bloom point before I came so I didn't get to see any. But even without cherry blossom flowers, the place looked really pretty. More than that, I was there completely alone, so it was a perfect place to rest, have a picnic, and enjoy the natural beauty.
How to Get to the Ichimai-Iwa Monolith
Ichimai-Iwa can be accessed by the Honkawa line of the community bus (ふるさとバス本川線) from either Kushimoto station or Koza station, both of which can be accessed by JR Kisei Line local trains or JR Kuroshio Line Limited Express trains. The bus schedule is available in Japanese. Bear in mind that on Monday, Wednesday and Friday the bus only departs from Koza station starting from 10:30AM, and there are only 3 buses per day, so be careful not to miss the one that you plan to take, especially the last bus from Ichimai-Iwa which is at 3:38PM. It may seem that the return bus is quite early, but from personal experience I can say that even 2 hours is quite enough time to explore that place and enjoy the sightseeing.
So, don't be afraid to go beyond the touristy and well-known places, explore hidden spots, and enjoy the beauty of Japanese nature!