Cape Ashizuri in Shikoku: Japan`s Wild Cape and Most Beautiful Temple

We have a long trip from Tokyo to Cape Ashizuri (or Ashizuri Misaki in Japanese). We first need to take the plane followed by a hopefully scenic train journey before we get on the car for the final leg of our trip. We barely made it to our plane out of Narita bound for Kochi due to the train delays caused by a power outage.

As the first leg is over and our train leaves Kochi Station, it does not take long to realize that I am in for something new. We pass through the forestry areas followed by rough coastlines. I am bravely looking for usual suspects, otherwise called mood killers for me in Japan – ugly concrete buildings, endless power lines, and factories enjoying amazing coastal views ruining the experience for the rest of us. However, Shikoku surprises me with very little to disturb the visual pleasure of a train ride.

Lush mountain scenery in Shikoku Japan

I was already counting the days until this trip since I have been invited by a friend at school to her family’s temple – the beautiful Kongofukuji Temple – tucked away in a very remote corner of Shikoku, Ashizuri Misaki. I am already glad that I could make the time and said yes to her generous invite.

Ashizuri Misaki: a remote and delightfully moody cape

It is already almost dark when our train arrives at Nakamura Station. We are greeted by my friend Mizuki`s family, the Priest Nagasaki, and his lovely wife. They are today also accompanied by a visitor trainee priest who came to help Priest Nagasaki with his Obon visits. Next week is Obon in Japan, a holiday dedicated to remembering and honoring deceased family members. Given the number of houses to visit, Priest Nagasaki starts his visits early with the actual Obon dates reserved for the families who lost a family member within the current year.

The Nagasaki family treats me to a delicious feast at a restaurant near the station. Seared bonito is the main feature of the meal and appeals to my taste buds as an admirer of raw fish. I am lucky that my otherwise extremely unadventurous taste buds managed to develop an appreciation for raw fish, making my life in Japan easier.

Kongofukuji Temple by the atmospheric Cape Ashizuri

Once the dinner is over, I am warned that there is still another hour of car ride ahead of us before reaching our final destination: Cape Ashizuri. The warning is music to my ears as it attestst to the remoteness of this mysterious cape.

Sunrise over a cape in Japan

It is now almost 8 pm. We drive by the ocean even though it is invisible at this hour. Once we reach the temple grounds, though still invisible, it is evident that the ocean dominates everything here. The only sound that I hear all through the night is the sound of waves. The temple, tucked between the mountains and the ocean, makes me think once again. Mountains or the ocean, which one impresses me more? For today and this specific visit, the answer is the ocean, but I know that the next time the question arises, my answer will likely be different.

Kongofukuji Temple: a sanctuary by the ocean

My kind hosts show me my room in the house adjacent to one of the most beautiful temples that I have seen in Japan – Kongofukuji Temple. I peacefully sleep in my vast tatami room just to open my eyes shortly before daybreak.

Walking on my toes, I leave the house and walk up to the lighthouse in short five minutes to be greeted by a dream view, encompassing everything that I love – a lighthouse, cliffs, trees, and raging waves. Even that moment alone feels worthy of the long trip. It is around 5 am but already evident that that it will be a very hot and humid day. After the breakfast taken at the big refectory of the temple, I am given the temple tour by my friend. Mizuki also patiently guides me for a Buddhist prayer and takes me to the parts of the temple that I would not have access to as a regular visitor.

Cliff walk along Ashizuri Coast

Even though it feels as hot and humid as in Tokyo, I decide to take a solo walk by the cliffs watching over the Pacific Ocean. Part of the road reminds me of the beautiful West Forest Road in Yakushima but without the lovely deer or monkeys. I am, however, warned that there are a lot of wild boars in the area.

Shikoku Shore

After about an hour of walking, I see a very cozy-looking small cafe – Cafe 69 Log – overlooking the ocean. The cafe is run by a surfer lady who kindly allows me to pick her brain about the many wonders of the area. We are soon joined by two travelers from Osaka who kindly offer to give me a ride back to my temple. 

The next day is spent riding around the cape with Mizuki who kindly takes me to all photo-worthy spots. We visit the aquarium, take a boat ride on the bay, walk on a rocky beach, and end the day with a tasteful dinner at the temple. 

Everywhere feels very quiet. The place gives me a similar sense that I used to get when traveling in Northern Scandinavia. The quietness leaves a strong mark in your mind, and that is what you miss the most when you leave. That is what you keep daydreaming of, even more than the beautiful landscape. 

Temple stay in Ashizuri Misaki

I previously had the experience of staying at a temple in Koyasan. Koyasan, located in Wakayama Prefecture, is the center of Shingon Buddhism brought to Japan by Kobo Daishi. Shikoku is, however, the actual birthplace of Kobo Daishi and the place where he is known to have practiced intense meditation. The island is also home to one of the most famous pilgrimage routes in Japan, a 1.200-kilometers Shikoku Pilgrimage Route connecting 88 temples.

While I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at Jokiin Temple in Koyasan, my time at Ashizuri Misaki allowed me to observe the daily routine of a family in charge of running a temple, and the role that the temple plays in the community life. It was one of those lifetime experiences, and I feel very grateful to have found the opportunity.