With the completion of the cherry blossom season, Japan turns its gaze towards summer, which happens to be the best time for hiking. If you are located on or around Yokosuka Naval Base, you are in luck, as there is a popular hiking destination, Kannonzaki, just a 15-minute drive from you.
Kannonzaki is a cape situated at the east end of Miura Peninsula, blessed with various attractions including a lighthouse, museums, an interesting shrine, tasty restaurant and even a spa to relax. Above all, a one-day stroll through the cape will prove picturesque views of beautiful blue ocean and green mountains.
Today, most of the cape is designated as prefectural park. As it is very large, it may take you a whole day to walk through it. There is free parking on weekdays, and you can also get there via a trains or bus on the Keikyu Line, as well.
In addition to the mountains, Konnonzaki has several good-sized, beautiful beaches where you can enjoy a barbecue or take a dip in the sea during the summer.
Kannonzaki has a pair of famous ties - it is the place where both Gulliver and Godzilla made their first steps in Japan.
In Gulliver’s Travels, written by Jonathan Swift, Gulliver made his first step on the Land of Rising Sun at a port called “Xamoschi”. Today, the port is considered to be modeled by Kannonzaki. Based on this consideration, Yokosuka City and local tourist associations hold Gulliver-Kannonzaki Festa in November every year, and during the event, American sailors from Yokosuka Naval Base dress up as Gulliver and parade around the district.
In the first “Godzilla” movie, the monster landed at Kannonzaki, then headed toward Tokyo, just like Gulliver did. There was a large Godzilla-shaped waterfront slide in the beach, commemorating his landing about 40 years ago.
Since Kannonzaki was utilized as a citadel by former Imperial Army, you can find old military structures including batteries, brick-made magazines and tunnels along your stroll. Despite long stairs and slopes, they are well maintained, so you can enjoy safe and pleasant hike. Signs with maps are installed throughout the park ensuring you won’t get lost.
Atop one hill in the park, there are large grassy fields dotted with flower gardens, and children’s playground with long slides, climbing apparatus and double zip line, along with a wooden lodge for visitors.
Although you need to walk up hundreds of stairs for half an hour, it worth visiting the majestic white Kannonzaki Lighthouse on a peak in the park. It is known as the first Western-style lighthouse in Japan, and was built by French engineers in 1869. After being destroyed twice by earthquakes, the current version was rebuilt in 1925. The view from the observation deck is breathtaking. The distance between Kannonzaki and Futtsu, a city on the opposite bank of gulf, is only 3.5 miles, so you can see mountains and towns over the gulf.
Location: 4-1262 Kamoi, Yokosuka City,
Kanagawa Prefecture (15 minute drive from Yokosuka Naval Base)
Museums in the park
There are two museums within the park - one for nature and the other for art.
At the Yokosuka Nature Museum, you can learn the history and nature of Kannonzaki by taking a close look at various sea creatures and insects. In the museum garden, there are a couple of “touch pools” where you can actually touch starfish, sea urchin, octopus and other sea creatures.
Situated on a green hill, the Yokosuka Museum of Art is known for some of its superb views. On its romantic rooftop garden, two lovers can check out a peaceful view of Tokyo Bay as cargo and freight ships slowly pass back and forth.
The museum building is very novel and attractive, as well, as it was built with a unique neo-futuristic style made up of glass panels, white walls, bridges and small round windows. While walking around the museum, you may feel as if you were in a spacecraft rather than a museum. The museum possess about 5,000 works of art, and its regular exhibitions focus on Yokosuka and Miura Peninsula paintings from Japanese artists in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Tasty Italian cuisine at Acquamare
Situated in the neo-futuristic museum, Acquamare is a popular casual restaurant, thanks to the highly-reputable chef Yoshimi Hidaka, who has been serving his bold Italian dishes since the restaurant opened 10 years ago.
At the eatery, you can enjoy authentic Italian cuisine for a reasonable price.
The restaurant gets in fresh vegetables and seafood from local farmers and fishermen every day, so you can enjoy best possible Italian dishes throughout the year.
During lunch, Acquamare offers three pizza set options for 1,400 yen each, as well as five pasta options for 1,300 yen.
I ordered a lunch set of tomato cream pasta with seaweed, which features tomato, cream and cheese, seaweed and basil. Pasta was served with salad and coffee or tea.
The taste was one I had never experienced. The seaweed added a complicated bitterness to the sweet and sour taste of tomato, and that matched well with the rich flavor of cheese and cream on the noodles cooked al dente. It was a wonderful pasta. Frankly, I hadn’t realized seaweed could go so well with tomato cream sauce.
Acquamare is a popular eatery, so you had better reserve seats by phone before arriving, or get on the waiting list before you enter the museum, so that you can go right into the restaurant when you finish looking around the museum.
Kannonzaki Nature Museum
Hours: Tues. – Sun., 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Sept. – June),
Location: 4-1120 Kamoi, Yokosuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture
Admission: adult: 400 yen, high schoolers: 300 yen, elementary and middle schoolers: 200 yen, ages 4-5: 100 yen
Yokosuka Museum of Art and Acquamare
Hours: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (museum), 10 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. (Acquamare) (closed first Mon.)
Location: 4-1 Kamoi Yokosuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture
Admission (museum): adult: 310 yen, high school and college students and ages 65 or older: 210 yen
Tel: 046-845-1211 (museum), 046-845-1260 (Acquamare)
Shrine built for a princess
Near the museum, there is a Hashirimizu Shrine, dedicated to a prince and princess.
When Prince Yamatotakeru and Princess Ototachibana tried to cross the Tokyo Gulf toward Chiba in around 370 AD, the sea became rough and their ship faced the crisis, according to Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters), Japan’s oldest history book. In an attempt to calm the wrath of sea god, the princess sacrificed herself by jumping into the water, according to the book. For a moment, the storm subsided and the prince was able to cross the gulf safely.
Many people, including Empress and other imperial family members, visit the shrine to pay respect to the princess’ dedication and pray for her soul.
The shrine is considered a strong “power spot” among locals.
Situated on the foot of mountain, you need to climb up a long set of stairs to the traditional and somewhat mysterious main shrine. Go and pray for the sad princess and make a wish for yourself while you’re at it. You sure will be blessed with her divine power.
Behind the main shrine, there are three small stone shrines called Okunomiya. Locals say that it is the strongest spot regarding of divine power. So make sure not to miss it on your visit.
Location: 2-12-5 Hashirimizu, Yokosuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture
Mineral water straight from the source
Hashirimizu is also known as a spring-fed area. Near the historical shrine, there is a water supply facility, and like the Kannonzaki Lighthouse, this facility was established in the late 19th century by French engineers. According to Yokosuka City, about 1,000 cubic meters of spring water gushes up per day. Since the spring water remains underground for 20 years before coming up, it contains plenty of minerals.
The water is good for making coffee and cooking, and you might be surprised at the difference it can make. The water is filtered and disinfected through the facility, so it is clean and safe for potable use. Be sure to take a couple empty bottles or water tanks to bring back the tasty water. Fortunately, there is a large parking lot at the facility, and you can draw the water for free.
The park is also a great cherry blossoms site in the spring.
Hashirimizu Water Supply Facility
Location: 1-2-1 Hashirimizu, Yokosuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture
Wrapping up the hike at a waterfront spa
Soaking in a spa is a good way to end a day exploring the area. SPASSO is a luxurious seaside spa near the art museum, attached to Kannonzaki Keikyu Hotel, and offers a magnificent view of Tokyo Bay.
Its wide open air bath enables you to enjoy soaking while looking out into the sea. Sauna and bedrock bathing is also available. The bath uses the spring water of Hashirimizu.
It is a gorgeous experience watching the sun set over the sea while you soak in an open-air bath.
Hours: 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Location: 2 Hashirimizu, Yokosuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture
Admission: Mon – Fri: (adult) 1,500 yen, (ages 6 – 12) 1,100 yen; Sat, Sun and Holidays: (adult) 1,900 yen, (ages 6-12) 1,100 yen