Oga coastline and the Mantaibutsu

Located in the north of Honshu, Akita prefecture faces the sea of Japan in the west and is surrounded by four other prefectures: Aomori in the north, Iwate in the east, Miyagi in the southeast and Yamagata in the south. After spending the night In Akita city at the very convenient “Dormy Inn” that even had a nice roof onsen, where I took the first bath of the New Year, we just couldn’t help but venturing back northwards. The Oga peninsula (男鹿半島 Oga hantō) with the Akagami Goshado and other mystical shrines and places was totally worth driving back the fifteen kilometers from Akita city, or at least that’s what I think. The iconic coastline of the Oga peninsula is especially known for its sunsets which you can enjoy from the highway called Oga shiokaze kaidō (男鹿潮風街道 Oga sea breeze highway).

Turquoise elements of the rocks and the faint snowing made this place look almost unreal

Akita prefecture’s main industries are agriculture, fishing, forestry and mineral extraction and while young people migrate to larger cities such as Tokyo, Akita’s population has been declining since 1945 and is in fact, with the lowest number of children as a percentage of the population, where declines in population are most apparent in Japan. I wasn’t aware of this when in Akita, but while driving along the coast line of the Oga peninsula it should have been pretty obvious judging by the lack of people and lonely villages that still looked pretty from a distance though. The coastline is shaped by strong winds and waves and somewhat resembles a moonscape with vibrant splashes of turquoise and rust red that stand out even more prominently against the bleakness of winter. Some of the volcanic and sedimentary rocks of the Oga peninsula are as old as 62 million years. The sediments and rocks in the marine strata of the Oga peninsula produce oil and natural gas and are considered to be major source rocks for Japanese tertiary oils.

Solitary rock on the Oga coast line

The Mantaibutsu (万体仏 ten thousand bodied Buddha) is a wooden hall situated right next to a narrow road, which hosts ten thousand tiny Jizō figurines. This hall, once part of a temple called Koboji, is only 5.4 meters on each side. You’ll most likely cross it on your way to the Namahage museum, where most people are bound for. Before entering the hall you’re supposed to take off your shoes, also in deepest winter. I didn’t mind though as the polished planks weren’t cold and felt good against my feet. While the dim light inside the hall had something soothing, gazing at the sheer number of Jizō, neatly placed next to one another and fading into indefinite darkness towards the ceiling, was almost overwhelming. Some figurines are damaged or so rubbed down by the many hands that must have been touching them throughout time that the faces were barely recognizable but each figurine has slightly different facial features and that’s pretty amazing, don’t you think?

Inside the hall there are paper cranes, apples and other things as offerings

One day is definitely enough to get around and see at least some of the Oga peninsula and if you’re feeling adventurous and are planning on visiting in summer and to stay a while, there’s even a camping ground with a scenic view over the sea of Japan. If it wasn’t for the wintry temperatures I would have loved to take a walk on one of the less rugged beaches and dip my feet into the water.

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