The Castle-Like Stone-Walled Village
Ishigaki-no-Sato (The Stone-Walled Village) lies in a bay on the Nishiumi Peninsula close to the southernmost point of Ehime Prefecture. The village consists of about 50 houses all huddled together in the middle of a hillside.
Here you see the giant stone walls that gave the village its nickname, Ishigaki-no-Sato. The place looks like old castle ruins, but the high stone walls, which reach the eaves of the houses, were built to protect the residences from summer typhoons and strong winter winds.
The settlement came into existence in the final years of the Edo Period (1603~1867) and the beginning of the Meiji Period (1868~1912). The village has since lost some of its population and also houses, but the townscape has not changed much and is still a wonderfully unique mix of walls and houses blended together. In this article, I will introduce some of the noteworthy sights I saw on my stroll through the village.
The free-of-charge parking lot down by the bay, close to the Sotodomari Assembly Hall, serves as nice base for excursions to the village. At the Shiokaze Resting Place next door, you can see photographs of the area from every season on display. Don’t forget to check it out!
The many narrow alleyways and paths lead me between the houses and walls up the hill. Walking between the high walls makes me realize they are even more formidable than I first thought!
Stone Dolls & Art
After a short while progressing through the alleyways, I came upon a large open space surrounded by the same stone walls. A house used to stand here, and if you look closely you can see a dent in the wall facing the sea.
This used to be a window. Fishermen’s wives peered through the window and prayed for the safe return of their husbands and for bountiful catches. Now, the spot is used for wishing for a healthy marriage and love life, and people place stone Hina dolls and other items here.
Here you can see one of the stone Hina dolls. The village holds the Dandan Hina Matsuri festival from the beginning of March until the beginning of April. More than 200 stone Hina dolls that local children and students make are placed throughout the area. Together with other Haniwa figurines made by the children, some dolls remain scattered around the village even after the festival has finished. It is quite fun looking for these nice little pieces of art (and getting a chance to rest a bit every now and then).
A Fantastic View Of the Uwa Sea
While keeping a lookout for stone figurines, I reached the top of the village in no time. Touching the large stone walls makes it seem like they contain all the knowledge and history of the area.
Creating picturesque scenery, paddy fields begin dotting the landscape about halfway up the hillside.
Close by there is a roofed area called Dandankan where you can take a break and buy something to drink and a light snack while enjoying the view.
As well as having been selected as one of Japan’s top 100 historical and cultural fishing villages to preserve for the future, the unique village of Ishigaki-no-Sato has also been chosen as one of Japan’s top 100 historical places with beautiful nature. It is truly one of the finest representations of the tradition of stone walls in Japan.
In addition to Sotodomari, there are also plenty of other stunning sights to see in the Uwa Sea region. Komo Cape, of example, which is found at the southernmost point of the Seto Inland Sea, Tengi-no-Hana, which has been chosen as the place with the most beautiful nature in Nanyo, and Mitsuhatadajima, which is famous for its amazing sunsets.
Next time you visit Nanyo, stop by Ishigaki-no-Sato as well!
Address: 208 Sotodomari, Ainan, Minamiuwa District, Ehime Prefecture
Tel: 0895-82-0311 (Dandankan: closed on Tuesdays and end-of-year)
Parking: Available (free-of-charge)
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Hironobu Matsuoka
Hironobu Matsuoka / Photo-writer Born in 1974 in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, and currently living there, Hironobu is the president of Mediapolis Inc. "I travel around the country in Solar King, an eco-camping car that has a solar power generator, and film the beautiful scenery of Japan in high-definition. I want to move around the country as much as possible and leave behind videos of precious Japanese nature and scenery for future generations to enjoy. Although I travel all over the country, I love my home area of Setouchi." 'Healing Japan TV' - Traveling virtually around the country through 'healing videos'.
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