At the southern most edge of the Kii Peninsula is one of the most unusual natural wonders in Japan. The craggy Hashiguiiwa Rocks [橋杭岩] is a group of 40 gigantic igneous rocks that form a line in the sea that is 850 meters long. The Hashiguiiwa Rocks and their pillar-like formation do indeed resemble the stakes of some long ago bridge that once connected Kii Oshima to land, hence their name the “Bridge Pillar Rocks”.
How Did the Hashiguiiwa Rocks Form?
Some 14 million years ago a massive volcanic eruption sent piping hot magma into the sea just off the shore of what is today Kushimoto. The magma settled in cracks of the underwater sedimentary rock where it coagulated. Eventually, tectonic activity caused an upthrust of the ocean floor, shooting massive rocks hundreds of feet in the air. Over time, the wind and sea eroded the softer sedimentary rock, leaving the hard igneous rock behind. In this sense the Hashiguiiwa are never the same, as the elements continue to form and shape them.
Kukai and the Orge Amanojyaku
According to a Japanese legend, the Hashiguiiwa Rocks was formed long ago when the monk Kukai came to visit Kushimoto. He competed against Amanojaku to build a bridge to connect Kii Oshima and the main island. Kukai set to work using his new strength to haul massive rocks in to the ocean, forming the base of his bridge. He worked so tirelessly that Amanojyaku realized he just might lose. So, what is an ogre to do? Why cheat of course! Just before dawn, while it was still dark, Amanojyaku made the sound of a rooster crowing. Kukai heard the sound and thought he had run out of time. Thinking he had lost, Kukai stopped working leaving his unfinished bridge in the sea.
*a little ogre often depicted being trampled by one of the Shitenno deities)
Hashiguiiwa Rocks is only 25 minutes away from Kushimoto Station on foot. Actually, you can see the Hashiguiiwa Rocks minutes after leaving Kushimoto Station from trains. It is nice to walk, especially since you get to walk along the beach. That being said, almost everybody drives here, since trains in southern Wakayama are notoriously inconvenient.
Since the Hashiguiiwa Rocks is a famous tourist spot, many people come here, particularly photographers. The area is also famous for its beautiful sunrises.
Unfortunately, as there are so many rocks, you can’t see all of them from Kushimoto. If you want to see all of those rocks, you have to go to Kii Oshima.
Although it may geographically make sense, i wonder how the Hashiguiiwa formed a perfect straight line like this… and also why this rock formation only exists here in the Kii Penisula, and not in other areas of Japan…
The biggest rock is Bentenjima Island. There is even a little shrine on it.
We made our way back to the rocks around low tide and were able to get up close to them. There are also a number of tide pools that are fun to explore.
It is easy to see why this area is one of the most photogenic places in Japan. No matter what time of day to come, this stunning feat of natural artistry will leave you in awe.