My short trip to Hokuriku! A famous place for filming a thriller? (Or for committing suicide?)

I went on a trip to Fukui, Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures (Those three prefectures are called Hokuriku region) from 7/15 to 7/17 2017, and I’m writing articles related to the places where I visited during my trip.

“Fukui prefecture is off the beaten path for most travelers in Japan and doesn’t hold much interest for overseas visitors, with the exception of a very special temple and some coastal rocks.” (quoted from lonely planet Japan) The places that I visited in Fukui were this “very special temple” and “coastal rocks”. Let me tell you about the coastal rocks called Tojinbo today.

 What is Tojinbo?

Tojinbo(東尋坊) is a series of basaltic cliffs on the Sea of Japan. It is located in the Anto part of Mikuni-cho in Sakai, Fukui prefecture. The cliffs stretch for 1 km. (about 0.62miles) The cliffs’ rocks were originally formed twelve to thirteen million years ago during the Miocene Epoch due to various volcanic activities. Their shape has been formed through the years by erosion from sea waves. The scale of those rocks is very rare geologically, and Tojinbo was named a national treasure in 1935.

One of the famous places in Japan for committing a suicide?

Tojinbo is also a well-known place in Japan for people committing suicide. It is said that about twenty-five people commit suicide by jumping off the 70-foot-high cliffs annually. Local people at the area are trying to stop people committing suicide by placing signs (“Not so fast! You will surely have a bright tomorrow!) and telephone boxes. Apparently, there are things at the telephone box such as coins or prepaid card for calling, a piece of paper with telephone number of the nearest police station, a bible, a cutting of application form of public assistance, etc. There’s a light at the telephone boxes, and I guess it is easy to find them during night time, but I don’t know if people want to go inside a telephone box if they are about to end their lives.

There is NPO(心に響く文集・編集局 Kokoroni hibiku bunshu・henshukyoku) who use a drone for patrolling Tojinbo from May 2017. Their drone found a woman who tried to commit a suicide from the cliff, and a staff of NPO saved her and took her to the nearest police station.

A famous location for filming Japanese thrillers

Tojinbo is famous for a location of filming thrillers in Japan. Usually, dead bodies are found at the shallows at Tojinbo in the beginning of films, or criminals(murderers) are chased by police and try to run from the cliffs at the end of films. (Or they give up running away, and police catch them on the cliffs). I was surprised that there’s no prohibited areas in Tojimbo. You can go to the edge of the cliffs as close as you want to. I heard that setting up barricades is not allowed there since they might ruin the beautiful scenery… I think tourists would be disappointed if there were many barricades on the cliffs, but they might help to save people’s lives. Which do you think is more important?

Sightseeing boats in Tojinbo

There is a sightseeing-boat tour in Tojinbo and you can see the cliffs from seaside. The tour takes about thirty minutes, and three or four tours are held every hour. The usual business hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., but they close at 3:30 p.m. from November to March, and they don’t have the service at all from the end of December to the end of January. The ticket costs 1,400 yen for adults, and 700 yen for children who are under twelve years old.

The good thing about this boat-tour is that you can see not only Tojinbo but also Oshima, a small island next to Tojinbo as well. Although the language for the tour is only Japanese, it’s worth trying it if you want to see Tojinbo and Oshima from a boat.

*Black plastic bags were tied to seats in the boat. The boat was rocking from side to side, but fortunately, non of the passengers who took the boat with me needed to use the plastic bag. Phew…

Oshima(雄島), a small island near Tojinbo

You can go to Oshima island by walking on the Oshima bridge from Anto fishing port. I heard that Oshima bridge was built by imitating the bridge at Enoshima in Kanazawa prefecture. There is a small shrine in Oshima called Ominato shrine. The original shrine was built in the sixth century, but it was burned down in the fifteenth century. The shrine we can see at the present was built in 1621, and it is a cultural property designated by Fukui prefecture. This island is made of rocks, and the shapes of them are unique.

*The other side of Oshima. Can you see 鳥居(Torii= a red gateway to a Shinto shrine) of Ominato shrine in the above picture? An enlarged photo is here.


Why it is called Tojinbo?

There are some legends about the origin of Tojinbo’s name, and one of the famous legends has passed down from generation to generation by Ominato shrine.

There was a priest called Tojinbo in Heisen-ji temple(平泉寺). Although he was a priest and training at the temple, he was infamous and other priests in Heisenji-temple were unable to stand his bad attitude. On April 5th in 1182, some priests took Tojinbo to a cliff for a drinking party with a sea-view. (I suppose it was forbidden for priests to drink sake at that time, but I’m not sure since this is a legend.) It was a beautiful day, and everyone drank sake with joy. Tojinbo got drunk and he fell asleep. That was what the priests were waiting for, and they pushed Tojinbo off a cliff to kill him. Awaking just before he fell in to the sea, Tojinbo instantly grabbed some priests who were around him and they fell together. After Tojinbo’s body sank in the sea, suddenly the sky became dark, and a thunder storm came to this place. The legend says that ever since that time, Tojinbo’s vengeful ghost goes on a rampage around the same time every year at the place, causing strong winds and rain.

I had thought that Tojinbo was lonely place that is not very popular for tourists, but I was wrong. There are some souvenir shops, restaurants, and the boat tour, and there were many tourists when I visited Tojinbo.

Why are katana sward replicas sold here? I have no idea…

Personally, I don’t believe in psychic powers, and I didn’t feel anything wrong when I was in Tojinbo, but I heard that someone who has that kind of power could feel strange energies that try to drag you into the sea….


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