In this eighth installment of the multipart series on my favourite Japanese moorage ports, I introduce three ports in the west-central part of Honshu’s Sea of Japan coast.
Unlike most of the historic-cultural gems along this coast, Hamada does not actually have much to recommend it, but it gets my “favourite” designation because it offers one of the best typhoon holes along the Sea of Japan.
Although the main harbor is quite exposed to strong winds and waves from north and west, there is a small basin in the far southwest corner (red dot; 34°52'28.4"N 132°02'27.6"E) where I comfortably sat out a typhoon packing 80 knot winds. One might be asked to register and pay a nominal moorage fee (it was, if I recall correctly, ¥80 [$0.80] per night for my 40-foot boat). The basin is just behind the Coast Guard station, there’s a washroom in the park, and there’s a local gas station that will deliver fuel to the boat, but otherwise there’s very little in the way of nearby facilities, services, or shops.
Typhoon protection aside, most local cruisers prefer to moor in the main fishing port at the southeast end of the harbor, mainly because there are several shops and restaurants within easy walking distance. However, the bridge at the fishing-port entrance has a clearance of only 18 meters, meaning that larger sailboats cannot enter. The fishing port is quite crowded and so one just has to hunt for an open spot, but within the past few months Japanese cruising friends have found room at the two places marked with orange stars.
A third option is to moor at the new basin at the north end of harbor (blue star). It’s likely to be empty and can easily accommodate larger boats, but it’s far from town and fairly exposed to weather.
This is one of the Sea of Japan’s gems.
The port is well protected from all but north/northwest winds, with moorage readily available on the eastern wall (red star) or the north side of the small breakwater that sticks out from there (red dot; 35°05'37.7"N 132°20'33.4"E).
Just a couple of minutes away is a Tourist Information Office, which can give you information on what to do and where to go in and around Yunotsu. In addition to wandering around the town and appreciating its many well-maintained traditional buildings, Yunotsu highlights include the following.
There are many hot spring baths in town (and they are, indeed, hot!), with several lining the main street.
A wonderful, magical Kagura (traditional court dance and music) performance is given every Saturday evening at Tatsunogozen Shrine (8 p.m., but arrive early to get a good seat). Admission is free.
Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine
Iwami Ginzan is a long taxi ride (and an even longer walk/train/bus trip) from Yunotsu, but it’s well worth the journey. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Iwami Ginzan was an active silver mine from 1526 to 1923 and, at its peak in the early 1600s, accounted for about 1/3 of the world’s silver production (ranking second only to Potosi in Bolivia) and so had an important impact on the economy and politics of East Asia. Portuguese, Dutch, English, Chinese, and other ships would moor at Yunotsu and several other ports along the coast waiting for their silver shipment. There are many interesting things to see at Iwami Ginzan so arrive early and plan to spend the day there.
Taisha is a small fishing port at the western end of the Shimane Peninsula. Moorage can be found in the small basin, usually on the eastern wall (red dot; 35°24'04.0"N 132°39'54.3"E; the grey “wall” in the chart shows the uncharted entrance). Although the chart shows a depth of less than two meters, I had ample depth when I moored there in my boat, which has a two-meter draught; deep-keel boats, though, should approach with caution, especially on a spring tide.
The reason to go to Taisha is to visit the nearby Izumo Taisha (Shrine), considered Japan’s second-most important and (arguably) oldest Shinto shrine. It is also considered one of the best examples of classic shrine architecture. The approach to Izumo Taisha is marked by four torii gates, and the shrine is perhaps best known for the mammoth (five ton) shimenawa sacred straw rope strung at the entrance to the main hall.