Nomozaki – Kyushu, Japan
Nomozaki, 25km south of Nagasaki, may not be on most visitors’ itineraries when coming to Japan but, with warm sunny weather from March to November, two beaches, plenty of shrines, an onsen with a sea view, a karoke box, family-run restaurants as well as year-round traditional festivals, the four machi, or villages, that make up Nomozaki town have a lot to offer the more adventurous traveller wishing to get off the beaten track and see something of the ‘everyday’ Japan.
Positioned between the sea and a natural harbour, Nomo-machi is the principle village of the four. This is where most of the fish caught and seaweed collected in the area is dried and processed – and some days it really smells like it! But don’t let that put you off; with a post office, bank, mini-mart, off-licence, a hospital and pharmacy, hardware store, two flower shops and the ubiquitous Family Mart, amongst other amenities, it makes a great starting point for exploring the area.
To the north of Nomo village and looking out over the China Sea is the newly built onsen baths in the Nomozaki Ocean Health Village. This is a great place to unwind with a full scrub and soak in the rejuvenating waters (for onsen etiquette see the section in Basics). Women and men bathe in separate areas but children under five and go with either. There is also a restaurant on site serving seafood, ramen and udon dishes, tea and refreshments with floor to ceiling glass windows so you can watch the glowing red sun sets out over the sea. Open everyday 10am to 9pm. Adults ¥400, children ¥200.
Just next to the onsen is the karaoke box. It may look like five static caravans abandoned in a disused car park but this is just the ticket for a fun night out in Nomozaki. All of the ‘boxes’ come fully equipped with surround-sound karaoke machines, a directory of Japanese and international songs, comfy sofas and a phone to ring through your drinks and snacks orders. Just ask at the small hut which serves as the booking office.
The main attraction of this small village is the palm lined beautiful arc of golden beach and shallow blue sea, perfect for a lazy day reading a book and the occasional dip to cool off. This beach only fills up with locals from the surrounding area and Nagasaki during July and August, when the beach is officially ‘open’! The rest of the time you’ll have the beach more or less to yourself, unless the kids from the local school are out cleaning up the beach and picking up cigarette butts (help them out and take yours home).
Temples and Shrines
There are a number of temples in Nomozaki but the best is hidden up a track that runs along side and behind the Wakimisaki-machi elementary school. It is an old Shinto temple usually open for you to wander in. Just outside see the offering on display, with anything from fresh food, cans of coke, Hello Kitty dolls and plastic flowers! There are also a number of small shrines dotted around that you will discover as you walk about. Follow the smell of incense!
Connected by a big red bridge to the mainland, this sleepy island is home to a small fishing community, an even smaller elementary school and paradoxically, the infamous ‘Giant Eels’! You can witness these large and scary creatures through a glass viewing panel placed in the ground where they reside and also a tunnel conveniently fitted with a mirror so you can see them thrashing around at the bottom.
There is also a superb look out point and park high on the hill above Kabashima-machi, with views across the sea to Shimabara-hanto.
As you first enter the town of Nomozaki, on the main road you pass a gas station on the left and then descend the hill into Takahama-machi. It’s quite easy to miss this village and just drive through en route to Nomo. While there is not as much to do as in the main village, there is a beach attracting children, with its great rock pools and surfers, with its ride-able waves.
As well as the traditional Japanese festivals there are a number of Nomozaki and Nagasaki specific festivals to look out for.
Narcissus Festival in March celebrates the beginning of spring, as daffodils bloom on the hills of Nomozaki.
Annual Town Sports Day takes place as a contest between the villages, with teams made up of locals, the schools’ teachers and even the town’s dignitaries. Normally held in June.
Peiron Dragon Boat Racing takes place in Nagasaki and Nomozaki harbours at the end of July.
Okunchi Matsuri features dancing dragons in the shrines and temples around Nagasaki the first week of October.
There are a few options for food, with the most found in Wakimisaki.
Sushi (a): try the cosy and aptly named ‘Sushi’ run by the same family for generations. With wood block prints on the walls, tatami mats and low tables its typically Japanese and often quiet mid-week when the owner is more than happy to try out the little English he knows to guide you through the various types of sushi and sashimi.
Tempura (b): Classy and appropriately more expensive, this place caters for those seeking a treat. The tempura is beautifully presented and delicious. Other specialities include unagi teishoku, the eel set meal and whole snow crab from Hokkaido. International wines as well as local drinks available.
Modern Japanese/International (c): Zazabi, an informal cafÃ©-style restaurant overlooking Wakimisaki beach, is a great place to relax with an Asahi and either a modern Japanese dish, such as om-rice, or champon, the Nagasaki speciality. Pizza and fries also availabe. A cheaper option than the others.
From Nagasaki, take the bus from outside the south terminal (near the Deiai store). The numbers on the buses do not indicate the route number so either learn the kanji for Nomozaki or just ask anyone nearby for Nomozaki. It costs around ¥200 and takes about an hour. Buses run every 30 minutes there and back. Last bus back to Nagaskai leaves Nomo at 10pm.
Route 499 south from Nagasaki will take you all the way to Nomozaki, past other villages and along the coast, making for a nice and pretty stress-free drive. There are gas stations in Takahama and Wakimisaki. Route 34 is an alternative road back to Nagasaki which will take you on beautifully scenic cliff road high over the expansive sea looking towards the Shimabara Peninsular and Amakusa Island.
The only hotel in Nomozaki is found at the Nomozaki Ocean Health Village. All rooms have a sea view. Rates are ¥5520 for adults, children 4-11 ¥4200, infants free.
You are also allowed to camp on the beaches and if you get talking to residents in the local bars and restaurants more often than not they will offer you a futon mat on their floor, so happy are they to welcome foreign visitors to their town.
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