The Tojinbo Cliffs (東尋坊) are a series of cliffs in Sakai, Fukui that are about a kilometer long and about 25 meters high. The cliffs are made from columnar jointing of pyroxene andesite. (Pyroxene andesite is a type of rock, and a columnar joint is a column-shaped crack in stone.) The columnar joints in the Tojinbo Cliffs are among the largest in the world. The only places that have similarly large ones are Mount Kumgang in Korea and the western coast of Norway.
The Tojinbo Cliffs have been designated as a national natural treasure and a scenic beauty spot. In 2019 about 1.40 million people went to see them. They’re one of the premier tourist spots in Fukui.
How were the Tojinbo Cliffs created?
About 13 million years ago magma that was deep underground rose near the surface of the earth, where it cooled and hardened. When this happened it shrank slightly in volume, causing pentagonal and hexagonal columnar fractures to form. These are called columnar joints. The cooled magma with its columnar joints then rose to the surface due to crustal movement. Over the years, waves and winds have scraped and eroded the columnar joints into their present form.
In other words, the Tojinbo Cliffs are an artwork that nature has been making for 13 million years.
There are some features of the Tojinbo Cliffs that are great for sightseers:
- You can experience them for free.
- There are no safety fences.
- There’s a tall tower near the cliffs, and sightseeing boats regularly run by them.
- The cliffs are considered a “holy place” for fans of a particular suspense TV series that was partially filmed there.
- There’s a sad legend about the cliffs.
The Tojinbo Cliffs are free of charge, and you can touch the stones and walk along the cliff edge. There are stairs, so you can go down to the bottom and see the cliffs from below. The cliffs are a kilometer in breadth, so it’s best to look at them from a lot of different angles.
There are no safety fences on the cliffs, so it’s dangerous to walk along their edge. However, this lets you experience them in their natural state. I went there once, and while I was walking along the edge I was really scared, but I had a great time.
There’s a tall tower nearby called Tojinbo Tower (東尋坊タワー), and sightseeing boats regularly go near the cliffs. Neither is free. The tower is 55 meters high, and from it you have a great view of the Sea of Japan but not of the cliffs. There’s a restroom on the first floor of the tower.
There are sightseeing boats that offer an excellent view of the Tojinbo Cliffs. I rode one and found that the cliffs looked bigger and even more wonderful when seen from the boat. This is a good way to have a more striking experience of the place. There’s an English website for the sightseeing boats. When the weather or the state of the sea is bad, the boats don’t run.
The cliffs are the location for part of a well-known Japanese suspense TV series. On the show a criminal is tracked down to a location with no outlet, the Tojinbo Cliffs. He can’t flee any farther, and he begins to confess to his crime while standing on the cliffs. The cliffs are considered a “holy place” for fans of that series.
There’s a legend about the Tojinbo Cliffs.
More than 800 years ago there was a violent and rough monk named Tojinbo at Heisenji Temple, which is in Katsuyama, Fukui. The other monks at the temple were annoyed with him, and on April 5th,1182, they arranged a party and got the violent monk drunk, then killed him by pushing him over a cliff. Tojinbo became a ghost, and he killed a lot of people with powerful wind, rain, and thunder. Every April 5th (the monk’s death anniversary) the weather around the cliffs becomes stormy, and the cliffs were named Tojinbo after the monk.
When you go to the cliffs you should wear comfortable shoes such as sneakers, not heels or sandals. At the nearby bus stop there are a baggage locker and a luggage-storage space. It’s good to leave your bags there before going to the cliffs.
Awara Onsen (Awara Hot Spring, あわら温泉, 芦原温泉) is near the Tojinbo Cliffs, and it’s worth going to both places. There are 74 hot springs and about 30 hotels around the onsen, which is a well-known sightseeing spot in Fukui.
The Tojinbo Cliffs are one of the best-known sightseeing spots in Fukui. They’re a very rare geological phenomenon that nature has been making for the last 13 million years. If you come to Fukui, check this place out.
——The Tojinbo Cliffs Information——–
Open: 24 hours, 365 days
Access: It takes about 50 minutes by train to get from Echizen Railway Fukui Station (福井駅) to Echizen Railway Mikuniminato Station (三国港駅). (Echizen Railway Fukui Station is near JR Fukui Station.)
It takes about five minutes by bus to get from Mikuniminato Bus Station to Tojinbo Bus Station.
(Mikuniminato Bus Station is a one-minute walk from Echizen Railway Mikuniminato Station.)