Kanagawa: Town hopes to put its historical beach on map

The Yomiuri Shimbun
An aerial view of Iwa Ohashi bridge and Iwa beach, Manazuru Peninsula’s only sandy beach, in Manazuru, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Oct. 30

MANAZURU, Kanagawa — Driving out of a tunnel near a toll gate for the Manazuru Blue Line, the 595-meter-long Iwa Ohashi bridge comes into view.

With Sagami Bay on the left and Iwa beach on the right, Tokyo’s Izu Oshima island and Chiba Prefecture’s Boso Peninsula were visible in the distance.

The bridge — which stands 29 meters above sea level at its highest point — juts out of rocky cliffs and extends over the water, resembling Kyoto Prefecture’s Amanohashidate area, which is listed as one of the three most scenic spots in Japan.

“The bridge is sometimes featured on fishing and detective shows, but the area is actually the location of a historical escape,” said a Manazuru town official in charge of commissioning films.

According to Toshikatsu Arisawa, 71, managing director of the town’s tourism association, locals call Iwa beach, “the beach where Minamoto no Yoritomo sailed from” or “celebratory beach,” and consider it a place of good luck.

In 1180, the warlord Minamoto no Yoritomo of the Genji clan, who had raised an army in Izu, now Shizuoka Prefecture, was defeated by the Heike clan in the battle of Ishibashiyama in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture. Yoritomo fled into the mountains and hid in the Shitodo Cave in Manazuru.

With only a few warriors, Yoritomo set sail from Iwa beach and escaped to the Boso Peninsula. He eventually defeated the Heike clan.

In an effort to attract tourists using the history of Yoritomo and the beach, the Manazuru tourist association, along with others, re-created the historical escape, and also organized various events and walking tours.

“Although many people don’t stop in Manazuru these days when they travel between Hakone and Atami [hot springs resort], one day, I want to make the entire town a celebratory beach [town],” Arisawa said.