HAMADA, Shimane -- An unusual collection of geological rocks stretches out at the Iwami Tatamigaura shoreline here in western Japan, where visitors can walk on strata formed some 16 million years ago.
The about 4.9-hectare unique landform, designated as a national natural treasure in 1932, was created after waves eroded a layer of sandstone that had been the seabed about 16 million years ago and later appeared near the water's surface as the sea level changed over time. The site is often called "a thousand tatami mats" as straight cracks divide flat rocks into many rectangles.
Stool-shaped round rocks, about 30 to 40 centimeters high and around 50 centimeters in diameter, form 11 lines toward the sea, characterizing the sightseeing spot. A mound often called the "rear of a horse" shows accumulated strata of sand and rocks. There are also interesting rocks shaped like a mushroom and iguana.
Visitors can observe fossils including various shells and the bones of whales. It's said that visitors will have good fortune if they discover a "happy shell," which is a heart-shaped fossilized bivalve.
Moreover, an unusually shaped rock called "cat island" in the sea visible after venturing through a seaside cave is very impressive. Pools in the flat rocks beautifully reflect the evening sun.
Hiromi Ushio, 73, the leader of a volunteer group offering guides to visitors around sightseeing spots in Hamada, said, "I hope people will feel the layers of time dating back to 16 million years ago."
For inquiries, call the city's tourist association on 0855-24-1085 in Japanese.
(Japanese original by Yukihiro Takeuchi, Masuda Local Bureau)