Tara, in Saga Prefecture, is known for its floating torii gates and delicious local crab, but it also has a third, rather unique claim to fame: It has the largest tidal range in Japan, meaning that visitors can become intimately familiar with the ebb and flow of the ocean over the course of the day. This ever-changing seascape is something locals take great pride in. On top of this, Tara boasts mountains and healing hot springs, which complement its seaside location; you can have a soak or a climb while gazing out at the impressive Ariake Sea view.

Lunar Power and Giant Fish

The floating torii gates of Ouo Shrine are the stuff of legend. It is said that 300 years ago, the local people grew annoyed at their lazy governor and hatched a plan to teach him a lesson. They invited him over to the nearby island of Okunoshima, got him drunk and left him there alone. He was saved by a giant fish, who offered him a ride back to the land. So touched was the governor that he built a shrine and three large torii gates in the sea in honor of his aquatic rescuer. (“Ouo” literally means “large fish.”)  

The torii gates also reveal the dramatic vicissitudes of the tides in Tara: At high tide, they appear to be floating on the ocean’s surface, and at low tide they’re reachable on foot, making the area a popular sightseeing and photo spot. Given Tara’s informal status as “the city of moon power,” it’s quite fitting that its most iconic landmark pays homage to its exceptionally strong tidal power. 

Springs, Sauna and Stargazing

Tara is not only famed for its moon and torii gates. It’s also a hot springs town, with waters that are rich in natural gasses and cherished for positive properties such as healing shoulder pain and fatigue. There are currently nine Japanese inns in the area, many with sea views, and some of these — including Kani Goten, Yatomiso and Tsurusou — provide hot spring baths. 

Kani Goten is particularly noteworthy. It’s a recently renovated inn overlooking the Airake Sea, and the majority of its rooms come with a 100% natural onsen bath with views of the ocean and Mount Unzen. Guests can experience the lunar pull at all times of the day, marveling at the incredible variation that comes with the ebb and flow of the tide. Come nightfall, stargazing in the bath is a must. 

Bathing is not the only form of relaxation available at Kani Goten. The hotel also includes two saunas, one of which uses a special Aino heater, the first of its kind in Japan. Both saunas offer spectacular views, and both are decked out in fragrant hinoki (Japanese cypress).

Delectable Local Foods

In between sauna-ing and soaking, guests can savor the ocean’s bounty with Tara’s local specialty: Takezaki crab. Raised in the mineral-rich Ariake Sea, Takezaki crabs are known for their deliciously rich meat and exquisite sweetness. The blue crabs are served boiled (the local way), and hotel guests are also treated to other local oceanic delicacies, which vary depending on the season — winter welcomes plump oysters, and spring is the time for red sea bream. These aren’t the only seasonal flavors the town prides itself on; juicy mikan and wasabi are both abundant during the spring. 

A visit to Tara is a nourishing experience for the senses. Soak in the gentle waters of the region’s hot springs before heading off to the seafront to admire the torii gates and accompanying shrine. Take some pictures, have a whiff of the sea air then wander back in time for dinner, making the most of the Takezaki crab, followed by a drink in the hotel bar overlooking the moonlight ocean waters, then off to bed, belly and heart full. 

For more information on the delights of Tara, visit the Tara  tourism site

To discover more about Kani Goten, check it out here.