Daruma Sunset: The lucky sunset (Mirage of setting sun)
On the Pacific Ocean side of Kochi Prefecture there are many places to see the natural wonder known as a Daruma sunset. This lucky sunset can appear slightly different depending on the location you're watching from. Try visiting some lucky spots and doing a bit of shopping before ending your day looking out for a Daruma sunset!
What exactly is a Daruma sunset?
These peculiar sunsets are called "Daruma sunsets," because the silhouette of the sun as it melts into the horizon looks just like a Japanese talisman, called a *Daruma, floating on the ocean. This mirage apparently occurs when the sunlight is refracted by the warm air above the ocean surface interacting with the cold air in the sky. The likelihood of catching a glimpse of one of these spectacular sunsets in Kochi is relatively high thanks to the warm ocean currents that run along the Kochi coastline. Kochi also boasts a relatively high number of viewing spots to watch for Daruma Sunsets!
While Daruma sunsets are more likely to occur from late autumn to early spring, the season can be a little different depending on where you are, as well as a number of atmospheric conditions (cold air, clear skies, etc.) that need to occur at the same time for the mirage to appear. It's said to be lucky to see a Daruma sunset due to their rarity, however, in areas like Sukumo in Kochi, the phenomenon can appear up to 20 times within a 3.5 month period.
Daruma sunrises can also occur, and starting with Toyo Town, Kochi Prefecture is dotted with view points to try and catch a lucky glimpse of the morning version too!
*Daruma (Dharma) is an ornament that represents the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma in a seated position. While there are various interpretations, Daruma ornaments are generally red (a color said to act as a charm against evil forces).
Cape Muroto is dotted with viewing spots to look out for Daruma sunsets!
Cape Muroto juts out into the Pacific Ocean in the shape of a “V.” The cape is rare in that it offers both Daruma sunset views from its western side, and Daruma sunrises from its eastern coastline.
The main viewing platforms on the cape are: Cape Hane, Kiragawa-Nishinada Coast, Kiragawa-Hoji Fishing Port, Kiramesse Muroto, Murotsu Port and the Cape Muroto New Port (Muroto Misaki Shinko). The best viewing season differs slightly from place to place, but your best chances are between late September to mid-March.
You can see Daruma sunrises from all along the Cape Muroto coastline, including at: the Port of Sakihama, Kaoka-no-Meoto Iwa, around the Shiina, Mitsu and Takaoka Fishing Ports. Your best chance to see a Daruma sunrise is between mid-September and late March.
If you’re on the cape, you have two chances to see this mirage occur. If you don’t see a Daruma sunrise, travel around the cape and head to the western side for a chance to see a Daruma sunset.
Shirahama Beach is a famous place to watch for Daruma sunrises
Located on the most easterly point in Kochi Prefecture, the seaside at Toyo Town is known as being a great place to watch for Daruma sunrises. Your best chance to see a Daruma sunrise here is from January to February, occurring for only 3 minutes from the beginning of the sunrise on a clear day. It’s a popular place for photographers and camera enthusiasts to come and try to capture the perfect photo.
The recommended place to watch for a Daruma sunrise in Toyo Town is Shirahama Beach. Shaped like an archer’s bow, the shallow white sand beach stretches out into the ocean for 50m, making it one of the most prominent shallow beaches in Shikoku.
Looking out across the ocean you can see a small island, and if you’re lucky enough to see a Daruma sunrise here, the silhouette of this island against the sunrise adds another level to the view.
There are campgrounds, hotels, etc. in the area, so you can stay nearby to try and catch a view of this special sunrise.
Watch for a magical Daruma sunset at lucky spot Kanyo Island Park
This seaside park overlooking Sukumo Bay is one of the region’s Daruma sunset viewing spots. From here you can see the two uninhabited islands that make up Kanyo Island, about 300m off the coast. Between mid-November and late February, Daruma sunsets appear right in between the two islands.
Kanyo Island is also known as a place of luck or good fortune. During the low tides of both the full and new moon, a natural causeway appears connecting the mainland with the islands. Locally, this causeway is said to be “the Road to Good Fortune” and that it will “benefit you in finding the one.”
Head to this part of Sukumo for your chance to see both the lucky sunset and lucky road!
Michi-no-Eki Sukumo Sunny Side Park: shopping and sunsets all at the one spot!
This michi-no-eki (rest area) is a park located in the part of Sukumo Bay that resembles a peninsula. Watch for a Daruma sunset across Sukumo Bay from this coastline with a great panoramic view! The best time to see the mirage from this area is mid-November to late February, and visitors flock here during this time to try and capture the perfect picture of a Daruma sunset. The park has a grassy lawn area, walking paths, restaurants and souvenir stores.
The Sukumo area is also well-known for its coral reef, and you can find stores that sell beautiful pieces of coral here.
Admire a Daruma sunrise from a fishing town on the Furusato Coast
The Furusato Coast, located within the boundaries of the fishing town of Nakatosa, is a great place to try and catch a glimpse of a Daruma sunrise with the Futanajima Islands in the foreground. If you’re lucky enough to see a Daruma sunrise, make sure to get the silhouette of the Futanajima Islands and the lighthouse in the photo too!
If you want to see a magical scene with a more Japanese feel to it, head to the Kure Hachimangu Shrine. Look out towards the sea from inside the grounds of the shrine and you might be lucky enough to witness a Daruma sunrise through the torii gate that sits at the entrance of the shrine. The best time to come and see these views for yourself is between September and March.
Nearby, you can buy fresh fish and shellfish caught that morning at the Kure Taisho Town Market.