A large kimono stand
Trinkets for sale
Locks at the Lover's Sanctuary
The bell for couples to ring at Lover's Sanctuary
Melons ripe for picking
You can take your melon away in a box, or eat inside the restaurant
A large kimono stand
Whilst Irago feels remote, there are many sights to visit in the surrounding area at the tip of the Atsumi peninsula, in Aichi prefecture. Closest to the Sea Park is Irago Beach. Whilst lounging on the golden sands is an option, the area is also steeped in idyllic landscapes and views.
At the forefront of the beach is Lover's Sanctuary. Here a plaque offers blessings to visitors for their future. A bell hangs for couples to ring together and a small gated section allows couples to hang a symbolic padlock, much like on certain bridges in central Europe. If visiting the area as a couple, then the monument is a perfect place to come together and witness the sea front underneath the bell. The adjacent beach, Kojigahama, is also known as the beach of romance, made famous by a poem by Toson Shimazaki. A perfect place for you both to take in the surroundings.
Once finished at Lover's Sanctuary, you can enjoy fresh seafood from restaurants lining the sea front. Fish is bought daily from the nearby fish market, which you can also visit. Whilst not a stereotypical tourist destination, the fish market offers an intriguing look at the local sea life. Here, staff from restaurants in the surrounding area come and bid on an array of trays of fresh, live fish for preparation later the same day. It is very high octane and fast paced – with the auctioneer delivering an extremely excitable performance. It is very wet and you'll certainly smell like fish after visiting, but it may be something you'll only get to experience the once.
Irago is linked by ferry to destinations such as Toba, Morozaki and Kowa, all leaving from Irago Port. However, the port itself has things to see. Inside the building is the Irago Natural History Museum. It showcases both the fruit and animals found in the local area. Irago – and the wider Tahara area – is known for melons stemming from Okinawa. The museum describes how the melons were originally washed upon the shores of the beach and how the two areas are now intertwined. The rest of the museum has miniature models of ships and stuffed statues of various animals, letting you get up close to species that may be uncommon in your country. The port also has large stalls to fill up with food and snacks before your ferry. One of the stalls is dedicated to products from Okinawa.
Moving further away from the port, you can reach some of what Tahara is famous for: fruit farming. You're able to visit a fruit market which, in contrast to the fish market, is a much calmer watch. You're also able to get a taste of the melons in the summer at one of the Melon Gari places. Here you can buy pre-picked melons or pick your own from one of the greenhouses. You can take the melons back with you or have them prepared to eat inside the restaurant. The melon itself has a gorgeous sweet taste and it's easy to see why it's one of the specialties in the area. It's definitely something you must try whilst there.
A short drive from the Irago Sea Park is the local town. Here you're able to find local establishments for both shopping and entertainment. The local shopping centre in the middle of town contains a traditional kimono shop, where you can purchase or possibly even just try on the traditional wares. With friendly staff and enticing prices, it's a place where you can enjoy Japanese traditions for lower than you imagined. At night there is a choice of both traditional Japanese restaurants and a Karaoke Snack bar, leaving you with a perfect night out. To top off the evening, the area is home to fireflies at night. So if you stop in one of the remote areas near the Atsumi History Maseum, then you should get lucky and spot them.
Life in the Irago area is a much different pace to that of a big city, which means there are more unique aspects to discover as your visit continues.