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Edited by: Declan Murphy
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Ago Bay

Ago Bay is a large bay located in the southeastern part of Mie prefecture, surrounded by the towns of Ago, Shima, Daiou, and Hamajima. It is the largest bay on the Shima Peninsula, which stretches across southeastern Mie. Ago Bay is one of the more scenic areas of Mie. Bordered by land in the north, east and south, it joins with the ocean in the west and the sunset over the water is one of the many beautiful sites that Ago Bay has to offer. It is also used to culture pearls - this is the area where Kokichi Mikimoto succeeded in creating the world's first cultured pearl in 1905.

The Pearl Industry of Ago Bay

The waters of Ago Bay are perfect for culturing pearls, as the rugged coastline (known as a Rias coast) protects the waters of the bay from the waves of the ocean. The pearls produced here are called Akoya pearls as they are cultivated from akoya oysters. Mie prefecture was formerly the biggest producer of pearls in Japan, but has recently moved down to third biggest as production in Ehime Prefecture, who also has ideal waters for the cultivation of pearls, grows stronger. The main areas of pearl production in Japan are Mie, Ehime, Kumamoto, Oita and Nagasaki prefectures.

The number of pearls produced in Ago Bay, and other areas of Japan, has declined significantly in the last several years due to an unknown disease which is killing the akoya oysters. Environmentalists say that it could simply be due to pollution in Ago Bay, but so far at least marine scientists have been unable to find a specific cause. This isn't the first time that Japanese pearl production has been devastated by a natural occurance - the pearl industry in Japan has been plagued in the past by "red tide", a natural phenomenon where algae 'bloom', or in other words multiply, too quicky. Algae produce a toxic substance (which is often red - hence the name 'red tide'), and high numbers of algae concentrate the toxin which paralyzes the oysters and kills them.

Pearls are produced by inserting a nucleus for the pearl, usually a shell bead, inside the oyster. The oyster automatically reacts to protect itself by covering the intruding object with layer after layer of nacre. The nacre eventually develops into the shining texture of a pearl. In the case of Akoya pearls, this process takes between 3 to 4 years.

The Sites of Ago Bay

There are small islands and inlets scattered throughout the bay, and oyster rafts can be seen floating in the water. Sightseeing cruises are the best way to explore the bay, and the best place to catch one is from Kashikojima. There is a cruise available from Kashikojima to Goza, a small fishing community in the town of Shima with a beautiful white beach.

To see the bay from the water, the ferry to Goza from Kashikojima is very scenic and takes you around the most beautiful parts of Ise-Shima Natural Park. Other cruises are also available, such as tour cruises which start and end in Kashikojima (the Kashikojima Espana Cruise), as well as cruises that start and end in Toba, picking up passengers in Kashikojima. Kashikojima Pier is about a 3-5 minute walk from Kashikojima Station (the last stop on the Kintetsu line). Lunch and barbeque cruises are also available.

If you'd prefer not to leave the main land, you can get a great view of Ago Bay from Ago Town. Yokoyama Lookout and Nomoyama Park both offer excellent views of the surrounding area. Or, if you're in Daio Town, you can see the bay from Daiozaki lighthouse.

How to get there:

From Okazaki: Take a train on the JR line to Nagoya (600 yen, about half an hour). Change to the Kintetsu line and catch a train to Kashikojima (1920 yen, about 2 hours).

Tours - Japan Discovery visits Ago Bay.
Click here for more information regarding when Discovery visits this destination.

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Opening hours, prices, booking procedures, schedules etc are subject to changes beyond our control. This site is just a guide, and we advise that you always check and confirm in advance. Suggestions, additions and correction of errors are always welcome. Please contact us.

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