Imagine a road that disappears twice a day, swallowed by the ocean and then reborn as the tide recedes. This isn't some fantasy novel; it's the reality of the Nagabeta Seabed Road in Uto City, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan. This 1.5-kilometer stretch of asphalt is more than just a transportation route; it's a mesmerizing dance between land and sea, a testament to human ingenuity, and a window into a unique coastal ecosystem.
The Nagabeta Seabed Road wasn't built for tourists or thrill-seekers. Its origins lie in the practical needs of the local seaweed farmers. In 1934, this community needed a way to access their nets during low tide, when the Ariake Sea reveals its rich bounty of seaweed. The road, with its clever design and careful timing, became their answer.
Credits to Kumamoto guide
Twice a day, the tide transforms the landscape. When the water rises, the road disappears beneath the waves, becoming part of the seabed. But as the tide ebbs, the asphalt resurfaces, revealing a scene straight out of a Miyazaki film. Seaweed farms stretch towards the horizon, dotted with bobbing boats and the occasional truck parked on the "shore."
As you walk or drive along the exposed road, you might spot crabs scuttling across the mudflats, birds gliding overhead, and fish dancing in the shallows.
There are several works that have been inspired by the Nagabeta seabed. Here are a few notable examples:
Ponyo (2009) by Hayao Miyazaki: This whimsical animated film features a flooded coastal town with a road strikingly similar to the Nagabeta Seabed Road. The film's themes of nature, transformation, and the relationship between humans and the sea resonate with the essence of the real-life location.
Spirited Away (2002) by Hayao Miyazaki: Both the movie's spirit world and the Nagabeta Seabed Road undergo dramatic transformations. In "Spirited Away," bathhouse structures appear and disappear with the rising and falling sun, similar to how the road vanishes beneath the tide. The iconic scene in "Spirited Away" where Chihiro and No-Face board a train running on the water's surface bears a stark resemblance to the image of cars and trucks parked on the exposed Nagabeta Seabed Road. Both locations possess a surreal beauty. The Ariake Sea's vastness with the exposed road cutting through it mirrors the otherworldly landscapes of "Spirited Away."
The road's unique character and blend of practicality and natural wonder continue to spark creativity and imagination, making it a true muse for artists and storytellers.
Sumiyoshi Kaihin Park, Nagabeta, Sumiyoshi-machi, Uto-shi, Kumamoto
The best time to see is 2 hours before and after of the lowest tide.