LET’S VISIT THE SANRIKU COAST!
The Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, which occurred on March 11, 2011, hit the Sanriku Coast causing enormous damage to the area. Five years later, the area has been slowly but steadily recovering. Although the Sanriku Coast is widely known as the badly-affected area by the disaster, the area has stunning landscapes and lots of delicious gourmet food. Let’s visit the Sanriku Coast to enjoy its specialties!
Where is the Sanriku Coast?
The Sanriku Coast generally includes the coastal region on the Pacific Ocean, from the Hachinohe area in southern Aomori Prefecture to the Ojika Peninsula in Miyagi Prefecture, with a total length of about 600 km. Deeply indented coastlines, called ria coasts, extend through the area, making it a perfect fishing area.
Kesennuma is one of the biggest port towns in Japan, where various kinds of fish, including bonito, saury, tuna, and swordfish, are brought back from the surrounding sea. Among all, the volume of fresh bonito in Kesennuma has been largest in Japan, in terms of both volume and price, for 20 consecutive years, even including the year of the disaster. Swordfish, mekajiki in Japanese, is one of the most beloved kinds of fish among Kesennuma locals. During its season from October to January, people enjoy swordfish as sashimi and shabu-shabu. Sukiyaki with swordfish is available throughout year.
At the tip of the Iwaisaki Cape, there are rocks called Shiofukiiwa (water splashing rock), against which the waves hit as they rush in and the water splashes high into the air, creating the dynamic scenery of the nature.
Along the rough coastline in Ofunato, the Goishi Coast is one of the most beautiful landscapes in the Sanriku Region, from which you can see anatoshi-iso, a peculiar rock with 3 holes created by wave erosion. To fully enjoy the sea in this area, take “Goishi Coast anatoshi-sen,” a guided boat tour, where a local fisherman takes you around in a small boat. You are guaranteed to have a very exciting and thrilling time!
The Ofunato Bay is arch-shaped, and the surrounding coast is a typical ria coast with beautiful landscapes. Another popular Ofunato tour is yakatabune “shiosai,” in which the Japanese-style houseboat, yakatabune, goes around the bay and seasonal local dishes (mainly with fish and seafood from the Ofunato Port) are served to the passengers. On the tour, you can enjoy the specialty of the yakatabune, steamed oysters.
As the birthplace of Japan’s modern ironmaking, Kamaishi has the Hashino Iron Mining and Smelting Site with Japan’s oldest surviving remains of Western-style blast furnaces, which is registered on the World Heritage List. Kamaishi is also known as a town of rugby and will host games during the Rugby World Cup 2019. At games with the local club “Kamaishi Seawaves,” people cheer the players with huge flags called “furaiki (tairyo-bata),” traditional Japanese fisherman’s flags that show a large catch of fish when it is flown by a boat.
Kamaishi ramen is characterized by very thin curly noodles. It is said that such noodles were chosen because they are cooked quickly and can be served without keeping customers waiting. Kamaishi has a local performing art called toramai (tiger dance). About 15 dancers in tiger costumes dance traditional toramai at Kamaishi Festivals and National Toramai Festival.
Jodogahama Beach is one of the most beautiful landscapes in the Miyako Area. The sharp white rock, deep-blue ocean, and green leaves of Japanese red pine together create a breathtaking view. On a sightseeing boat, you can go around and see Rosoku-iwa (candle rock), Shiofuki-ana (blowholes), and Hideshima Island, which are all designated as national monuments. If you are interested in visiting the unreal blue grotto at the entrance of Hachinohe-ana, where people can go only on a clear, calm day, there is a guided sappa-boat tour. A sappa boat is a small fishing boat used for gillnetting of sea urchins and abalones.
Major seafood caught in the Sanriku Region include horsehair crab from winter to spring, hamami-kaki oyster in spring, saury, salmon, and salmon roe in summer, and abalone in winter. Miyako-City Gyosai Market is the kitchen of Miyako, offering fresh fish and seafood and local vegetables.
Kitayamazaki is a natural landscape with a large cliff of about 200 meters stretching as far as 8 kilometers along the coastline. It is one of the most dynamic landscapes in Japan. Take the 736 stairs leading from the observatory to the base of the cliff, and you can enjoy the magnificent landscape from a different angle.
Amber in Kuji is about 85 million years old, making it the world’s oldest amber used for jewelry. Kuji has Japan’s only amber museum, where you can learn about amber. The traditional food in Kuji, mamebu-jiru, is a soy-sauce-based soup with vegetables and mamebu dumplings, wheat flour dough wrapping walnut and black sugar. This dish is made in hope of people’s health and safe living.
Located at the north end of the Sanriku Coast, the Tanesashi Coast has an area with a natural lawn up to the edge of the water, offering visitors a comfortable space for relaxing and playing. Take a walk on the walking path stretching about 5.2 km from the north of the natural lawn area, and you can see the great view of peculiar rocks.
One of the local dishes, Sembei-jiru, is a soy sauce-based soup with chicken, fish, and local vegetables, along with special sembei (wheat crackers). The sticky texture of soggy sembei is the appeal of this dish. Hasshoku Center sells fresh fish and seafood and offers a unique service, which is very popular among visitors, where people can enjoy charcoal-cooked fish and seafood they just bought at the shops. Hachinohe’s brand mackerel, Hachinohe Maeoki Saba, which is said to be the fattiest and most delicious mackerel in Japan, is another food to try when you are in the area.
Sendai is the largest city in the Tohoku Region and the recommended starting point for a trip to the Sanriku Coast. An example of a way to have fun in Sendai is that you can enjoy shopping at the famous arcaded street, department stores, and outlet mall during daytime, and enjoy eating and drinking at Kokubun-cho, the biggest restaurant district in the Tohoku Region at nighttime. Jozenji-dori Street and Aoba-dori Street with beautiful zelkova trees host an annual event called Sendai Pageant of Starlight for a month in December, decorating the city gorgeously with hundreds of thousands of lights.
Sendai’s specialty, gyutan teishoku set, includes grilled beef tongue, tail soup, and rice cooked with barley. It is said that there are more than 100 gyutan teishoku specialized restaurants in Sendai. Another famous specialty in Sendai is sasakamaboko, white fish surimi shaped into a bamboo leaf. You can eat it as it is or briefly grill it in a frying pan.
*The information herein is as of February 2018.