We had a relative lie-in in our huge room in Kesennuma at Hotel Pearl City (huge for business hotel standards that is!). Before heading off up the coast we decided to take a stroll around the city, and see one of the local shrines, on our way to get supplies for the day. We walked over to Kitano Shrine which was safe from the ravages of the 2011 tsunami and earthquake. The shrine houses Inari, among other kami, and so has a number of torii gates and fox statues. It was deserted at 7am when we visited and so was very peaceful, offering views across Kesennuma city.
Before driving north up the Sanriku coastline we first drove south from Kesennuma to the small Sanriku Fuuko Natiaonal Park which is at the end of a jagged peninsula.It turned out to be a bit of an adventurous drive, the area immediately before the National Park was under construction. We had to drive on roads which were just sand and through roadworks and along construction sites. We suddenly popped out of the hectic area into a small green oasis by the sea.
There are several draws for this small park, one of the main ones being the “dragon pine”. As in Rikuzentakata the area was also covered in pine trees. One remains, and is said to now be in the shape of a dragon (you can decide for yourself). Staggeringly the tsunami was 17 meters tall at this point!
On the peninsular is also a statue of a famous sumo wrestler, a tiny light house, and a brand new visitor centre and toilets. The reason we visited this tiny peninsula is for the jagged rocks and a particular geological feature! Due to a strange rock formation when a wave comes it shoots several feet into the air.
As with almost all of the coastal areas we visited in Tohoku a brand new sea wall was being built to protect the town.
There was also a monument at the edge of the cliff to those who lost their lives. I have heard that a lot of the locals in Tohoku didn’t want the sea walls built, changing the view and their fishing livelihood. It can’t be said that the sea walls are beautiful, but after getting an idea of the devastation the last tsunami caused, and how prone the area is to damage, it does make sense. We left Miyagi prefecture and headed back north. We stopped off at Rikuzentakata to visit the miracle pine and michi no eki again. The tree looked stunning against the bright blue sky!
We were going to be driving 100 miles up the coast of Iwate on our 6th day, after revisiting Rikuzentakata our next stop was the Goishi Coast, a 6km stretch of rugged coastline. It was perfect weather for exploring the coastline, it was warm and bright, making the sea a stunning colour.
There are wonderful walking paths around the area around the Goishi Cape. There are some great observation decks which give allow different perspectives of the rugged cliffs and various rock formations. It doesn’t take long to explore the area but is really enjoyable skirting the cliffs under the trees. One of the highlights of the walk was getting to thunder rock. The sheer cliff in the sea has small caves in at the height of the tide, the water fills the cave and then is violently forced out by the trapped air, making quite a noise!
After our short walk through the woods we travelled further up the Goishi Coast to Anatsudori Iso, a triple arch rock in the bay outside Ofunato. It was another marvel of nature, now with a backdrop of yet another giant sea wall to protect Ofunato town. This was our last stop on our tour up the Sanriku and Goishi coastline. Stunningly beautiful and almost completely devoid or tourists!
We made our way to our hotel for the night in Miyako, Hotel Oomiya. This hotel is right on the coastline overlooking the ocean and was hit by the tsunami in 2011. The tsunami height here was relatively small and only hit the ground floor. From our window you can see the new sea wall and sea defences being constructed.
The part of Miyako we were staying in turned out to be a rather small and sleepy port town. We took a walk through the town to visit the local shops and grab some dinner. As with other areas on the coast there was little choice of hotels, and Hotel Oomiya was certainly on the fancy end of the scale! We had our supermarket dinner on our fancy table watching some great Japanese variety show TV!
We managed to drive a lot of Iwate’s coast, and again it was shocking to see the tsunami warning signs everywhere! It is hard to get away from the tragic history of the Tohoku coast, but the natural beauty of the shoreline can make you forget for a moment.