Tohoku Revisited: the Towns and the Villages that Live with the Sea


Travel through Kesennuma to Ofunato. After five years, I revisited Tohoku when spring was coming.

A town of fishing port at the northern end of Miyagi

“Live with the sea.”

These words were written on the wall of the city office.

This phrase expresses the emotions of Kesennuma’s people who are embraced by the sea and get daily food from there. It is also a strong declaration to the future.

It is three hours by bus from Sendai Station, the northeast hub of Japan. Kesennuma, located in the northern end of Miyagi Prefecture called Sanriku Coast, is a town that has a thriving fishing port.

Fishing Boat in KesennumaKesennuma City Fish Market

For those who came from inland region, the view of the cove is particularly impressive. Fishing boats are moored alongside the edge of the road. If you are a fisherman, you can just park your car and get on the boat in a few seconds.

On the other side of the inlet, there are the docks of shipyards. These things tell how close this land is to the sea.

Kesennuma Fish Market is a landmark of the town. Around 7 a.m., visitors can watch fishes are sold at auction from observation deck on the second floor.

It is unfortunate that I arrived there at noon, so nobody was working in the building.


Spring is coming to Kesennuma

Most parts of waterfront area, the innermost of the intricate bay, are under construction. Newly opened building “Mukaeru” has Kesennuma-born cafe “Anchor Coffee” and several restaurants.

Mukaeru in KesennumaKesennuma Oshima Ferry

In front of “Mukaeru”, a former ferry for Kesennuma-Oshima is moored. Kesennuma-Oshima is a little island in Kesennuma bay, which is known by Tatsumaizaki, a scenic spot.

On March 7, 2019, Oshima-ohasi Bridge was completed and made it possible to visit this island by road, so ferry line was discontinued.

I climbed up a small hill where Kesennuma Plaza Hotel stands to look down the panoramic view of the town. It was a sunny day of the middle April. I felt the steady approach of spring.

View of Kesennuma

Head for Ofunato across prefectural border by BRT

From Kesennuma Station, I got on BRT, bus rapid transit of JR Ofunato Line. Though BRT is almost the same as usual bus, it sometimes runs the lane used only by bus. Our bus turned many times through the winding road en route to Ofunato.

JR Ofunato Line

The geography of Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, is similar to Kesennuma that also faces a narrow bay. When I arrived at the Station, it had already grown dark.

In this darkness, a bright and cheerful corner caught my eyes. That was “Kyassen Ofunato” near the station. There are various restaurants that serve seafood of Sanriku Coast besides flower shop and bookstore.

Kakitoji-don at Wangan Shokudo

I ordered Kakitoji-don (rice bowl with fried oysters and simmered eggs) at “Wangan Shokudo” for my dinner. Fresh oyster was enough soft and juicy.

The building opposite to Kyassen is “Kamome Terrace”. This is a flagship store of Saito Seika, which is making ‘Kamome no Tamago’, a well-known local confection. Visitors can taste it in cafe as well as look at the making process.

Kamome Terrace in Ofunato

Ofunato full of morning light

I stayed in Ofunato that day. The next morning, I walked through the street to find the air was clean and the sky was crystal-clear.

In the south of Ofunato, there is the Goishi Kaigan Beach that is famous as a typical scene of Rias Coast. It is a part of geographical area from Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture to Hachinohe in Aomori Prefecture called Sanriku Geopark. A lot of rocks and cliffs created by nature exist in these places.

Suzaki River in Ofunato

I walked to Ofunato Station across a bridge over Suzaki River.

The water was flowing quietly. It will have gone down the river, and sooner or later, merge into the sea.