Unosu Dangai Tunnels

A short cut on the rugged coast of Sanriku

By Malcome Larcens    - 3 min read

The Sanriku Coast is one of the most beautiful parts of Tohoku. The jagged edge gives it many beautiful and amazing features. At the same time, it makes it more difficult to travel and more dangerous in times of tsunami. Some people, painstakingly, tried to make the section more passable. These are the Unosu Dangai Tunnels.

I had traveled several times to Tanohata to visit Kitamiyazaki and Unosu Dangai, little did I know that just five hundred meters away, lay one of the most impressive series of hand made tunnels in Japan. I can't find much information on the history. All I can see is that some of these tunnels have small stalactites of a few centimeters forming. I assume they take decades to form.

There are five tunnels in all, varying in lengths from five meters to about thirty meters. The longer ones are very dark, you will need a flashlight to see where you are going. Also, consider that the floors are full of debris making it hard to walk and easy to trip. The total distance from start to finish is just 1.7 kilometer but don't be fooled by it. Walking through it is like an obstacle course, you will walk through steep cliffs, sandy and slippery beaches, slimy rocks and have to jump over a few one-meter drops. Most of the way is quite hard to walk. So bring good hiking shoes.

A very important point to consider is the tide. This walk should only be attempted at low tide. At high tide, the area is impassable, you could easily be trapped between the sea and a 200-meter high rock cliff. On my first attempt in January this year, even at low tide, the water wasn't low enough to reach the second tunnel. You can easily look up the tides tables for the area to choose the right time to go. It's best to start about 30-45 minutes before low tide to have as much time as possible to come back. If by accident you can't make it back before the tide is too high, there is a road at the end that will take you back. It would be much longer but a safe way to get back to your car. There is also very little traffic on that road.

After the Great East Japan Earthquake, the Sanriku Coast (Aomori, Iwate, and Miyagi) was designated as the Sanriku Fukko National Park. The government wants people to discover this great part of the country. Also a couple of years ago, they built the Michinoku Trail. It starts in Soma, Fukushima in the south and ends in Hachinohe, Aomori in the north. It connects 4 prefectures, Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate, and Aomori. Here is a link with videos; https://www.michinokutrail.com/

Getting there

Getting there is probably best by car. There is a train but no station nearby and very few trains each day. Take the Tohoku Expressway, get off at Morioka South, Look for the sign Miyako via route 106, about 1 hour from the highway. Once in Miyako, take Route 45 north to Tanahata, look for the sign Unosu Dangai. It's just a few kilometers from Route 45. The trail head is left of the restroom.

You could also take the Kamaishi turn off in Hanamaki. The highway was completed last year. There is also a coastal highway from Kamaishi to Miyako, that way is more scenic and cheaper.

Bring good hiking shoes!

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Malcome Larcens

Malcome Larcens @malcome.larcens

I grew up in Quebec, Canada and studied electronics in college, never worked in that field. Moved to Vancouver in the early 80's where I found my real passion, cooking. I ran my own restaurant for 14 years after that worked as a financial advisor for 4 years, I really enjoyed that too but we had to move to Japan for family reasons. After moving to Japan I started teaching English and French. I enjoy teaching too but most of all I enjoy challenges, moving here was challenging but really interesting. Another challenge that I had been thinking about for about 20 years was renovating a house, so for the last 2 years that is what I have been doing. I bought a 25 year old house and am bringing it to modern standards in terms of comfort and earthquake strength. In my time off I like cycling, hiking and snowboarding in winter. Of course I still enjoy cooking. Hope you like my articles.

Join the discussion

Sherilyn Siy 6 months ago
Your photo Unosu Dangai at Sunrise looks like something I'd expect in Australia. Beautiful.
Bonson Lam 6 months ago
This is amazing and other worldly. It is almost like the ghosts of the past are talking to you.
Elena Lisina 6 months ago
Interesting place and shots!
Kim B 6 months ago
Hand made, wow! Very impressive indeed.
Elizabeth S 6 months ago
The tunnels look spooky, and the shore line is spectacular.