I recently took a pleasant trip to Minamisanriku in the northern part of Miyagi Prefecture. It is a sprawling town with farms, mountains, forests and a dramatic coastline. While it lost entire neighborhoods in the 2011 tsunami and much is under construction, there is still much to see, and just visiting there is a great way to support their recovery.
My first stop was to Kamiwarizaki (神割崎). Legend has it that a whale once washed ashore here and residents of Minamisanriku and neighboring Ishinomaki feuded over its meat and oil. A god got fed up with their quarreling and cleaved both the whale and the rocky coast between the towns in two. I found the view of the waves entering between the rocks and crashing before you mesmerizing. I learned that in February and October the sun rises perfectly between the rocks.
Afterwards I headed away from the coast to the Sansankan lodge. The building is a former wooden schoolhouse, which preserves the authentic and rustic town feeling which flawlessly blends into the surrounding forests. Chef Aiko Abe is a wizard in the kitchen and prepared a lovely vegetarian lunch using local ingredients. She is able to cater to any diet and loves to experiment with seasonal ingredients, so the menu is ever-changing. It’s cash-only and be sure to make a reservation in advance (0226-46-5633). The lodge itself seems like a nice option for a stay with outdoor pizza ovens and I am told clear views of the stars. No wonder it is the birthplace of Earth Camp.
Before going back I had to pay a visit to YES Factory (YES工房). This innovative woodworking shop specializes in Octopus-kun goods. He is the mascot of the town, and a good luck charm due to Japan’s love of puns. “Octo-pus” sounds like “Oku-PASS.” Put (“OKU”) this paperweight on your study desk and you will “PASS” your test! As we are near exam season the shop was busy with students. The neighboring Hachimangu shrine has a large Octopus-kun statue outside for those who are serious about praying for success! If you don’t have a car, there is train and BRT (bus) service to Minamisanriku, though times are fairly infrequent. The key stop is the Minamisanriku Portal Center from which you can rent electric bicycles or call a taxi. The center itself has tourist information, local handicrafts and great exhibits about the disasters of 3.11 and the recovery.
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Roger was inspired to move to Tohoku following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami to help support the recovery. He currently works with the Town of Matsushima to make it easier for foreign travelers to visit. You might just find him catching the sunset from Fukuurabashi Bridge or relaxing in the gardens of Entsuin Temple, two of his favorite Matsushima spots.