Visiting Minamisanriku is such a wonderful experience that will never fade from my memory. It was one of the entries on my list of places to visit in Japan. I was finally able to check it off after a lovely visit in May 2016. No doubt, it is a natural wonder that Japan should be proud of.
Behind the beautiful scenery of Minamisanriku, there is a deep, sorrowful story, Back in 2011 a huge tsunami hit this area and caused immense damage. However, it did not take long for this area to return to its former glory as a natural wonder and heaven of seafood. Taking a one-day visit to this place is definitely worth it.
How to get there
Minamisanriku is located in the North-eastern part of Miyagi Prefecture. It can be easily accessed by local train from Sendai Station. Going to Minamisanriku by train will begin with taking a train from Sendai station to Bogota on the Tohoku Line. It will pass through 11 stops and take roughly 50 minutes. From Bogota Station, take the Ishinomaki Line to Yanaizu station for about 40 minutes. After that, take the Kessenuma Line from Yanaizu station to Bayside-Arena Station, for about 40 minutes. From there, you can travel on foot to many greats spots like Shizugawa Bay, Minamisanriku Market, and other interesting places. The trip by train from Sendai Station to Minamisanriku overall takes about 2 hours 50 minutes (excluding waiting time for the trains) and costs around ¥1,600 (¥3,200 for round trip). It takes time, indeed, yet it is truly worth it!
Another option is to travel to Minamisanriku from Sendai by renting a car or minibus. My friends and I rented a minibus in Sendai. The trip of 109 km took almost 2 hours from our departure point of Sendai station. There are plenty of car rental services available in Sendai. You can either contact them online or visit them directly at their operating offices.
What to do in Minamisanriku
The very first thing to do in Minamisanriku is to take a cruise around Shizugawa Bay. Many cruise boats are on stand-by to offer you a ride exploring the bay. Within the bay, there are some small islands which are inhabited by various species of birds. You can also drop by some of the fishery areas where locals fish and raise scallops. The experience that really blew us away was interacting with so many birds which approached us in huge numbers! They got super close to us, just waiting for someone to feed them! So, bringing bird-food to feed them is a good idea if you want the experience of getting up close and personal with the local wildlife.
During our cruise around the bay, we were accompanied by a local guide who gave us an interesting explanation about the area and also told us stories about the impact of the tsunami and recovery. We were challenged by the guide to eat some raw seafood that the Japanese call ‘’Kouya’’. I was the one who ate the most – winner!
After looking around the bay, the next thing on your list should be eating lunch! My friends and I ordered a seafood meal in the area close to the bay. We had grilled scallops, more ‘kouya’, sea urchin, onigiri, and some light snacks. All of it was local seafood. As a matter of fact, Minamisanriku is a huge producer of all of these kinds of seafood supplies its produce to several prefectures throughout Japan. You can also enjoy a delicious seafood meal at the market nearby – just buy the seafood and then ask one of the restaurants to cook it for you! Because the produce is local, the price is significantly cheaper compared to that sold in the city.
When to visit
Either Spring, Summer, or Autumn are recommended for making the most of the natural wonders of Minamisanriku. However, my personal recommendation would be Summer! During the Summer, the weather is mostly fine and creates the perfect environment for enjoying the tour.
With wonderful nature and delicious seafood, Minamisanriku is a place really worth-visiting – I bet everybody will agree!