This weekend, we got a chance to participate in the event called “Meetup Kamaishi 2017”. It’s an event organized by local people to boost and promote the city of Kamaishi after the disaster in 2011. The event itself was held for three days and consists of many different kinds of activities that you can choose (I will include the link at the end of the post).
Our group chose the oyster farming event that was held on Sunday morning, so we could have a trip around Kamaishi on Saturday. Our first stop was Rikuzentakata City, one of the worst damaged cities in 2011. In this city, we took part in a short tour about the city before and after the tsunami disaster. The tour itself is led by a reconstruction association called “Marugoto Rikuzentaka”. The first point of the tour was the famous ‘Miracle Pine’. Rikuzentakata was once famous for its sandbar full of pine trees (more than 7000 trees), however all of them were destroyed in 2011, leaving only one, this tree, therefore it is considered a miracle. Nowadays, the tree has become the symbol of people’s perseverance and hope.
See the ruins in the background? Wondering why those buildings are still there? Actually, there are 4 ruins that have been left as they were after the disaster, to pose as a reminder of the ferocity of nature. An important criteria for choosing these 4 memorial buildings is that there were no casualties at each of these sites, so they can serve as a reminder of the disaster while not causing any further sorrow for those who lost loved ones.
Our second spot is the ruins of Tapic 45, which was a roadside station that also served as a souvenirs shopping center. Again, at this place we saw the trace of horror left by tsunami. Our guide told us the story that there were three people evacuated safely from the very top of this building during the tsunami, she even showed us the photograph of it.
Finally, we were showed the reconstruction progress of the city, which is a demonstration to the rest of the world that the people here still have energy to revive their city! Last but not least, the people of the city are “yelling” to the world about what they experienced, so that there will be no more casualties from the similar disasters in the future.
Our second stop was Ofunato City, but before reaching Ofunato, we paid a quick visit to Hakoneyama Terrace Cafe. This cafe is located on Hakone Mountain (Hakoneyama), where the cafe itself offers beautiful scenery of the pine forest and the Rikuzentakata coast. It is not only a cafe, but there are also beautiful lodgings near the cafe so you can stay overnight. The view from the room is even more beautiful and the room itself looks plenty comfortable.
Off we go to Ofunato City! Ofunato is only about 30 minutes by car from Rikuzentakata. This city is a fishing port, so our destination is Ofunato Fish Market. There is a restaurant at this market which serves various kinds of seafood. We ordered the set menu which consist of many delicious dishes. This set menu costs ¥1300, which is for me is reasonable because you can get so much for your money!
Happy with our lunch, we continued to our last stop, Kamaishi. We were going to have a one-night stay, which is a homestay (yay!). Our group was divided into 2 groups, the girls and the boys. My group stayed with a family who lives in the mountains, quite far from the city center. The mother of our host family (Kayo-san) is an amazing person! She is an expert of cooking with local ingredients, she can make (almost) every kind of dish from local produce! Moreover, most of the ingredients were planted by themselves in the garden beside their house. For fish, they have an acquaintance who works as a fisherman, so they usually trade between vegetables and seafood – what a nice system!
There was another group which was also doing homestay and some kind of project at Kayo-san’s house, so that day the house was a little crowded! When we arrived at the house, it was almost dark, so we were going to make dinner. Because this is a special occasion, we made quite a feast.
During this time, we enjoyed great chats with each other. Apparently, Kayo-san has given some training to other cities about creating dishes with local ingredients. Also, Kayo-san has hosted many other international people and there are photos of the guests hanging on the wall. After that, we cleaned the plates and got ready to sleep!
Our morning started with a breakfast served by Kayo-san (love you Kayo-san). After breakfast, we didn’t have much time because we have to go back to the meeting point to go to the “Meetup Kamaishi” place. We said goodbye to our host family (so sad), then we went to the meeting point.
Fun fact: some of the amazing homestay accommodation options in Kamaishi are listed on Airbnb!! Here is an English copy of the Airbnb guide to Kamaishi City.
The location of oyster farming is at a small port a little way away from the city center. Before we began the farming tour, we were given a short explanation about oyster farming.
The tour was conducted on a small motorboat which took us around the beautiful coast to the farm area. We stopped at several spots where the different phases of oyster-raising was shown to us, from the seeding phase, adult and ready to harvest phase. Finally, we went back to the port to eat the freshly harvested oysters (yay!).
For your information, the oysters in this area are specialized for eating raw, so the inspection regulation for food safety is VERY strict, so you don’t need to worry about the contents of the oysters. Not to mention, the oysters in Kamaishi are MUCH bigger than any other place. This was such a good experience where we could enjoy deliciously fresh, BIG oysters!
Finished with the event, we headed back to Sendai, but before that we still have two more spots to visit – the Magnolia (Tsubaki) Flower Festival and Goishi Coast in Ofunato. The Magnolia Festival is held at the World’s Magnolia Hall (世界の椿館). It’s a festival where you can see and buy magnolias from all around the world. Not far from the hall, there is a good scenic view of the Sanriku Coast called Thunder Rock (雷岩), called so due to the thunder-like sound produced when waves hit the crevices in the huge rock formation.
Our last stop was the stunning Goishi Coast, which is named after its black and white pebbles found along the shore that resemble stones from traditional game “Go”. Oddly, there’s no sand at this beach, instead there are only these black and white pebbles. We enjoyed the sea breeze and sunset at this beach before finally heading back to Sendai.
How to get there
Rikuzentakata and Ofunato:
From Tokyo or Sendai:
Take JR Tohoku Shinkansen to Ichinoseki Station. From Ichinoseki Station, take JR Ofunato Line to Kesennuma. Then change to the JR Bus to Rikuzentakata or Ofunato.
From Tokyo or Sendai:
Take JR Tohoku Shinkansen to Shin-Hanamaki Station. Then change to JR Kamaishi Line to Kamaishi.
Meetup Kamaishi Link