Summer is here and the beach is incontestably the praised destination! Why not to go to a small corner of paradise in Tohoku?
I am talking about Oshima Island situated in Kesennuma Bay of Miyagi Prefecture; a small island which, despite its 22km circumference and tiny population of about 3400, has much more to offer than first appears when the ferry moors at the port. It is my guarantee that spending a weekend on this island will revitalize you for the week ahead!
The first of much beautiful scenery begins with a short ferry-trip of 20 mins, where you will be accompanied by a bunch of various species of pacific gulls flying close to the boat, all along the journey. Then you will notice the new bridge’s arch, called the “Bridge of Hope” that will connect the island to the mainland, offering another way to access to the island once completed in 2018. Once at the Port of Oshima Island, to the north you will see Mt. “Kameyama” (亀山, 235m), named after its giant turtle-like shape, carefully watching over the island and its inhabitants.
At the port, there are only a few boats about (ferries included), but at the east side of the island facing the Ocean, the many fishing boats remind us of the main industry! You can even try being a fisherman for a day yourself!
Exploring the island on foot is such a delightful and exciting adventure. Few shops and restaurants are found around the vicinity of the coast, but venturing further in, an small yet animated town welcomes visitors looking either for shelter in hotels (Ryokan) or inns, or hungry travelers looking to satiate in restaurants offering tasty food (with fresh seafood in abundance as the local meal)! Beautiful gardens and Japanese-style dwellings, some looking almost like castles, make the walk so pleasant and the roads and paths would make for a tempting cycling or running competition. As a matter of fact, Oshima island organizes a half marathon (10Km, 5Km and 3 km courses) every year in April called the “Tsubaki Marathon”.
The best viewpoints of the Oshima coastline and Kesennuma Bay are from the viewing platforms and observatory on the North side of Mont Kameyama, on the south side from the light house at Tatsumaizuki (龍舞崎) or from the different views around the Sanriku Fukko National Park. The access to these is from the paved roads and slightly less adventurous than the wilder wooden hike trail, or the hiking trails along the coast that appear to not have seen many human beings for a long time, only animals! So do not be surprised to meet wild animals like ducks, squirrels or even foxes, and be wary of trails that stop at the edge of a cliff (safety first!)!
The fauna and flora on the island are plentiful. The deep forests of pine trees and vegetation and the large variety of flowers and hydrangea bushes offer a propitious biotope for animals and relaxing spaces along with the song of birds, cicadas, and the sound of crashing waves; the perfect environment to write poems or compose melodies or just read and enjoy the moment in such a peaceful, quiet place.
Speaking about waves, of course the main attraction of Oshima Island are its beaches. There are 3 main beaches on the east coast, stretching from the north to south: the 200m sandy beach Kugunarihama (十八鳴浜), Tanakahama (田中浜) which is still under renovation, and the main beach of Odanohama(小田の浜海水浴場) where you can also enjoy some water-sport activities like paddle boating, kayak or learning how to swim.
As you can see, Oshima Island offers all you could ever wish for to relax and have fun!
To reach Oshima, you will need to catch a ferry from Kesennuma Port.
To Kesennuma Port (from Sendai City)
By train: Take the Tohoku Shinkansen to Ichinoseki (31 mins) and change to the JR Ofunato Line. It should take about 1 hour and 15 minutes to reach Kesennuma.
By car: Ride the Sanriku Expressway for about 1.5 hours to Tome City, then change to national highway Route 45 and drive for about 1 hour to Kesennuma.
FERRY TO OSHIMA
There is a car-ferry leaving Kesennuma to Oshima every 40 mins or so. The ride takes about 25 minutes and will cost 410 yen. For more details including cost of taking your car on the ferry: http://oshima-kanko.jp/access/index.html
It is also possible to hire a bicycle to get you around the island. You can rent them from the Oshima Tourism Association for 500 yen for 2 hours, or 1000 yen for a day.
Oshima Tourism Association: