Japan is indeed a melting pot of scenic beauty from lush mountains to calming seas. Summer is here, and it won’t stay long, so what better way to spend it than giving yourself a complete seaside treat. Just over an hour’s trip from Sendai is the small coastal town of Minamisanriku.
When in Minamisanriku, there’s no other place to stay as grand and as scenic as Hotel Kanyo, 南三陸ホテル観洋. Experience luxurious vibes inside and marvel at the unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean outside. You’ll be greeted with unrivaled Japanese courtesy and the grandeur of the lobby. Their rooms are spacious for groups but can also be cozy for couples and individual travelers. Interestingly, each room has been designed to face the ocean, giving each guest their own private, wide ocean view. And if that’s not enough, bask in mineral-rich hot spring water at their unique open air bath overlooking the pacific ocean, along with the soothing sounds of birds and crashing waves. A truly perfect stay for a seaside experience.
But your seaside experience won’t be complete without tasting the gifts of the ocean: fresh seafood! Hotel Kanyo, specifically the owner Abe-san, has created a seafood dish so aesthetically beautiful you will think twice about eating it. This dish is called “Kira-Kira Don” which translates into “Twinkle Twinkle Bowl” – and it is really true to its name. The ingredients are so fresh that they twinkle and shine on top of a bowl of rice. Throughout the year they serve different styles each named differently according to the season. This is in addition to the signature style which is available anytime throughout the year. For spring, they serve “Harutsugedon” which highlights salmon, tuna, and scallops. For summer, it’s “Unidon” which consists only of sea-urchin, a popular and tasty Japanese seafood. For autumn, it’s “Akiumadon” which features fish like saury, bonito, and flat fish. And in winter comes the signature style, “Ikuradon”; a picture-perfect bowl overwhelmed with salmon eggs, along with salmon sashimi and abalone.
The hotel isn’t just all about luxury! It is also a symbol of support for the local community. Following the tsunami disaster in 2011, the hotel opened its doors to evacuees and housed more than 700 for an extended period of time. Being strategically built on top of a cliff, its location makes it a safe place for refuge in such disasters. Ever since, the hotel has been committed to rebuilding the surrounding community of Minamisanriku, and to tell its stories to the world and future generations. As part of this commitment to share the stories of Minamisanriku, the hotel holds several events related to the tsunami disaster, such as a photo galleries and art exhibitions. The highlight however is their one-hour service called “story telling bus” where a local guide (also a survivor), retells the events on the day of the tsunami, while the bus moves around the town.
One of the activities that you shouldn’t miss when staying at Hotel Kanyo is to play around with the overly friendly seagulls. Just toss some chips (also sold inside the hotel) and you’ll get some new cute feathery friends. They usually hang around the hotel’s rooftop or around the room’s veranda. And if you’re looking for further encounters, you can watch them fly alongside you during the 30-minute ferry cruise offered by the hotel around the coast of Minamisanriku. The seagulls fly and follow you around while you marvel at the coastal views and lush green islets.
The tsunami disaster didn’t just displace families but destroyed their homes along with many structures. In fact, Minamisanriku’s population has declined greatly ever since 2011, and the government has been exerting great efforts to bring back the families and start businesses again. The drastic change in infrastructure has resulted in a low light-pollution level in the area, which becomes an unexpected beauty for star gazers! In my travels so far, it has been rare to find a seaside hotel like Hotel Kanyo which is also suitable for star gazing, yet very close to a big town. Making the most of this advantage, the hotel has been holding “Star Parties” almost every month where they invite professionals and offer a free star viewing for costumers. Using telescopes provided by the hotel, you’ll get to see constellations and planets up close. Though even without the astronomical equipment, the Milky Way galaxy is already clearly visible to the naked eye. Check out their facebook page for announcements about future Star Party events.
Facing to the East, Hotel Kanyo has the best vantage point to enjoy a beautiful sunrise. You can either watch it through the window in your room or from the rooftop. A beautiful sunrise is guaranteed nearly every single day. What better way to start the day than marvel at the orange and blue hues of the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean on the horizon. You might need to wake up very early in summer, but this kind of view is always worth it!
If you want to experience a day filled with scenes of seas, stars, and sunrise, hear inspiring stories, and eat premium seafood dishes, then add Minamisanriku and Hotel Kanyo to your Tohoku travel list!!
HOTEL KANYO MINAMISANRIKU (南三陸ホテル観洋）
99-17 Kurosaki, Shizugawa, Minamisanriku-cho, Motoyoshi-gun, Miyagi
From Shizugawa Station (JR Kesennuma Line): 7 min by pick-up bus service.
By car: 40 min from Sanriku Expressway Kahoku IC.
Free Shuttle Bus Service:
A free shuttle bus service runs between Sendai Station and the hotel (approx. 120 min)
– Departs from Sendai Station East Exit shuttle bus boarding area at 13:30pm
– Departs from hotel at 10:00am
*Reservation required in advance. Please make a reservation by 15:00 the day before your stay.
Photography and article by Clint John Otic (Philippines). See more of Clint’s amazing pictures on Flickr!