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Northeastern Iwate

Miyako / Kuji

Be mesmerized by the superb views of the deeply indented coastline

A region proud of its ocean vistas

In northeast Iwate, the Sanriku Railway runs along the coast between the major tourist centers of Miyako Station and Kuji Station. The sea on one side and steeply rising mountains on the other, there are superb views from the carriage. Trains run every one to two hours, so plan your outing carefully.

The one-carriage train runs between shore and mountains

The one-carriage train runs between shore and mountains

Clean, airy carriage

See the driver at work from close quarters

Tracks disappear into the distance from the rear window

Ticket office at Kuji Station

The culture of ama, born by the sea

The Kosode Coast in the north of Iwate Prefecture, where Kuji is located, is a scenic palette of blue seas and rugged rocky outcrops. Here, the culture of ama (female free divers) is six centuries old. In a harsh marine environment where water temperatures never exceed 20 degrees, even in midsummer, ama dive to a depth of 10 meters for a minute at a time, equipped not with an oxygen tank but traditional tools and swimming gear and reliant on nothing but experience and touch. They make their livelihood from fresh sea urchin, abalone and seaweed. For these women who are born and raised around the sea, this is less a job than a way of life.

The Hokugen no Ama Festival is held every year from July to September. Not only can you witness the ama diving for seafood, you can also enjoy the rare experience of tasting the creaminess of freshly-caught sea urchin.

The Kosode Coast

The Kosode Coast

The sea foams and surges around the rocks

Seagulls add to the harbor town character

Ama-san prepared to return to the water in typical diving wear

Funori miso soup made by ama

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See & Do

The defining feature of the northeast surely is the numerous coastal scenic spots, such as the plunging cliffs of Kitayamazaki, towering up to 200m along their 8km length, and the unique Jodogahama Beach created by an eruption of white rock around 52 million years ago. Hop aboard a small tourist boat and let the fisherman guide to take you on a thrilling exploration on the water.

Coastal views

Aboard the craft, you can also explore the Blue Cave with its cobalt-blue waters near Jodogahama Beach

The banya fishing huts of Tsukuehama

The departure point of the small-boat tours to the Kitayamazaki Cliffs. The traditional fishing village scenery has been preserved here

Sanriku Railway

A coastal line that runs around 70km from north to south. Enjoy views of the ocean and coastal towns along the way

Eat & Drink

Of all Iwate’s areas, the northeast is the richest in food products of land and sea. Its most famous marine delicacy is the creamy, tantalizing sea urchin, among other seafood delights from nearby shores. The area also has a reputation for excellent dairy products, notably those from farms on the plateau exposed to salty sea breezes. This is also a center of mountain grape production, creating polyphenol-rich wines.

Sea urchin lunchbox

At JR Kuji Station, just 20 handmade bento boxes of rice topped with steamed uni are available for sale each day

French cuisine

Enjoy French cuisine made with healthy local produce at a restaurant overlooking the sea

Local soul food

A ramen house selling noodles to locals for over 30 years. Do not go late as the doors shut when the broth runs out

Shopping

Miyako, a city proud of its culinary tradition, has a lot of specialties to offer as souvenirs. How about ika senbei, a unique-tasting cookie that blends sweetness and the flavor of squid extract, or a soy bean donut called suttogi, a traditional sweet of the region? An excellent choice is Ryusen Yaezakura, a local sake of Iwaizumi produced using mineral-rich water from limestone caves. It was awarded a gold medal at a domestic sake competition.

Seatopia Naado

The place to buy local specialties of Miyako and the region. Get your ika senbei here

Miyako Gyosai Market

Opening at 6:30am, this is a market frequented by locals. It is overflowing with homemade suttogi and other heartwarming souvenirs

Michi-no-Eki (roadside rest area) Iwaizumi

You can buy specialties of Iwaizumi here, including Ryusen Yaezakura sake, and all sorts of sweets containing the local chestnuts

Stay & Relax

Rooms with Pacific Ocean views, lodgings with an outdoor hot spring – these are joys of the coast. Relaxing in the bookings-only rooftop hot spring at a cozy inn by the sea in Miyako will bring delight to anyone, whether it is under a galaxy of stars across or as the sun rises out of the ocean. Enjoy around 50 types of delicacy at a large hotel dinner buffet. This establishment prides itself on its food and the local seafood, wagyu and sake in particular.

Beppin-no-yu, Kuji

A basic lodge in the mountains of Kuji renowned for its waters which beautify the skin by rinsing away oils and dead skin

A cozy inn by the sea

A small Miyako ryokan with sweeping Pacific Ocean views that offers a small outdoor hot spring with every room. Devastated by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster, the ryokan was rebuilt in 2015

Large hotel in Miyako City

You can choose a room with sea views from the bathtub. The popular dinner buffet boasts around 50 different dishes

COLUMN

Ruin of disaster; key to passing on the lessons of tsunami to the future generations

Coastal Iwate endured massive damage in the tsunami that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011. Taro Kanko Hotel in Miyako City was hit by a 17m tsunami that reached the fourth floor and completed washed the first two floors away, leaving nothing but the bare steel columns behind. Amid the demolition of structures damaged by the disaster, it was decided in 2014 to preserve the hotel as a relic of the disaster. Join a “Disaster prevention guided tour” run by the Miyako Tourism Cultural Exchange Association that will take you into the hotel and see footage from the hotel on the day of the disaster. The ruin has been visited by over 120,000 people to date.

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