Following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that ripped apart Japan’s northern Tohoku region, many of the area’s cities faced double devastation, as their tourism industry was heavily affected.
Now—nine years after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami—the areas have shown an unbelievable level of resilience and in terms of tourism, plenty of the areas are back in action.
The 2019 Rugby World Cup helped breathe new life into Iwate Prefecture, for example, when two games were hosted in Kamaishi City. People from across the globe filled the Kamaishi Unosumai Memorial Stadium with laughter and joy, putting their hard-earned yen towards revitalizing the city.
This is the kind of continued tourism and exposure these areas need. Vacationing in one of the affected prefectures is the best way to contribute to its rejuvenation. From snow-capped mountains to scenic coastlines, there are so many adventures to be had here.
Use this list as a guide to plan your next vacation to Tohoku with the comfort in knowing your money is helping the disaster-affected region get back on its feet. The following areas are best accessible by car, however public transport is still a rather viable option.
1. Sanriku Coast
The Sanriku Coast is a stunning untamed rocky coastline, a sprawling shore that stretches over 200 kilometers across Tohoku. Touching Aomori, Iwate, and Miyagi prefectures facing out onto the Pacific Coast, its natural beauty is impressive in photos but amplified so much more when it’s right in front of your eyes.
Off the coast is where you’ll find Tashirojima—aka “Cat Island”—a small rural isle about an hour from Miyagi’s Ishinomaki City. For breathtaking natural beauty, you can’t look past the Kitayamazaki coast in Iwate Prefecture. Home to a number of observation decks, it’s the perfect place to view the incredible beauty of the Unosu Cliffs—five perfectly lined up, 200-meter-high cliffs that look like naturally crafted pieces of sculptural art.
Over its lifetime, this site has faced its fair share of natural challenges but March 11, 2011 was one of the most devastating. During the tsunami, entire towns along the coast were washed away along with tens of thousands of lives (over 15,000 confirmed dead as of February 2018). Many of the roads connecting many points of interest and tourist spots were rebuilt just months after the disaster, making it relatively easy to access.
Given how big the area is, how to get there really depends on where you want to start and finish. Although many train lines were damaged during the quake, JR East and Sanriku railway lines are now back in operation. For those with a license, rental cars are an excellent way to get around. You can pick one up in Sendai and the Sanriku Expressway is probably the most convenient route.
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