Sanrikukaigan (east coast of Tohoku)

2-3 May 2009

We stayed in a hotel [JP] near Kitayamazaki. We had a great seafood dinner with lots of weird but great things such as fresh Hoya (Sea pineapple [wiki]), Awabi (Abalone [wiki]), and Mambo (Ocean Sunfish [wiki]) which are local specialties. The hotel also had a nice spacious bath with ocean view, although the water was actually too hot to really enjoy (there was a cold-water tap on one side and we let it run and stayed close, that was ok).

First we went a little up north to the Kitayamazaki cliffs, and after walking quite a lot of stairs, enjoyed the view of the rocky coast line.

after Kitayamazaki, we more or less followed the coast line southward

We made some brief stops at some less famous places I found via google earth, first the "U-no-su" cliff where we had a long discussion about what kind of bird the "U" actually is... It appears to be the Cormorant (Aalscholver in Dutch). Unosu means "the Cormorant's nest". There should be many at these cliffs, but you probably have to come in the right season to find them easily.
By the way, the U is used for fishing. Birds are trained and their throats are tied so they can swallow small, but not large fish. Several cormorants are then released (with lines) and once they caught some fish, they are taken on board and the fish is taken from the bird's throat. (see wiki).

the second small stop was the "Kuma-no-hana" (bear nose) cliff. You can see the rock (cliff) from a small observatory deck close to the main road. It has 2 holes and apparently people think it resembles a bear's nose...

Then (after a lunch stop at some parking area) we came to one of the most famous spots along the "sanrikukaigan" coastline: Joudogahama.

If you look between the concrete path and the rock formations, you can find all kinds of animals. Birds, sea anemones, sea urchins, shellfish, and also tiny crabs and fish.

Somewhere along the road we saw all these buoys floating in the bay. It must be some kind of fishing, but I'm not sure what...

[HDR] The last stop of the day would be "go-ishi" beach (it was dark by the time we got there). It is a little beach where the stones are very round and nicely polished. They are said to resemble the "stones" used in the game "go", hence the beach' name. It is also quite famous I think. However, very close by is the "ana-tooshi-iso" ("through-hole seashore"; this picture) which seems to be less famous, but I think it is one of the nicest rocks of the whole coastline. We also went to the "kaminari-iwa" ("thunder rock") where the waves crashing onto the rocks make a sound like thunder... lots of birds on those rocks and a nice view from the observatory platform, but it was already getting too dark to take blog-worthy pictures.

We stayed in a minshuku ("Nagisa") where we had a nice dinner with super-fresh uni (sea urchin). The spines/prickles were still moving, even though it was cut open and ready to eat! (they even kept on moving after eating...). The taste is bitter and actually you are eating a lot of tiny eggs, so the structure/texture is also a bit weird, it's not really my favorite, but it was very fresh and thus quite ok.
The next day we woke up early, because the owner of the minshuku said we might see the sunrise over the atlantic from the room's window. However, we were unlucky because it was overcast. So we went back to bed for a few more hours...

When whe hit the road again, it was only a very short drive to the first sight: "Ore-ishi" ("broken stone"). This is a natural stone pillar of reportedly 16 high and 3m wide, which used to be 2m higher until in 1896 a tsunami hit it. My father and I had great fun climbing over the rocks around there and tried to find the spot from where the rock seemed narrowest and longest. From some angles it seems much thicker and shorter than from others. Finally we took this shot.

Some other interesting rock formations we came across on our quest

The other stop on this last day was Matsushima. The bay of Matsushima is regarded one of the 3 best scenic spots of Japan. It was a nice day and still Golden week, so there was some traffic jam on the access road (mainly because of people searching parking lots). This picture is some building next to the (famous) Zuiganji temple. I just thought this picture was more interesting than pictures of the temple (there were some nice wall-paintings inside, but no pictures allowed)...

Then we took a sightseeing boat through the bay area, which contains a great many tiny islands. Another very interesting thing was the huge number of seagulls following the boat (several people offered them some snacks)

one of the islets in matsushima bay

After the cruise we had something to eat, and did some quick shopping for souvenirs just before closing time. Then we went to Fukuurajima, which is connected to the mainland by a very long bridge. Normally you have to pay toll to cross the bridge, but after "closing" time they left the gate open and you can enter for free... (view of the bridge and the mainland from Fukuurajima)


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