A small port town along the Sanriku Coast in Miyagi prefecture, Kesennuma was devastated by the tsunami of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. However, it is well on the road to recovery now, welcoming visitors to revel in the area’s natural beauty. As fishing is the town’s main livelihood, the abundance of fresh seafood here is a big draw, along with its art and memorial museums.
5 things to do in Kesennuma
This market provides a large variety of seafood delivered directly from the Kesennuma port, which the eateries turn into local delicacies, including the award-winning amazake-marinated and lightly grilled Pacific saury. Don’t miss the kaisendon, a bowl of rice topped with the freshest seafood including ikura (salmon roe), sea urchin, squid, tuna and bonito.
2-13 Minatomachi, Kesennuma, Miyagi (Kesennuma Station). 0226 29 6233. 8am-6pm daily.
Built on the hills overlooking Kesennuma, the Rias Ark Museum looks, from afar, like a ship sailing along the coast. Inside you’ll find works by artists who either reside in the Tohoku or Hokkaido area or have some connection to the region. You can also learn about the city’s history and culture, with a focus on the local fishing industry.
The Kesennuma City Memorial Museum is set in the ruins of a former high school that was decimated by the 2011 tsunami. In spring this year, the facility was turned into a memorial to educate visitors on the horrors of tsunami. It’s a solemn site with large sections preserved in the same state as they were left after the disaster, with an upturned car lodged in the interior along with a mess of debris washed up by the waves. Thankfully all the pupils and teachers survived the disaster, but this remains a sobering reminder of the power of nature.
9-1 Hajikamisemukai, Kesennuma, Miyagi (Rikuzen-Hashikami Station). 0226 28 9671. Apr-Sep 9.30am-5pm (last entry 4pm), Oct-Mar 9.30am-4pm (3pm), closed Mon (Tue if Mon is hols). ¥600, high school students ¥400, junior high and primary school students ¥300, free for younger children.
Kesennuma Knitting started back in summer 2012 as a project to support the disaster-stricken area through the sales of handmade cardigans and sweaters created by local women who survived the catastrophe. Since then, the brand’s increasing popularity has led to several collaborations with famous American brands including Simon Miller and Harvey Faircloth.
1-12 Kashizaki, Kesennuma, Miyagi (Kesennuma Station). Sat & Sun 11am-6pm.
Mt Anbasan, whose name means the ‘mountain of safe waves’, is the tallest peak in Kesennuma with a height of 239 metres. There are several hiking trails to explore, all with lookout points offering picturesque views of Kesennuma’s port and bay area. The hike up to the peak can easily be done in under an hour, and depending on the season you can admire camellia flowers, cherry blossoms or azaleas along the way.
Machiura, Kesennuma, Miyagi (Kesennuma Station).
How to get to Kesennuma
From Tokyo Station, it’s approximately four hours by train to Kesennuma Station.
Why I love Kesennuma
‘I feel a strong connection with Kesennuma and its people, and would like to encourage international tourists to visit Kesennuma and all of Tohoku to see the incredible natural beauty, meet the wonderful people, enjoy the delicious food, and learn more about the deep history.’
- Jason Hyland, president of MGM Resorts Japan
Explore more of Japan
Escape the crowds at Kyoto and head to the nearby city of Otsu by the shore of Biwa, the largest lake in Japan.
The castle town of Iwakuni and Suo-Oshima island across the bridge are scenic coastal destinations along the Seto Inland Sea in southeastern Yamaguchi prefecture.
The port city of Sakai is a treasure trove of hidden gems and cultural landmarks that encapsulate the rich history of its people and heritage.