Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Adventures in travel: Miyagi-ken!


Sorry for the delay between posts. I’ve been sitting on this one for a while, mostly because I wasn’t sure how to go about writing it. So I decided to just screw it, and write. And post pictures, too.

Like pictures of this.

So for those that don’t know every little thing about my life (I can’t imagine why), my boyfriend and I are currently doing the long-distance relationship-thing. While I’m here in Hokkaido, he’s living in Miyagi prefecture. More specifically, Kesennuma city. So far, things haven’t been horrible, mostly due to the fact we’re still in the same country and in the same time zone. After some initial whiny-ness, I’ve determined that things aren’t “that bad”, and have attempted to be a positive-thinker. And one positive thing was that now I have an excuse to go to Miyagi-ken, a part of Japan I’ve always wanted to visit but never had a reason or chance.

So last month I booked a flight from Chitose airport to Sendai, and began an adventure.

I didn’t know much about Kesennuma before I went. I just knew that it was one of the places hit the hardest by the tsunami last year. Most of the information I found online was pre-March 11, and most of the shops and restaurants were no longer there.  This included a direct train-line from Sendai. I ended up needing to take the shinkansen and transfer to a local train. Instead of a 2 hour train ride, it ended up taking 4 hours and 30 minutes. Next time, I’m just going to take the bus. 

Still, I got an awesome view of the country side. Rural Japan is awfully pretty. If only it hadn’t been so dark, I would have taken pictures. 

One of the stations had this cool looking dragon, though.

Once arriving in Kesennuma, my feelings changed pretty quickly. My boyfriend sent me pictures of the area before, but I wasn’t really prepared for the vast amount of destruction before me. I’m told that Kesennuma used to be a pretty active harbor-town.  Now about 2/3rds of it is gone. I spent the trip feeling conflicted. On one hand, I missed my boyfriend terribly and was extremely happy to be with him, and on the other hand…

Kesennuma's mascot has seen better days

I guess I always felt a bit of a disconnection to what happened on March 11th. I would watch the news and see the images, but in Hokkaido, nothing was different. Everything was exactly the same as it had been on March 10th. It felt like Tohoku was a different country, far away. I knew no one who lived there at the time, had no connection to it. And now, after finally seeing everything first hand, and realizing, Holy shit, people actually still live here!, it was very overwhelming. I felt very out-of-place, probably the most I’ve ever felt since I’ve come to Japan. 

Super cool statues made out of stuff found on the beach.
And yet, there was a certain beauty that still remained. Kesennuma is surrounded by mountains and lush forests. Along with the coast, I think that if I was here two years ago, I would find Kesennuma to be a gorgeous city.

Temporary buildings for shops destroyed in the tsunami.
The people of Kesennuma were also awesome. I met many of my boyfriend’s co-workers, as well as shop and restaurant owners, most of who were born and raised around this area. I got the impression that a lot of them had done their mourning, and were now just trying to pick themselves up, rebuild and get on with their lives. 

Also, there’s a lot of food Kesennuma. Apparently their big thing in shark fin. I had shark fin soup and shark fin steamed bun, both tasty. My boyfriend works for a crab company, so naturally I ate a lot of that. 

Tasty crab dishes

During my final day there, we went to Sendai. We didn’t have time to do a lot, but we naturally had to get Sendai’s specialty cuisine, ox-tongue.

We also got some ox-tail soup, something I’ve never had before.  It was pretty good.


We visited Sendai castle (or what’s left of it. It was destroyed during WW2) and shrine. 

Castle remains

Pretty view of the city

Date Masamune, looking fierce

Date Masamune, looking like an onigiri

We also found some ox-tongue cider. Being adventurous, we had to try it. It was horrible. We learned a valuable lesson about trying new things.

Horribleness, bottled

I arrived home late Sunday night, absolutely exhausted. Hopefully I’ll be able to go back soon, but for now, it’s the end of July. Which only means one thing:

Beer Gardens. Oh yes.

Until next time, Miyagi-ken! 


  1. Ox.

    What is wrong with people...

    1. Whoops, my bad. That should be "ox-tongue cider".
      Still, just as horrible.

  2. Hi Allie, I want to go and live in Hokkaido, just a simple life. Can u help me?

    1. Check gaijinpot for job listings? Or apply to JET, Interac, AEON, etc. If you want help from me personally, you're not going to get it, sorry.