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Japan Hour

Road Trip on Sanriku Railway Hamanako Line (Part 2)

This week's highlights include a Whale and Sea Science Museum, an eatery which serves delicious mapo curry, a shop shaped like a ship and a beach boasting beautiful views of the sawtooth coastline.

More famous tourist spots await us as we continue our two-day journey on the Sanriku Railway Rias Line. We advance all the way to Namiita-Kaigan Station on Day 1 and spend the night at Hamagiku Hotel. The next morning, after hopping on the 9.30am train at Namiita-Kaigan, our first destination is Iwate-Funakoshi Station, a 10-minute ride away.  

We visit a store near the station to make enquiries about popular attractions. The owner tells us about the Whale and Sea Science Museum, which displays skeletal specimens of whales as well as life-sized models. Later, we are given a tour by the museum’s director. Established in 1992, the museum - located in Yamada Town where commercial whaling took place until 1987 - was affected by the 2011 tsunami, with the waves reaching the third floor. It thus had to close but re-opened in 2017. We get to see a model of a sperm whale, one of the biggest in the world with a length of 17.6m. Also on display are a toothed whale, a minke whale and baleen whale. The space in front of the museum is now a park. Various events are held at the Whale and Sea Science Museum, making it a popular facility for both children and adults. 

We want to visit another attraction but a local tells us all the temples and shrines in the area got washed away by the tsunami. So we decide to catch the 11.35am train and head to Rikuchu-Yamada, two stops away. We arrive after 10 minutes and the next train will leave at 1.05pm. We are hungry and go to Takenawa, recommended by one of the residents. It serves mainly Chinese dishes and rice bowls, but its pork cutlet made with Iwate pork is also popular. We order cutlet curry, a plate of gyoza and the restaurant’s speciality, mapo curry. Its mapo tofu topped with curry is one of its most popular dishes and draws customers from other areas too.  

Our next destination from Rikuchu-Yamada is Yagisawa Miyakotandai. It is one of the newest stations along the Rias Line. The train journey takes about half an hour and the next train departs from Yagisawa Miyakotandai at 3.45pm. We walk towards the Iwate Prefecture University, Miyako Junior College. Along the way, we notice several new houses which were built after the earthquake and tsunami. A student shows us the way to the school’s office, where a staff tells us about Marine Co-op DORA, the largest co-op store in Miyako City. We first have to walk through an 875m long tunnel before reaching the store. What makes the place unique is that it is constructed to look like a ship. This area also is close to a harbour called the Fujiwara pier. 

Our last stop is Miyako, the terminal station. A local we speak to mentions that her favourite shop here is Sakusaku. It is a miscellaneous goods store. It sells a type of Kokeshi doll called Miyakokeshi, which was specially made for this store. For example, the doll’s hair is made of kelp, while sea urchin is used for the sash clip. The shop also sells a locally produced magazine about Miyako - called Miyakojin - which comes with an old map of Miyako and even a CD of songs.  

We chat with another local, who mentions a beach called Jodogahama. It is part of a national park with a famous sawtooth coastline. It is 15 minutes away by car, so the resident offers to drive us there. Sanriku Fukko National Park opened in 2013, after the tsunami. It covers the entire Sanriku coastline from Aomori to Miyagi. Jodogahama is one of the most scenic places in Miyako, boasting an incredible view of the sawtooth coastline. Because of the gorgeous scenery here, the Jodogahama Beach attracts visitors throughout the year.


1)    The Whale and Sea Science Museum is a popular attraction in Yamada 
2)    One of the most scenic places in Miyako is the Jodogahama Beach 

Featured Places - ep25: Road Trip on Sanriku Railway Hamanako Line (Part 2)


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