Kesennuma (気仙沼) is one of the bigger cities along the Sanriku Coast with a large fishing port. It is one of the country's largest bonito and swordfish processors. Kesennuma was hit badly by the 2011 Tsunami which damaged several of the city's districts, carried multiple large ships inland, and left the local fishing industry in ruins.
All of the stranded ships were removed quickly save one, the 60 meter long Kyotoku Maru 18, which remained as a monument for over two years in a residential neighborhood nearly a kilometer from the waterfront. The ship was eventually dismantled in late 2013 after a local referendum showed overwhelming support for its removal.
In the meantime, Kesennuma has been recovering from the disaster, and the city offers tourists a variety of attractions, especially seafood-related ones.
The best timing for viewing the action is between 6am and 8am Closed: Sundays and a few other days (see calendar) Admission: Free
The fascinating action at the Kesennuma fish market can be observed by tourists from a long observation deck. The market is divided into an area for small fish and other seafood and an area for large fish, including tuna and sharks. Shark fin is a specialty of Kesennuma, and the local fishing industry also processes all the sharks' other parts into various products.
Umi no Ichi
Shops: 8:00 to 18:00 (until 17:00 from October to April) Restaurants: 11:00 to 22:00 Museum: 9:00 to 18:00 (until 17:00 from October to April) Closed: Second and fourth Wednesdays from Jan to June
Umi no Ichi is a two-story building adjacent to the fish market, where tourists can purchase seafood products and other local souvenirs or try some of the fresh seafood in restaurants. Furthermore, the complex features a museum about sharks as well as an ice aquarium.
Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30) Closed: Mondays, Tuesdays and the day after holidays (except weekends) Admission: 500 yen
The Rias Ark Museum is a contemporary art and local history museum in the hills overlooking Kesennuma. The museum serves as a sort of repository of local history and culture with exhibits that focus on the local fishing industry and daily life from days past, as well as artwork by local artists. A new permanent exhibit shows items and photographs collected from the 2011 Tsunami.
Opened in 2013, K-Port cafe is a stone's throw from Kesennuma Port. Designed by one of Japan's leading architects, Ito Toyo, the cafe is the brainchild of actor Watanabe Ken who wanted to do something for the tsunami hit region. Watanabe Ken sends daily letters to the cafe which visitors can read.
Mount Anbasan is a 239 meter high mountain that overlooks Kesennuma from just north of the city's center. It is possible to walk or drive to a parking lot about halfway up the mountain from where there are nice views out over the city. Several more viewpoints are located further up the mountain and at its summit that is reached in about a 15 minute climb from the parking lot.
Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (until 16:00 from October to March) Closed: Generally Mondays (more details) Admission: 600 yen
The Kesennuma City Memorial Museum consists of the ruins of a former high school that is located on a peninsula eight kilometers south of the city center and was damaged by the tsunami. The school was turned into an excellent museum which opened to the public in spring 2019. Some of the school's rooms have been preserved in the way they were left by the tsunami.
Not far from the Kesennuma City Memorial Museum (see above), the pine tree covered Cape Iwaisaki juts out from the rocky coastline. The approach to the cape starts off in the forest, but the trees soon open up to reveal beautiful views of the surrounding coastline as well as a blowhole that periodically erupts along the water. A statue of sumo wrestler Hidenoyama Raigoro, an Edo Period Yokozuna from Kesennuma, stands at the cape pointing out to sea.
Karakuwa Peninsula Visitor Center
Hours: 8:30 to 16:30 Closed: Tuesdays (of the following day if Tuesday is a holiday) and the day after holidays (except weekends) Admission: 380 yen English: Minimal
The Karakuwa Peninsula Visitor Center lies on the eastern tip of the Karakuwa Peninsula, about 15 kilometers outside of central Kesennuma. The center contains a comprehensive, yet aging museum that describes the mechanisms and history of tsunami in Japan, including a recently renovated tsunami simulator that attempts to duplicate the experience of a tsunami.