Minamisanriku (O) has been hit repeatedly by tsunami over the past centuries, including a major one in 1960. But despite all the awareness and precautions, the 2011 tsunami hit the town on an unprecedented scale, quickly overrunning the seawalls and sweeping through the center leaving nothing but foundations and broken buildings in its wake. Many of the town's evacuation zones were inundated by the water, and a large number of lives were lost.

Since the disaster, the rubble has been cleared away, and the level of the former city center has been elevated by over ten meters. Only a few buildings have been left standing. One of these is the gutted, red skeleton of Minamisanriku's Crisis Management Center, which has become a symbol of the town and a shrine to those who died and the heroic city workers who broadcast emergency messages from the building until they were overrun by the waves.

In 2012, the San San Shopping Village, a recovery market of about 30 shops and restaurants was set up in temporary buildings two kilometers inland, serving both locals and tourists. At the end of 2016, the market was closed and reopened permanently in a new location on elevated land closer to the coast in 2017. Several of the restaurants offer local seafood dishes.

Centered around the ruins of the Crisis Management Center, a memorial park fully opened in Minamisanriku's former town center in October 2020. It can be reached via a pedestrian bridge from the San San Shopping Village. Also just nearby stands the excellent Minamisanriku 311 Memorial, where visitors can participate in learning programs about natural disasters.

Getting there and around

By train

From Sendai Station (how to get to Sendai), take the JR Tohoku Line to Kogota and change to a train to Maeyachi or Yanaizu Station. From there, take the JR bus to Minamisanriku. Get off at the Shizugawa bus stop, a short walk from the San San Shopping Village and memorial park. The entire journey takes about 150 minutes, costs 1570 yen and is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass, JR East Tohoku Area Pass and JR East South Hokkaido Pass. There are good connections approximately once per hour.

By bus

Miyagi Kotsu (Miyako) operates five daily buses between Sendai (how to get to Sendai) and Minamisanriku. The one way ride takes about 100 minutes and costs 1800 yen. Sets of two tickets, which can be used in either direction, are available for 3300 yen.

How to get to and around the Sanriku Coast