Kamaishi () is an important fishing and industrial city along the rugged Sanriku Coast in southeastern Iwate Prefecture. Known as the birthplace of Japan's modern iron industry, Kamaishi has been producing iron ore since the late Edo Period and is the site of the country's first Western style blast furnace which received world heritage status in 2015.

Later on, the Meiji Government consolidated Kamaishi's iron works and improved the infrastructure by upgrading the port facilities and constructing one of the country's earliest railroads, thereby creating what would become a cornerstone of the modern iron and steel industry in Japan.

Kamaishi has been periodically hit by tsunami over the centuries, including the ones that struck the Sanriku Coast in 1896 and 1928. In March 2011, a 14 meter high tsunami swept over Kamaishi's recently completed tsunami breakwater and through the city's low-lying industrial districts, devastating the local fishing industry, depositing several large ships high and dry along the port and taking the lives of roughly one thousand people. Reconstruction efforts are ongoing, and tourist spots have reopened and are welcoming visitors.

Rugby has long been popular in the city of Kamaishi, and a new rugby stadium, the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, was recently built and will serve as one of the venues for the Rugby World Cup to be held in Japan in autumn 2019.

Central Kamaishi

Iron and Steel Museum

Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:00)
Closed: Tuesdays and December 29 to January 3
Admission: 500 yen
The Iron and Steel Museum commemorates the history of these important industries and their impact on the modernization of Japan. The museum features a huge model blast furnace, which is used to illustrate the iron and steel production that was pioneered in Kamaishi.

Kamaishi Daikannon

Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (until 16:00 from December to February)
Closed: No closing days
Admission: 500 yen
Kamaishi Daikannon is a huge, 48.5 meter high statue of the Buddhist goddess of mercy. Built in 1970, she stands looking out to sea to watch over the sailors and ensure a bountiful catch. Visitors can climb up the interior of the statue to an observation deck offering views out over Kamaishi Bay.

Sunfish Kamaishi

Hours: 7:00 to 16:00
Closed: Wednesdays, national holidays
Located just next to Kamaishi Station, the Sunfish Kamaishi fish market bustles every morning with the activity of the fishmongers who offer all types of fresh and processed seafood caught off the Sanriku Coast including salmon, saury, scallops, and abalone. The second floor offers a selection of restaurants open for lunch and dinner.

Outside Kamaishi

Hashino Blast Furnace

Located in the forested mountains halfway between central Kamaishi and Tono in an area where magnetite was originally found, the Hashino Blast Furnace was the first Western-style blast furnace built in Japan. Only some foundations and ruins are left of the three blast furnaces and of the water-powered bellows. The site received world heritage status in 2015 together with other related Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution.

Getting there and around

From Shin-Hanamaki Station along the JR Tohoku Shinkansen (3 hours, about 13,000 yen one way from Tokyo), take the JR Kamaishi Line to Kamaishi (90-120 minutes, 1690 yen one way, departures every 1-2 hours). The trip is covered by the Japan Rail Pass, JR East Tohoku Area Pass and JR East South Hokkaido Pass.

How to get to and around the Sanriku Coast