Take our user survey here!
Photo By: Rachel Crane
Region
Tohoku
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Sendai
Population
2,365,204

Ishinomaki

The ideal pilgrimage for visitors wishing to pay their respects to victims of the tsunami

By Rachel Crane

On March 11, 2011, Ishinomaki was devastated by the tsunami that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake, suffering the greatest loss of life of any city in the disaster. Now, several sites have been preserved as memorials and symbols of the Tohoku region’s recovery.

These spots make Ishinomaki the ideal pilgrimage for visitors wishing to pay their respects to victims of the tsunami, but the welcoming port city also has plenty of light-hearted attractions to make for a well-rounded trip.

Rebuilding and Remembering

Photo by: Rachel Crane Hiyoriyama Park View

The best place to appreciate Ishinomaki’s restoration is the hilltop Hiyoriyama Park, which served as an evacuation point during the tsunami and now offers superb views of the waterfront districts surrounding the Kitakami River estuary.

Here you will find the torii gates (the symbolic entrance to a Shinto shrine) of Kashima Shrine, which provide a spiritual frame through which to appreciate the moving view, as well as several monuments to haiku poet Matsuo Basho, who was once a visitor. The park also boasts over four hundred cherry trees, Japan’s symbol of new life, making mid-to-late April a particularly poignant time to visit.

A short walk downhill lies Ishinomaki’s most haunting memorial site, the ruins of Kadonowaki Elementary School. All staff and students present during the tsunami were able to evacuate safely, but the building’s preserved ruins stand as a powerful reminder of the city’s former destruction.

You can pay your respects to victims of the disaster across the road in Minamihama Tsunami Memorial Park. Once a residential district, the area has been transformed into a vast green space filled with saplings. A small museum offers detailed information panels about the tsunami, with English translations of the material available via QR code.

For Culture Buffs and Cat Lovers

Photo by: Rachel Crane Cyborg 009 in stained glass.

Visitors who want to explore Ishinomaki’s non-tsunami-related history can check out the Ishinomori Manga Museum, celebrating the life and work of local Kamen Rider and Cyborg 009 creator Shotaro Ishinomori. The famous manga artist’s legacy can also be felt throughout the city in the form of statues and artworks of his best-known characters. There’s also the Sant Juan Bautista Museum, displaying a replica of a locally built Spanish-style ship, which will reopen after renovations in 2025.

Finally, for animal lovers, a ferry trip to Tashirojima “Cat Island” is a must. Here you can lighten the mood by surrounding yourself with the island’s several-hundred-strong population of feline friends.

Things To Know

Getting around

Buses run approximately once an hour between Ishinomaki station and Minamihama Tsunami Memorial Park until around 4:30 p.m. A taxi to the park will cost around ¥1,400, or you can opt to walk, which will take about 30 minutes.

How To Get There

Address

By train

From Sendai station take the JR Senseki-Tohoku line rapid train to Ishinomaki station. The journey takes approximately one hour. 

Where To Stay

Value The Hotel Higashimatsushima Yamoto
  • 215 Komatsu, Higashimatsushima-shi, Miyagi, 981-0504 Japan
  • ¥6,300 - ¥13,000
  • 4.08/5 (597 reviews)
  • 8.7 km

Topics: , ,