Michinoku Coastal Trail
Hike alongside the Pacific Ocean and witness the beauty and scars of Tohoku.
In 2011, an earthquake and resulting tsunami devastated the eastern coast of northern Japan’s Tohoku region. In an effort to revitalize and assist the area, the Japanese Ministry of Environment in 2013 started plans to construct the Michinoku Coastal Trail to help assist the areas affected and display the true beauty of the region.
The Michinoku Coastal Trail (Michinoku being an old nickname for Tohoku) is a series of trails hugging the Pacific coast of Japan’s Tohoku region. Joining the likes of other long trails in the world, such as the Greater Patagonian Trail in South America, this one follows the ocean for around an impressive 700 kilometers.
The trail starts in the northern city of Hachinohe in Aomori Prefecture and ends in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, just an hour south of Sendai. It offers a way to gain insight into the people and scars of this region, as well as views of untouched natural beauty that range from grassy knolls to rocky coasts to waterfalls and a lot more.
Countless towns and cities along the trail were wiped out from the tsunami and many are still recovering years after the initial death and destruction. One section of the Michinoku Coast Trail goes through Kamaichi City in southern Iwate Prefecture. There, you can witness the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, in remembrance of those who died in the disaster. The stadium is a beautiful memorial of the struggles many people endured, but also a reminder for the locals to persevere and rebuild.
Segments of the trail go through areas filled with powerful stories like in Kamaichi but also showcases magnificent nature, delicious seafood and warm-hearted people. Hiking the entire 700-kilometer trail takes roughly one month. However, most people choose to hike just a portion of the trail.
Highlights of Michinoku Coastal Trail
Here are just a few of the highlights you’ll discover, even if you decide to just make it a day trip while staying in a nearby city.
Aomori Prefecture starts the trail off with famous spots like Otsuka Beach and the grassy Tanesashi Coast. These areas are a preview for the rest of the gorgeous hike to come – rocky coasts with pine trees and the roar of the Pacific Ocean.
Iwate Prefecture has the longest section of the trail home to endless jagged, rocky cliffs hanging over the sea like Samurai Iishi Rock near Kuji city, also countless small fishing villages, and hidden Shinto shrines like the one on Horaijima Island. Be sure to check out the beauty of Jodogahama Beach (the featured photo), as well as the “Miracle Pine Tree” which withstood destruction during the tsunami and is a symbol of hope.
Miyagi Prefecture’s section of the trail takes you past Oshima Island which is well-known for beautiful beaches and plenty of camping sights. Miyagi’s section also hosts Matsushima Bay, which is one of Japan’s three most celebrated views (along with the likes of Itsukushima Shrine in Hiroshima Prefecture), as well as the northeastern region’s capital city of Sendai.
Fukushima Prefecture’s section hosts the end of the trail in Soma, a town just 50 kilometers north of the damaged nuclear plant. Despite the bad press, Soma and northern Fukushima are safe areas full of the same beauty and wonder the rest of the trail has to offer.
Things to know: Maps
The Michinoku Coastal Trail website has detailed maps and info on each area:
- Website: http://tohoku.env.go.jp/mct/english/
- Map: http://tohoku.env.go.jp/mct/english/top/pdf/route.pdf