Ofunato City is located in Iwate Prefecture on the Sanriku Coast, which is one of the third largest fishing grounds in the world. This sea-side town has a ria coastline, which supports an array of seafood delicacies. It also boasts the largest catch of sanma (Pacific saury) fish in Honshu, Japan’s main island.
The city has recovered greatly from the damage it suffered in the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of 2011, and it was even recently voted in as one of the most desirable towns to live in in Tohoku. Ofunato can be reached by car from Ichinoseki in about 1.5 hours, or by a bus which takes about 2.5 hours.
1. Experiencing Ofunato
1. Goishi Coast & Anatoshisen Boat Cruise
The Goishi Coast, which extends for 6 KM on the Massaki Peninsula in Ofunato, is part of a national park, geopark, and a national trail, all of which stretch along the Sanriku Coast. Just off the coast, there’s a mysterious rock formation which has three hole-openings going through it, called the Anatoshiiso. The holes of the Anatoshiiso can be passed through by a small boat, and it’s said that those who pass through the holes will obtain happiness in life. The boat cruise, which is guided by local wakame seaweed fishermen, is a thrilling way to experience the coast.
*The boat tour runs from June to November, and costs 2000 yen per adult and 1000 yen per child (elementary school aged or younger)
2. Koishihama Station
The Koishihama Station is part of the Rias Line for the Sanriku Railway, and its name (恋し浜駅) directly translates to the Love Beach Station. The area is not only famous for love, however, as the bay area next to the station is home to some of the best scallops out there. The love-inspired station is especially popular with people who are looking to find someone special. Inside, there are scallop shells are used as ema (shrine plaques for writing wishes on) which visitors are free to write their love wishes on. There is also a small shrine alter inside, which visitors can pray for their love-life at.
Other Things to do Around the Station:
The Koishihama Scallop Deck, which is located next to the station, serves up grilled scallops on weekends, from spring to fall. The fisherman who raises these scallops also holds boat tours which allow visitors to get a taste of scallop farming. Furthermore, the Scallop Deck hosts scuba-diving lessons, making this a perfect spot to experience Ofunato’s unique coast and sea-life.
*Reservations for the Scallop Deck, fisherman boat tour, and diving lessons can be made through the Koishihama Scallop Deck website: https://koishihama.jp
3. Suisen (Sake)
Suisen, a local Japanese sake brewery in Ofunato, has an array of sake which live up to the praise of sake abroad. Suisen’s original junmaishu (sake made without added alcohol or sugar), and the popular winter limited-edition “Yukikko” are just some of the lovely sake you can enjoy from Suisen. Yukikko even has skincare products made from it, including facemasks and face gels, so those who don’t drink can enjoy it as well. Staff at the brewery can give visitors a tour around the factory, which includes trying out 5~6 different types of sake at the end of the tour. Visitors are sure to find a sake perfect for their tastes here.
*Reservation required. Website: https://suisenshuzo.jp
2. Unique dishes to Ofunato
1. Sanma Ramen
Ofunato is so famous for catching sanma (Pacific saury), that it holds a Sanma Festival at Tokyo Tower every year, where the city gives out thousands of grilled sanma for free. Restaurants around Ofunato also make ramen with the fish, and each restaurant features a different recipe. Each bowl of sanma ramen costs a reasonable price of 750 yen, making it a casual dish to enjoy for any occasion. Asides from being delicious, this ramen is also great for photo-ops!
2. The Scallop Burger
Ofunato’s local American-styled hamburger shop, the Burger Hearts, gives visitors the perfect chance to try out a hamburger different from what they’ve ever eaten before. The Scallop Burger uses Ofunato’s local brand-name “Koishihama Scallop”, which is prepared in a cream croquette style.
3. Persimmon Soft Serve Ice Cream
The first place to make persimmon flavored soft serve ice cream in Japan is none other than the Sanriku Roadside Station in Ofunato. This ice cream uses Ofunato’s special persimmons, and has a lovely flavor which tastes just like the fruit.
3. See the newly recovered Ofunato
The shopping districts, Kyassen Ofunato and the Yume Shopping District, were both built where Ofunato’s shopping area was previously located, before it was destroyed in the tsunami of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. How about coming by to see the inspiring new townscape, which locals have strived to make a reality?
1. Kyassen Ofunato
There are endless things to do and see at the Kyassen Ofunato outlet shopping mall, which has restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, a live house and more. The term, “Kyassen”, means “welcome” in the local dialect of Kesen region, where Ofunato is located. Kyassento Kyassen!
2. Ofunato Yume Shopping District and Yume Alley
At the Yume Shopping District, there are local shops such as clothing shops and barbershops, which can give visitors a glance into the livelihoods of locals in Ofunato. In the Yume Alley, next to the main shopping district, there are many bars, so it’s a nice spot for visitors to experience Ofunato’s nightlife scene. The shopping district is a convenient short walk from Ofunato Station.
Whether it be thanks to Ofunato’s delicious seafood, stunning nature, or the resilient city’s story, Ofunato makes for a memorable getaway to see Iwate’s coast.
Written by Olivia Lee and Marina Sasaki