Oshika-hanto is a remote peninsula in Miyagi Prefecture, and technically considered part of Ishinomaki-shi, although the locals consider themselves to be quite separate. Pronounced “Ojika” by anyone from other parts of Japan, Oshika consists of several tiny fishing villages, most of which were destroyed in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Despite this, Oshika remains a beautiful place to visit, with stunning sea views, awe-inspiring trees and forests, gorgeous sunsets, and people offering hospitality that is hard to match anywhere in the world.
The coastal road in itself is an adventure, as you travel along roads that go up and down as well as side to side, giving you glimpses of the beautiful ocean on one side, and the forest extending high up the mountains on the other. First you come to the town of Koamikura, where only one home survived the tsunami, and next is Ohara, where Sendai founder Date Masumune established his summer home 400 years ago. Current Ohara residents are descendants of families that fought both alongside and against Date. Next you come to Kobuchi, where you can see the steam rising from the port during wakame season, when people are working hard to rebuild their businesses. Further along the coast is Kuginarihama, which locals will speak of with great pride as they remember the area that was famous for its beach before the earthquake sunk the land and the beach disappeared. The last town is the peninsula’s main port of Ayukawa — the family-owned businesses that were along the sea road for hundreds of years are now in the small temporary shopping street inland of the main road. It is here that you can support the area by eating incredible food with locally sourced ingredients, and buy a wide variety of souvenirs.
Carry on past Ayukawa and you will reach the highest point of the peninsula — Gobansho Koen — and get a panoramic view. Visit here at night and you will see countless shooting stars. This is the closest part of Japan to the earthquake’s epicentre, and if you stand looking to the east, you will be looking out toward the direction in which the tsunami came. The bay you see in front of you emptied just before the tsunami hit.
The island in front of you is Kinkasan, considered a sacred place in Tohoku. It is said that if you visit the island every year for three consecutive years you will never have a money worry again. This island is inhabited only by people who work in the extensive shrine and temple complexes, and there is a weekly boat open to the public that will take you to there for a few hours of exploration. Alternatively, you can privately hire the boat and explore the island at your leisure. The deer on the island (after which the peninsula is named) roam freely and will happily interact with human visitors.
Oshika is a bit of a trek to get to, but it is worth it. It makes for a lovely quiet weekend retreat, or for those looking for something a little more active, it is perfect for hiking, running, cycling, or biking around, and the hotels that have survived or are rebuilding, provide wonderful levels of hospitality.
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