Discovering a renewed fascination in the ocean and mountains of the “City of Iron”-Kamaishi, Iwate prefecture


Endeavoring in new projects and not afraid of failing with a “never mind” attitude

Five years have passed from the Great East Japan Earthquake and as Kamaishi is one of the cities that will host World Cup rugby games they are taking up new projects beginning with the sea and mountains.

The landscape in front of the station symbolizes the City of Iron

When you think of Kamaishi, Iwate prefecture, ironworks and rugby comes to mind. A fluttering banner decorating the station advertises that it has been decided that the area will become a host to the 2019 Rugby World Cup and in front on vast grounds is Kamaishi Works of Nippon Steel. At first glance, you will receive the impression that this is an industrial city, however the suburbs are abundant in nature. It is in this town, you are able to drink in the traditional landscape of the Sanriku coastal inlets and its peninsula at the same time.

The magnetism of the sea (Nebama Kaigan Coast-Hakozaki Pennisula)

Taking a cab for 20 minutes on Route 45 towards Miyako from the station, I arrive at Unosumai District where there are plans to build the Rugby World Cup Stadium. On raised land, a new town is being born centered around housing constructed after the disaster.
At the peninsula protruding into the Pacific Ocean in Otsuchi bay that envelops the Nebama Beach of the Sanriku Fukko National Park (former Rikuchu Kaigan National Park) is the seafaring community of Hakozaki. At this town, the local fishermen, with the support of the former fishermen's cooperative, are starting trial activities for tourists such as aquaculture, stationary net fishing, etc. To learn the enthrallment of the sea, the best mentor would be a fisherman himself therefore the former cooperative gathered and organized previous proved activities and began expanding the options. “Though there are still issues of reconstruction and successors that we must address,” said Shota Shimokawa of the administration organization NPO Ohakozaki Shimin Kaigi “it is a requisite that people visit and contribute even a little to the fisherman’s income. In the future we would like to collaborate with lodging facilities.” 

Nebama Kaigan Coast Coastal forest of black pine which remained miraculously after the disaster
Shota Shimokawa

The magnetism of the mountains (Sanriku Komasha)

The allure of Kamaishi is not limited to the oceans. I visited Sanriku Komasha which was located upstream of the Unozumaigawa River. In the late Edo period about 160 years ago, in the valley of Hashino area, horses and villagers lived under the same roof and the horses transported magnetite produced from the nearby mine to Hashino blast furnace, the first Western-style blast furnace in Japan.
However, with the change of time and the horses that were kept, disappeared from the villages about 30 to 40 years ago. The founder of Sanriku Komasha, Mr. Yutaka Kibihara, moved to this location and restored a Nambu Magariya style Japanese house (housing that was constructed in an L-shape and connected the farm house and horse stables) that had been vacant for more than a decade in 2015 with the cooperation of more than 500 people. While breeding Dosanko horses, he opened Sanriku Komasha in 2016. The facilities include accommodation and equine activities that provide horse therapy to children traumatized by the Great East Japan Earthquake.


Hamabeno Ryouriyado Houraikan is positioned in the perfect spot which overlooks the Nebama Beach past the coastal forest of Japanese black pine. You can fully revel in meals that are made of fresh seafood and local produce from the Sanriku area and the scenic view Nebama and its pine tree grove from the open air bath. The owner, Akiko Iwasaki, noticed early on the importance of green tourism and has been actively promoting Kamaishi as the place where you can enjoy the ocean and mountains connected by a river at the same time. The inn was greatly damaged by the tsunami, but with restoration work it revived brilliantly in April 2015. The forest road in the mountain behind the inn is maintained as a tsunami evacuation road and the rugby stadium will be built on the other side of the mountain.

Outdoor bath with an enchanting view
Dinner incorporating fresh seafood
Tsunami evacuation road climbing up the mountain behind the hotel

The challenging spirit without the fear of failure with the "Never mind" attitude

The indefatigable owner work is whirlwind and she shares her little spare time to speak with me. The time before guest check-ins is used for responding to guests and during dinner and breakfast she visits each table and is politely attentive. At night, there are meetings and barely time to eat meals. Furthermore, there are daily dramatic narration of the disaster following breakfast. As each slide appears on a large screen set up in the saloon she recounts feelings of the state of Kamaishi's center and Nebama community at the time when the tsunami swallowed the area. I was lost for words from shock upon seeing the last slide which shows many desperately fleeing up the hills behind Houraikan as the tsunami attacked.
Another role that hotelier Akiko Iwasaki plays is the chairman of the Nebama Mind Association. Inundated by the tsunami, the community of Nebama was left in ruins therefore she started up an organization for the revitalization of Nebama while managing the hotel. In the white shipping container set up at the port where reconstruction work has been completed this summer, there is a bright red lifeboat, "Wales" gifted by United World College of the Atlantic in South Wales, United Kingdom.
They have held marine rescue training sessions using the Wales lifeboat and this October Wales was used in the Iwate National Open Water Swimming and Triathlon competitions held at the Nebama coast.
The hotelier who continues living in the temporary housing, plans to build her home on the hill overlooking the beach within a stone's throw from her present housing. She is hoping to realize her dream to upgrade the community to provide aqua tourism lodging. From staying at a fisherman’s home as well as an inn with a live music club, she would like various people to come and enjoy the entire area.
Nebama Mind would like to provide young people the opportunity to work with the local community businesses. And, never mind if you fail as long as you have the spirit to try. Chairman Akiko Iwasaki’s wishes are depicted in the name of the organization.

Akiko Iwasaki
From around 08:15, she gives an account of the disaster.
Aqua tourism lodging community be built on high grounds.
Rescue boat that would set to sea to save lives

Locations of places appearing in this article

A-JR Kamaishi Station
B-Sanriku Komasha