Tag Archives: Miyagi

Exploring Miyagi

We return this week to Tohoku in Exploring Japan with Miyagi Prefecture.

Miyagi Prefecture is on the Pacific coast of the northern Tohoku region of Honshu, and was one of the most severely damaged areas during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.  It has a population of 2,337,513.  The capital and largest city is Sendai.  The 5 largest cities are:

  1. Sendai (1,045,986)
  2. Ishinomaki (164,294)
  3. Osaki (135,129)
  4. Tome (84,070)
  5. Kurihara (74,932)

Due to the casualties suffered in coastal cities, there is no current population information.  Some of these may be outdated.  Both Sendai and Ishinomaki were hit by the tsunami.

Castles

Shiroishi Castle in Shiroishi is a recent reconstruction.  It was rebuilt using traditional methods, so should be quite faithful to the original.  It doesn’t appear to be very big.

Aoba Castle in Sendai consists of ruins and some reconstructed buildings.  There is currently some reconstruction or restoration going on. It’s also known as Sendai Castle.

Sports

In professional baseball, Sendai is host to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. In J-League soccer, Vegalta Sendai in Sendai city is in the top tier.

Things to see and do

Due to the tsunami in 2011, some of the following places may be unavailable due to reconstruction or lack of reconstruction.  However, most of the prefecture is business as usual, so I definitely recommend going there and supporting the local economy.  It’s very important to help them out.

Sendai is the largest city in the Tohoku region, so is the central hub for the area.  It’s a very green city that’s close to both the ocean and mountains. Osaki Hachiman Shrine is an important and attractive shrine in Sendai and holds the Donto-sai Festival.  Just outside the city is a large statue of Kannon. Rinnoji is a nice temple with a big garden. Zuihoden is the mausoleum of Date Masamune.  Miyagi Museum of Art is good for some modern art and a garden. Sendai Mediatheque has interesting architecture. SS 30 Observation Lounge is an observation deck on the 29th and 30th floors of an office building that’s free to the public. Sendai City Museum should be interesting. The Museum of the Forest of Depths of the Earth sounds quite interesting, featuring the stone age. Yagiyama Zoo is the local zoo. Benyland is a small amusement park that should be fun. You can take a tour at the Nikka Whisky Distillery and finish with free whisky. You can enjoy the Michinoku-Yosakoi Festival, as well.  Finally, Sendai hosts the largest Tanabata Festival in Japan during August. Sendai has some natural sites, too.  Akiu Great Falls is one of Japan’s top 3 waterfalls. There are also hot spring areas in Akiu and Sakunami.

Ishinomaki is a famous fishing city.  It hosts a few interesting things, but not a large amount.  There’s a full-sized replica of the Japanese galleon San Juan Bautista.  You can also visit the Ishinomori Manga Museum. There are some interesting islands, as well.  Tashirojima is known as Manga Island. Kinkasan is considered a very holy site, and it hosts a shrine, as well as many hiking trails.

Kesennuma is a city that was hit very hard by the tsunami.  It’s begun to recover, but there’s a lot of hard work ahead.  It has an attractive natural spot, though. Oreishii is a rock that attracts a lot of people.

Matsuhima is a town that was hit by the tsunami, but the main sights were not damaged. Matsushima Bay is one of Japan’s top 3 best views.  Zuiganji temple is a top Zen temple with a long history. Kanrantei Pavilion is a large teahouse with a great view of the coast. Fukuura Island is a good place to take a walk, and is accessible by a bridge. Otakamori is a great place to see the bay, and requires a 1 km walk up the hill.

Osaki has an area called the Naruko Hot Spring Villages.  Naruko Gorge is a great viewing spot in autumn. Taki no Yu is a traditional bathhouse that uses water from two separate springs and creates artificial waterfalls.

Zao Quasi-National Park is on the border of Miyagi and Yamagata.  It has the complex volcano Mount Zao, which is also host to a ski resort. This is the most volcanically active area in Tohoku.

Food

Miyagi, especially Sendai, is famous for gyu-tan, or grilled slices of cow tongue.  You can also get shark fin soup in Kesennuma.

Have you been to Miyagi?  What did I miss?  Do you have any recommendations?

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Have people forgotten?

There’s so much focus on the nuclear problem that’s happening in Japan, I think many people are forgetting the victims of the tsunami. There are tens of thousands of people in shelters waiting for food and water that isn’t being delivered fast enough. People in the Tokyo area need to make sure they conserve gas and stop hoarding food. It’s making it difficult for the victims to receive much needed aid.

I’d also like to mention that there are several charities that you can donate to. If you can, please donate.

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“Oh, it’s an earthquake.”

It’s been more than 48 hours since the big earthquake.  As of this moment, the magnitude has been revised to 9.0, there are still tsunami warnings, still a possibility of an aftershock of up to magnitude 8.0, a likely partial meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, more than 1000 dead, entire towns wiped off the face of the earth, frequent aftershocks in the 5-6 magnitude range, and a very real threat of blackouts in the Tokyo area tomorrow when offices and businesses open.  There’s a lot of uncertainty about what’s going to happen.  I’ve been reading about economic difficulties for Japan, yet the rebuilding process will likely greatly boost Japan’s economy, with a large number of jobs being created.  Japan is a resilient country.  This isn’t the first time disaster has struck, and it isn’t the deadliest, but this is the most massive earthquake ever recorded in Japan since earthquakes started being measured.  It is tied for the 4th largest earthquake ever recorded in the world.  But in the Sendai area, they will rebuild.  Homes, farms, towns, cities, they’ll rebuild.  They’ll probably even rebuild all the shrines and temples that were wiped away, just as they did after World War II.  This is the reality right now.  I’m at home, as it’s my day off, and I’ll be returning to work on Tuesday, as usual.  When I go outside, you’d never know there had just been a massive megathrust earthquake that moved Honshu 2.5 metres to the east and spawned a deadly tsunami that devastated the east coast of northwestern Japan and caused damage in Hawaii, Oregon and California.  It is absolutely surreal.  I still can’t believe it happened.  I just experienced a 9.0 magnitude earthquake!  Yes, I’m not near the epicentre, but it was frightening in Yokohama.  So, this is what happened at 2:46pm on March 11, 2011.

I was teaching my first class of the day, with only 9 minutes to go until the end of the lesson.  The building started shaking, and I said to my student, “Oh, it’s an earthquake.”  We stopped talking and just looked at each other and the walls and door.  No big deal, I’ve felt earthquakes like this before, I thought.  The shaking continued for a while, and I realised that it was getting stronger.  I opened the classroom door, and we immediately went out to the lobby where my student’s 4 year old son was watching a video.  My coworkers and I decided that we had to evacuate immediately.  Our school is on the 4th floor of a building that’s not so new, so we were quite worried.  The shaking continued to get stronger.  One of my students for my next class was also present, and as she was an elderly lady, we had to slowly help her down the stairs.  The shaking kept getting stronger and stronger!  I was wondering when it was going to end.  We were all scared.  I normally weather earthquakes quite well, and shrug them off, but this was nothing like I’d ever felt before.  This was a violent earthquake!  We finally made it out of the building, and saw many people outside.

After a few minutes, we were unsure of what to do.  The ground had stopped moving, and there appeared to be no damage.  We decided to go back up to the school, see what the damage was, and find out what we could do.  I couldn’t get any phone calls out with my cell phone, though internet still worked.  I looked up earthquake information, and it said magnitude 8.9.  8.9!  Was this “The Big One?”  Of course, it turned out it isn’t the big one that Kanto is expecting, but this was unimaginably huge.

We got back up to the school and found no damage.  Some books had fallen off shelves, but that’s all.  We wondered what to do.  I was actually ready to start my next lesson, and we thought no one else would be coming.  But the manager told us that we were told to evacuate.  So, down the stairs we went again!  But this time, I was sure to grab all of my belongings, in case we weren’t returning.  One of my students arrived just as we were leaving.  Class was canceled.

For the rest of the day, we were back up in the school, just waiting to see what’s going to happen.  A big aftershock hit, a 7.1, but we still waited.  No other students came, many had to take the train to get to the school.  All trains were stopped.  We wondered how we were getting home.  Phones were working on and off, text messaging wasn’t working, but I could still access the internet on my phone.  I made sure I left messages on Facebook to let everyone know I was ok immediately after the earthquake.  The news reports were shocking.  I’m sure you know what happened.  Most businesses closed and didn’t allow anyone inside.

So, how did we get home?  Well, after some waiting on the floor in a bank by the station for someone to pick us up, we learned that the traffic was so bad that it would take quite a while.  So, we decided to start walking in the direction of Yamato.  However, as we were in the station, they announced that the trains had started running, and we went to the platform.  We all separated, and I took the Izumino Line to Shonandai.  The train moved slowly, probably as a safety precaution.  The rest of the way was uneventful, and I met up with my girlfriend to get something to eat.  Restaurants were open, which is a good thing.  Supermarkets were closed, and all the food was gone in convenience stores.  When we arrived home, there was no damage.  A light was hanging at an angle, a few things were knocked down and all the sliding doors were open.  We were lucky.

Yesterday, it was difficult to get food in convenience stores.  All sold out.  We had to get food from restaurants.  I have yet to go to any stores today, but I’ll check out the supermarket and convenience stores to see how their supplies are.

I hope that those of you who are in Japan are safe.  It’s been an unforgettable experience, that’s for sure.

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Earthquake!

I’m doing ok! There was a major earthquake today off the coast of northern Honshu, near Sendai. It was magnitude 8.9, with large aftershocks. There was a 7 metre tsunami that devastated the east coast of northern Honshu around Miyagi prefecture. Tokyo felt it very much. I was at work in Yokohama when it hit, and it was massive. A lot of shaking for about 3 minutes. It started off slowly, but became quite violent. A few books fell down at work, but that’s all. I’m still waiting to go home, and I have no idea what kind of mess I’ll find there.

This earthquake is the largest earthquake ever recorded in Japan, and the 7th largest in the world. I can’t believe I experienced it.

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