Oku Japan on the Michinoku Coastal Trail: Tracing the Sanriku Coast

The Michinoku Coastal Trail is a breathtaking trip through Tōhoku’s eastern coast and a destination that Oku Japan has been excited to offer. The response from our guests has been amazing, with a great deal of anticipation for our tour, which focuses on the northern part of the Michinoku Coastal Trail, historically known as ‘Sanriku’. 


We talked with three of our team members who surveyed and hiked the Michinoku Coastal Trail in preparation for the launch: Hiroshi, Daniel, and Geoff. 


Hiroshi, a Japanese national who has also worked in Australia, is an avid hiker who is drawn to mountain trails. For him, nature is what informs his favourite hiking destinations; he loves untouched wilderness, unique flora and fauna, and uninhabited places. 


‘I don’t like to go anywhere where I can meet another person,’ laughs Daniel, an Australian member of the team who, like Hiroshi, prefers to hike off the beaten track. His impression of the Michinoku Coastal Trail wasn’t one of just beauty, but of a place that was refreshing and invigorating. 


Hiroshi looking out over the coastline


Geoff, who hails from Germany and enjoys hiking anywhere near water – from lakes to rivers to the sea – found the coastal hiking along the Michinoku Trail’s rugged seaside cliffs and over its beaches to be a delight. He marvelled at the cleanliness of the water in places like Tanohata and Jōdogahama, where he could easily see schools of fish while wading along the shore. 


The ocean, with its crystal-clear beaches, lies at the heart of the Michinoku Coastal Trail’s natural offerings. It’s from this ocean that the area’s primary industry – fishing – thrives, though the locals’ respect for the land is palpable. The Michinoku is a no-frills kind of place. Even Jōdogahama, which is arguably one of the more popular destinations in the area for visitors, has not been overdeveloped like some other tourist destinations. 


Sunset view from Jōdogahama
Jōdogahama, the beach named after a Buddhist paradise. 
‘There was a real pleasant sense of accomplishment at arriving there.’ -Daniel


It’s this that made their adventure along the Michinoku Coastal Trail a breath of fresh air. From the ‘singing’ beach of Ōsuka to the expansive views from Samuraihama, their hikes through the trail were varied and always offered something new.  Alpine flowers dotted the paths during Geoff and Hiroshi’s summer visit, and Geoff remembers the trek up to the 200-metre-high Cape Kitayamazaki fondly. 


‘We’d walk up one ridge that would have us going through a forest, then the next ridge would have us along a river, and the next over a pebble beach; something different every time. Then, finally, we came up over the last ridge and there was Kitayamazaki.’ 


The view from Cape Kitayamazaki
‘I definitely want to make that hike again.’ -Geoff


What also stood out to all our members who visited the Michinoku Coastal Trail were the people. Wherever our group went, they were greeted with warmth, with smiles, and hospitality. There was always an eagerness to show their culture off to visitors: 


The residents of the Sanriku Coast are bound together by a number of things: the remoteness of the area, a shared way of life, and tragedy. The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami tested the limits of human endurance and bonds; over a decade later, the scars on the land and on the hearts of people are still present. However, the disaster also proved their resilience. Even scattered as they were, the people here reached out to one another to help in a time of need. Notably, the disaster spurred many youths who had moved out to urban centres to ‘make a u-turn,’ a phrase used in Japan to refer to people who’d relocated to the city returning to the rural areas they hailed from. 


Much work has been done to rebuild, and the sense of pride in the land and the community is palpable. Throughout their trip, all of our team members felt the strong connection between the residents themselves, as well as between the residents and travellers.


Warm hospitality awaits you
‘We were touched by the friendliness of the locals – meeting the people feels meaningful. You can tell they’re happy to see visitors in their little corner of the world.’ -Geoff


A feast consisting of a variety of seafoodWhen asked what kind of person would love the Michinoku Coastal Trail as much as they did, our team members agreed on one particular thing: to traverse the Michinoku Trail, one must love seafood. With both the quality of ocean bounties and the emphasis on fishing in the area, from standard fare such as fish and uni (sea urchin – the local speciality) to hoya (sea squirt), Tōhoku is truly a seafood gourmand’s dream...but people who do not enjoy it may struggle. If you’re planning on travelling here, now’s your chance to sample some unique dishes, such as awabi korokke, or abalone croquette. 



The ridges, elevation changes, and lengthy beach walks also ask for a bit more care. A confident hiker would highly enjoy the trail, though there isn’t enough of a challenge to sate avid alpinists. Nevertheless, the Michinoku Coastal Trail is an unforgettable experience. For anyone who’s looking for something a little different in their exploration of Japan, the Sanriku coast is a vivid example of Tōhoku’s unique gifts. 


View over the rugged coastline
‘There’s a sense of sincerity here. The people hold onto their roots, and their treasure is the land itself.’ -Hiroshi