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Michinoku Coastal Trail

Duration

11 Days , 10 Nights

Activity Level

Start / Finish

Hachinohe / Ishinomaki

Technical Level

A walking tour following a spectacular and varied coastal trail in northern Japan.

A guided exploration following the Michinoku Coastal Trail in Japan’s Tohoku region; excellent walks from beaches to cliff tops and through coastal communities. Spectacular views over the Pacific Ocean and intricately carved coastline. Beautifully located accommodation mostly overlooking the sea, bountiful seafood cuisine.

April to June, and September to November.

The Michinoku Coastal Trail is a fully-guided tour suitable for anyone who can walk for more than three to four hours in comfort. In general, the route is gently undulating but it includes some short sharp ascents and some longer gentler ascents and descents. Please read more on tour levels here.

 

An 11-day, 10-night tour starting in Hachinohe and finishing in Ishinomaki. Accommodation is in hotels and Japanese inns. The maximum group size for this tour is 12 persons. We have no minimum size. If we accept a booking we guarantee to run the tour.

 


Walk Japan’s Michinoku Coastal Trail tour explores the Sanriku Coast on the eastern side of Japan’s northern Tohoku region by following sections of the Michinoku Shiokaze Coastal Trail, a footpath connecting Aomori, Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures. Tohoku is by equal measures beautiful and rugged, and often remote. It is also bountiful, especially aside the ocean, and, at times, can be very harsh. This area took the full force of the earthquake and then tsunami, which swept over many of the coastal communities here in March 2011.

 

Our journey leads us from grassy promenades, through forests, to remote beaches and soaring clifftops, and to fishing ports, some tiny with a few one-man boats and others with fleets of ocean-going trawlers. We visit many quiet coastal villages and towns, some untouched by the dramatic events of 2011 and others where the work of reconstruction still continues. Throughout this region the resilience, persistence, generosity, sense of community and kindness common to all Japanese are abundantly clear and wherever we go on our travels we are warmly welcomed by the locals into their midst.

 

The Michinoku Shiokaze Coastal Trail, a long-distance footpath that weaves its way aside the Pacific Ocean for 1,025 kilometres (637 miles), was established as a symbol of recovery, and to encourage others to visit and enjoy this wonderful region. The Trail’s officially stated objectives include the enjoyment of beautiful sights and natural landscapes; to welcome all who love to walk and bring about connections between locals and visitors; and to memorialise the kindness and harshness of nature including the events of 2011.

 

Our journey begins in Hachinohe, a pleasant regional city and the Michinoku Shiokaze Coastal Trail’s most northerly point. From hereon, we travel south following the trail aside the clear emerald-blue Pacific Ocean, on foot and sometimes by charming, one or two carriage local trains. At times the coast is bounded by soaring precipices, at other times it is an intricate carving of inlets and bays. All the communities we visit are watched over by ancient Shinto shrines built to give thanks for bounty found in the surrounding fertile seas and as a redoubt against its occasional overwhelming powerful nature. On our way we visit some of the most picturesque natural sights in Japan including classic pine tree coastlines and Jodoga-hama, a beautifully formed cliff of white sandstone framed by emerald seas. With luck we may occasional catch sight of ospreys soaring high above us or an elusive serow, a goat-antelope like animal. As we travel south the geography becomes less remote and the population greater but the welcome no less warm. We end the tour in Ishinomaki, from where trains depart to other destinations in Japan.

 

Depending on the season our meals may include a wide variety of local abalone, oysters, clams, salmon, squid and a plethora of other fish varieties. The majority of our accommodation, which are usually located in small settlements, incorporate baths overlooking the sea for a delightful and leisurely way to relax before our culinary feast each evening. Good weather willing, early risers can watching glorious sunrises over the Pacific Ocean while enjoying a reviving morning soak.

 

The Michinoku Coastal Trail ventures to some of the most scenic areas of Japan’s Sanriku Coastline. We meet in Hachinohe and travel together on foot, by train and sometimes vehicle through some the remotest areas of Japan before arriving in Ishinomaki, where the tour finishes.

 
The itinerary for the Michinoku Trail tour is ground-only, beginning in Hachinohe and ending in Ishinomaki. Prior to the tour, Walk Japan will provide detailed instructions for travelling to the meeting point in Hachinohe from Tokyo's Narita (NRT) and Haneda (HND) Airports. At the end of the tour, please note that the travel time by train to both airports can take up to five hours.

 

Please note also that on Day 9 our main baggage will be shipped in advance overnight. On this day, you will need to carry all items you require overnight; your daypack should be sufficiently large to accommodate these items.

 

On some days of the following itinerary we may have to alter our walking route according to the timing of high tide.

 


Day 1 Hachinohe


The tour starts at 6pm in the tour hotel lobby, which is close by Hachinohe Station, where Shinkansen bullet trains arrive in just under three hours from Tokyo. Your Walk Japan Tour Leader awaits to greet everybody and start the tour briefing, which continues over dinner. A short train journey, the first off many we experience on this tour, brings us to Hachinohe’s small but lively evening quarter, where we dine together at a hospitable local izakaya restaurant.

 

Accommodation: Hotel.
Meals: Dinner provided.
Total walking: N/A.
Total elevation gain: N/A.

 


Day 2 Hachinohe - Tanesashi Coast - Taneichi


An early morning start but before departing we send our main baggage ahead by courier, as we will do on many days the tour, to our accommodation for this evening. We board a local train to the outskirts of the city and an atmospheric morning market, where we eat breakfast. A short journey beyond here the impressive Kabushima Shinto shrine stands atop a promontory overlooking the sea. Venerating Benzaiten, a kami Shinto god that protects fishermen and brings business success, this elegant building is a popular site with the locals and also with black-tailed gulls, which nest in the vicinity.

 

Kabushima Shrine is the official northern start point of the 1,025km-long Michinoku Coastal Trail and marks the beginning of our exploration of this impressive coastal walking route. The terrain here is either flat or gently undulating and provides us with a comfortable day’s walking to start our tour together. The trail threads it way over wide grassy expanses and sandy beaches and we enjoy lunch en route at a seaside cafe. Finally, we reach a station to board another train, which follows the coast to Taneichi and our accommodation at a simple hotel aside the sea. Dinner is a concoction of local delicacies.

 

Accommodation: Hotel. 
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Total walking: 10.5km (6.5 miles)/ 6 hours.
Total elevation gain: 40m (131ft).

 

Day 3 Taneichi - Samurai-hama


After breakfast we once again board a train that follows the coast to a remote station set in woodlands. From here, a further quick taxi ride brings us to the start of our walk today, which leads us through some of the remotest countryside of the tour.

 

Our trail passes through forest and from time to time leads us to the rocky coast. Along the way we come across Samurai-ishi, a series of giant rock slabs on which, in rough seas, waves crash spectacularly. Adjacent is a tiny picturesque fishing port. Our path continues on largely through broad leaf and pine coastal forests until we reach a quiet hamlet, where our walk ends at the small shinto shrine set on a high promontory. From here we are afforded spectacular views back to the coast we negotiated today and over the surrounding seas. A vehicle transfers us to our nearby accommodation, again aside the sea, for the night. Our evening meal includes both locally caught fish and mushrooms, the establishment’s speciality.

 

Accommodation: Japanese inn.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Total walking: 11km (6.9 miles)/ 6 hours.
Total elevation gain: 378m (1,240ft).

 

Day 4 Samurai-hama - Fudai - Tanohata


After breakfast, we transfer with our luggage by vehicle to Fudai, a large coastal village that is dominated by a huge 15.5m high seawall and flood gates. These were completed in 1984 and, although topped in part by the tsunami in 2011, held firm and saved Fudai from serious inundation.

 

Our route today threads its way along a dynamic coast of high sheer cliffs, quite different to scenery we enjoyed on the previous two days. A relatively energetic day, at times we find ourselves in forests at the top of the cliffs with expansive views over the aquamarine blue seas far below; at other times we follow the base of the cliffs along the shoreline. In between we descend and ascend the cliffs on steep steps that connect these two distinctly different and evocative environments. Lunch is a traditional bento, which we enjoy alfresco in these beautiful surroundings.

 

The day ends with a short vehicle transfer to a comfortable modern Japanese hotel in a fishing hamlet aside a remote beach. Although a hotel, the rooms are in the Japanese style with tatami mat flooring and futon bedding. Our hosts are rightly proud of their cuisine, which is always a creative and mouth-watering banquet, and the communal baths, which have tremendous views overlooking the ocean.

 

Accommodation: Hotel.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Total walking: 10.5km (6.5 miles)/6.5 hours .
Total elevation gain: 655m (2,149ft).

 

Day 5 Tanohata - Jodoga-hama


After breakfast, we begin the day with, unsurprisingly given our now well-rehearsed daily routine, a transfer by train but this time on the Sanriku Railway. Severely damaged in 2011, the battle to the railway line’s full restoration in 2019 has been a poignant symbol, felt throughout Japan, of the resilience, fortitude and faith in the future found in the Tohoku region.

 

Today’s trail follows a particularly geologically interesting coastline that, amongst some great views includes a blowhole. Here, in heavy seas, compressed water spouts out to a height of 30 meters and more. Today, however, we also begin to see more of the scars wrought by the 2011 tsunami and the heavy construction undertaken since to help alleviate any future inundation.

 

After lunch, which is another delicious bento lunch box eaten as a picnic, we walk on finishing our day at Jodoga-hama, a beautifully photogenic site. A series of heavily weathered cliffs, quiet bays and sparklingly white sandy beaches, all topped off with red pines, provides us with a quintessential Japanese scene. Our accommodation tonight is close by allowing us to enjoy Jodoga-hama at our leisure through the evening and early the following day.

 

Similar to last night’s accommodation, we enjoy tatami mat Japanese-style rooms and another Japanese banquet for dinner.

 

Accommodation: Hotel.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Total walking: 8km (5 miles)/ 5 hours.
Total elevation gain: 358m (1,175ft).

 

Day 6 Jodoga-hama - Yamada - Unosumai


Given suitable weather, sunrises are a feature of this tour, but perhaps the one at Jodogahama is the most impressive as the sun appears over the surrounding cliffs. An event well worth rising for in the early morning.

 

We drive through Miyako to its railway station to re-board a Sanriku train. The height of the newly constructed seawalls, which we pass on our way in Miyako, is a clear testament to the power of the sea in ferment and also to the indefatigable nature of the locals. We see similar scene several times hereon as we travel further south on our journey.

 

Today, we are leaving behind the remoter rocky coastline of northern Tohoku we have experienced since leaving Hachinohe. Beyond Miyako the coast changes to an intricate scenic web of peninsulas and bays which shelter calmer seas. Over the centuries many port towns and villages developed along this coast to take advantage of the rich fishing grounds found offshore.

 

Our rail journey brings us to the start of our walk, and soon after we begin a steep climb to a pass, where vistas open up over the surrounding coastal inlets within which fishing boats come and go and oyster hatcheries float. A steeper walk down leads us to Aragami, a popular scenic beach. Our walk today finishes a little further on past a newly constructed and imposing giant seawall where a vehicle awaits to transfer us to our accommodation. On the way there we pass by the rugby stadium, another symbol of revival, built to host pool matches in the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

 

Our accommodation is a modern Japanese inn, beautiful sited adjacent to a sandy beach and pine grove. Dinner is once again a multi-course meal compose of local delicacies.

 

Accommodation: Japanese inn.
Meals: Breakfast & dinner provided.
Total walking: 12.5km (8 miles) /6.5 hours.
Total elevation gain: 476m (1,562ft).

 

Day 7 Unosumai - Kuwadai Pass - Okirai


From Unosumai we transfer once again on the Sanriku Railway to an unmanned, halt station. Our walk today is a section of Hama-kaido, an old trail that used to be the main route between Sendai, Tohoku’s principal city, and the coast. In the Edo Period (1603-1868), Sendai was the seat of the powerful Date samurai clan and products such as salt, iron and, of course, seafood were transported along this route. After a steep but brisk climb through forests to 400m above sea level we reach the Kuwadai Pass. We enjoy a picnic lunch here before descending to Yoshihama, a village set on high ground above the sea. Learning the hash lessons from a tsunami in 1896 the locals moved their village out of harms way, very much to their descendants appreciation in 2011. We walk through the this homely village to a sugi cedar tree reputed to be 7,000 years old and revered as a god. It along with its associated Shinto shrine survived the inundation in 2011 and other tsunami in the past.

 

This evening we leave the coast and head inland for Okirai, a village in the nearby mountains, and our accommodation, cottages surround by forests. Another evening banquet awaits us.

 

Accommodation: Lodge.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Total walking: 11km (6.9 miles) 6 hours.
Total elevation gain: 637m (2,090ft).

 

Day 8 Okirai - Ryori - Rikuzentakata


Before we leaving Okirai, we explore this charming community before catching another train to Ryori for our walk today along another stretch of the Hama-kaido, which along with our previous day’s walking has been incorporated into the Michinoku Shiokaze Coastal Trail.

 

As we set out we visit a local carpenter’s workshop. This region has long been known in Japan since the early Edo Period for its travelling Kessen-daiku carpenters expert in the building of intricate temples and shrines around the nation. These include the grand Meiji Jingu shrine in Tokyo. Beyond, on our way we stop at series of increasingly larger waterfalls set in an atmospheric narrow gorge. Torii shrine gates line the gorge, which along with the waterfalls is revered locally as a site sacred to Shinto. One of these was made and donated by the carpenter we met earlier.

 

The waterfalls marks the start of our ascent to the Ryori Pass. Our descent leads us into populous Ofunato, one of Japan’s major fishing ports. From here we transfer by vehicle to our accommodation for the night at a chic modern Japanese-style inn. Close to the coast once more, the inn’s high terrace provides us with beautiful panoramic views over the surrounding mountains to the sea.

 

Accommodation: Modern inn.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Total walking: 9km (5.5 miles) 4 hours.
Total elevation gain: 547m (1,795ft).

 

Day 9 Rikuzentakata - Ohara - Ayukawa


Today, we send our luggage overnight to our accommodation on Day 10 before boarding a minibus, which we use for the rest of the day. First, we visit nearby Fumon-ji, a temple and prime example of the skilled work of Kessen-daiku carpenters. The complex includes an exquisitely carved three-storied pagoda.

 

Next, we visit an understated but beautifully rendered memorial to those lost locally in the 2011 tsunami. In equal measures it is sombre, educational and a market place of local produce and gifts - a symbol of the Japanese forthright positive attitude to life and its ups and downs.

 

From here we drive a couple of hours to the Oshika Peninsula, where we rejoin the Michinoku Coastal Trail and enjoy a walk over the Kozumi Pass. Beyond lies Ohara, a small fishing village. Here we meet some of the locals, a tough breed of fishermen and women who explain how the tsunami affected their community and how they since have recovered. Our hotel, where we stay for two nights, in Ayukawa lies at the end of the peninsula on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and sacred Kinkazan, an island which we visit tomorrow. Another banquet centered on produce from the surrounding seas completes our evening.

 

Accommodation: Modern Japanese-style hotel.
Meals: Breakfast & dinner provided.
Total walking: 5km (3.5 miles) 2 hours.
Total elevation gain: 105m (344ft).

 

Day 10 Ayukawa - Kinkazan - Ajishima - Ayukawa


Today, we board a sea taxi to leisurely explore Kinkazan. We first pay our respects at Kogane-yama Jinja, a large and ornate shrine complex, which was established here in the 8th Century to celebrate the first ever gold found in Japan here on the island. Gold is no longer mined and most visitors today are either here to pray or for sport fishing. We, of course, are here to walk and we set off along the Coastal Trail to ascend the island’s 444m peak on a five kilometer circular route that leads us back to the port. Reboarding our sea taxi, we venture to nearby Ajishima, a delightfully rural island. We enjoy lunch near the port and set off on our last section of the Coastal Trail of the tour before boarding our boat back to Ayukawa and our hotel.

 

Our accommodation is a Japanese inn. Here we enjoy soaking in onsen thermal hot spring baths before enjoying yet another sumptuous, multi-course dinner.

 

Accommodation: Japanese inn with onsen thermal hot spring baths.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Total walking: 12km (7.5 miles) 6.5 hours.
Total elevation gain: 550m (1,804ft).

 

Day 11 Ayukawa - Ishinomaki


The tour finishes after breakfast at our hotel. Onward transport is made by hotel shuttle bus to Ishinomaki Station, arriving at 10:30am, for transfer by train to Sendai, from where Shinkansen bullet trains depart regularly for Tokyo. Your tour leader will be on hand to advise and help you purchase tickets.

 

Accommodation: N/A.
Meals: Breakfast provided provided.
Total walking: N/A.
Total elevation gain: N/A.

 
This itinerary is subject to change.
Map image

The itinerary for the Michinoku Coastal trail tour is ground-only, beginning in Hachinohe and ending in Ishinomaki.

 

The airport closest to the tour start point is Aomori Airport (AOJ). However, the journey from here to Hachinohe on public transport involves a number of interchanges and can take up to three hours. The journey is more easily made from both Tokyo’s Narita and Haneda International Airports by train.
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FROM TOKYO’S HANEDA AIRPORT (HND)
Tokyo Monorail trains depart for and terminate at Hamamatsu Station. Transfer here to the trains on either the JR Yamanote or JR Keihin-Tohoku Lines for Tokyo Station. To Hachinohe from Tokyo Station please see the section below.
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FROM TOKYO’S NARITA AIRPORT (NRT)
JR Narita Express (NEX) trains depart every 30 minutes for Tokyo Station. To Hachinohe from Tokyo Station please see the section below.
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FROM TOKYO STATION
The journey to Hachinohe is made on the JR Tohoku-Hokkaido Shinkansen, one of the super-fast bullet train lines. Departures are every hour and the journey is approximately 3 hours. The tour hotel is adjacent to Hachinohe Station.

 

The pre-tour pack includes detailed instructions, including a map, for travel to the accommodation at the start of the tour.

 

Please note that travel by train from Ayukawa to Narita Airport via Tokyo station takes approximately 6 hours and to Haneda Airport approximately 5 hours.

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