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Self-Guided Michinoku Coastal Wayfarer

Duration

10 Days , 9 Nights

Activity Level

Start / Finish

Hachinohe / Kessennuma

Technical Level

A self-guided walking tour along the Michinoku Shiokaze Coastal Trail in Japan’s Tohoku region.

Self-guided version of Walk Japan’s Michinoku Coastal Trail in Japan’s Tohoku region. Delightful walks in remote countryside 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 - June & September - November.

The Michinoku Coastal Wayfarer is a self-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 includes some short sharp ascents and some longer gentler ascents and descents over moderately high passes. Please read more on Tour Levels here.
 

The Michinoku Coastal Wayfarer is a 10-day, 9-night tour starting in Hachinohe and finishing in Kesennuma. Accommodation is in Japanese-style hotels and inns. Group size is a minimum of one and a maximum of six persons. For more information please contact us.

 

Walk Japan’s Michinoku Coastal Wayfarer Self-Guided Tour explores the Michinoku Shiokaze Coastal Trail, a long distance footpath following the spectacular Sanriku Coast in Japan’s northern Tohoku region. Tohoku is beautiful, rugged, remote and, aside the Pacific Ocean, bountiful. For centuries the rich fishing found in the seas here has been the backbone of the local economy. Infrequently, however, the same seas also have a ravaging effect on local communities, most recently in March 2011 when a series of tsunami swept over the length of the coastline.
 
The Michinoku Coastal Wayfarer was developed from The Michinoku Shiokaze Coastal Trail, which was established as part of the Tohoku reconstruction efforts. Its 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. And, it does all this exceedingly well.
 
The Michinoku Shiokaze Coastal Trail begins in Hachinohe, a pleasant regional city in Aomori Prefecture, and follows the Sanriku Coast to Soma in Fukushima Prefecture some 1,025 kilometres (637 miles) to the south. Walk Japan’s Michinoku Coastal Wayfarer focuses on the northern section between Hachinohe and Kesennuma, a vibrant fishing port in Miyagi Prefecture. Never far from the Pacific Ocean this tour is roughly divided between the northerly rugged and the more southerly intricate ria coastlines. The trail weaves its way over grassy promenades, to isolated beaches and coves, up and along towering clifftops, via rural Shinto shrines, through small quiet fishing and farming villages, and onto larger towns such as Miyako, Ofunato and Kesennuma. Some of these communities were little touched by the dramatic events of 2011 while in others the work of reconstruction is only just coming to an end. 
 
The contrast between the tsunami’s destructive power and the sheer scale of the damage they caused with what has been achieved over the subsequent ten years in rebuilding is certainly memorable; something to appreciate alongside the region's natural beauty and rich seafood culture. Perhaps, however, the most extraordinary experience is seeing the locals' positiveness, vigour, generosity and warmth shown to everyone.
 
Your travels are on foot, on local trains and by private hire vehicles. On your way you visit some of the most picturesque natural sights in Japan including classic pine tree coastlines, atmospheric Shinto shrines and Jodogahama, cliffs of brilliant white sandstone set in limpid emerald seas. The natural world abounds and with luck you may spy soaring ospreys or, more likely, a placid serow, a goat-antelope like animal.
 
Off the Sanriku Coast are some of the richest fishing grounds found anywhere in the world and not surprisingly, seafood is a significant part of the local diet. For lovers of walking and fish-based cuisine the Wayfarer Michinoku Coastal Trail is an ideal tour. Meals will vary according to season but will include a variety of local seafood such as abalone, oysters, clams, salmon, and squid. The majority of our accommodation is aside the ocean and incorporates baths overlooking the sea for a delightful and leisurely way to relax before evening feasts. Good weather willing, early risers can also watch glorious sunrises over the Pacific Ocean while enjoying a reviving morning soak.
 
The route includes undulating forest terrain and some steeper sections. The tour materials provided, including the route booklet, fully complement this tour and are based on Walk Japan's extensive research of the Tohoku area and its expertise derived from over 30 years of leading guided walking tours throughout Japan.
 
A Level 4 tour, the daily distances walked on the Michinoku Coastal Wayfarer tour are between 10–15km (6.2–9.4 miles) and elevation gain between 150–500m (492–1,641ft). Options are provided to lengthen each day’s itinerary to suit your energy levels. There are some ascents on well-maintained forest trails and also some steep flights of steps. Your main luggage is transferred for you between each day’s accommodation. Also included in the tour are four transfers by private vehicle to the start and from the end of more remote walking trails.
 


Optional add-on experiences
 


The Michinoku Coastal Trail Wayfarer also offers optional add-on experiences to allow a hands-on more immersive approach to understanding Tohoku’s culture and its people as you make your way on the tour. These experiences have been developed by Walk Japan with locals who live along the trail and are experts in crafts, art, food culture and fishing. Examples include:
 
- Visiting a master carpenter's workshop and learning about the exquisite and intriguing techniques of Kesennuma joinery.
- Joining locals to learn about, prepare and cook their freshly-landed catch of the day before enjoying lunch together on the beach.
- Visiting a boutique family sake brewery in the company of the fifth-generation young boss before enjoying a sake-pairing multi-course dinner.
- Boarding a fishing boat to see an oyster farm before trying your hand at shucking them for a tasty snack.
- Being guided through a bustling early-morning fish market.
 
Each experience also allows easy engagement with the locals, and to not only learn about and appreciate their skills but also to hear their personal stories. Experiences are usually either morning or afternoon sessions. Depending on the option, they may be integrated into the tour's itinerary, or may require additional walking or an additional night’s stay on the tour.
  
For example, an option over the course of a morning is to visit by private-hire vehicle a remote Shinto shrine high on a mountainside. Known for its sacred shimenawa rope made from old fish nets, fishermen and their families come here to pray. After receiving a blessing from the head priestess, follow an atmospheric forest path up to the shrine’s inner sanctum on the mountain peak. Participate in an engaging performance of the local kagura dance, an elegant appeal to the kami god for bountiful harvests and protection from the seas. Travel back by vehicle to your accommodation and relax, or alternatively walk back the 7km on the Michinoku Shiokaze Coastal Trail. This option requires an additional night's stay.
  
Please contact us for more information on optional experiences and their prices.
 

What is included?


A pre-tour pack. The pack includes details on how to prepare for your Wayfarer Tour, how to travel from your arrival point in Japan to the accommodation at the start of your tour, weather advice, checklist, etc. The pack also includes details on exploring places of interest while travelling to Hachinohe, if you wish to do so. Upon receipt of a completed manifest form, your pre-tour pack will be made available for online viewing. It can also be downloaded as a PDF file for offline use.
 

A Wayfarer Route Booklet, which is provided to you at your first night’s accommodation, is an easily portable book including detailed maps, photographs, local site information such as lunch recommendations, historical background, and accurate instructions for walking the tour route. 

 
Click here for a sample of the Wayfarer booklet.
Click here for a sample of the Wayfarer Supplementary Information.

 

9-nights’ accommodation, 9 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 7 dinners.

 

Main baggage transfer between accommodation.

 

Four private vehicle transfers.

 

In-country (Japan), 24-hour English-language emergency support.

 

What is not included?


Not included are flights, lunches and drinks with meals, two dinners and transfers other than those noted in the itinerary.
Map image
The itinerary for the Michinoku Coastal Wayfarer is ground-only, beginning in Hachinohe and ending in Kesennuma. Prior to the tour, Walk Japan provides detailed instructions for travelling to your accommodation 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 and a half hours.

 

Day 1 Hachinohe



Hachinohe, a compact seafaring city, marks the northerly start point of the Michinoku Shiokaze Coastal Trail. Tour accommodation is in the city centre adjacent to Hachinohe’s nightlife district, where a good evening meal can be enjoyed in one of the many restaurants found here. 

 

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

 

Day 2 Hachinohe - Tanesashi Coast - Taneichi


After breakfast and before setting out from your hotel, your main luggage is forwarded by same-day courier to your destination this evening so you only take what you need for today’s walk. A short journey by train brings you to the outskirts of Hachinohe and Kabushima-jinja, an ancient Shinto shrine sited on a promontory overlooking the sea. A popular local landmark, visitors pray to Benzaiten, the kami god enshrined here, to protect seafarers and ensure business success. During summer months black-tailed gulls flock to the promontory to nest and raise their young. Although completely at home with their human neighbours and non-aggressive, entering the shrine can prove a little tricky as they wheel and dive overhead.

 

The Michinoku Shiokaze Coastal Trail stretches south from here for 1,025km (637 miles) as it follows Japan’s Northern Pacific coast. Today’s route is mostly over grass and sandy beaches, gentle terrain that provides a pleasant warm up for the following days on tour. A few cafes aside the trail during the morning provide pleasant places to relax over a coffee and mingle with the locals. You may also enjoy an early lunch here, or opt for a picnic lunch to eat later on en route. The local railway line is always close at hand, paralleling the trail and the walking finishes at a station. Here you board a train to continue further along the coast to Taneichi, a quiet small town, and your accommodation, a compact hotel overlooking the sea. Although a simple establishment, the friendly staff, the quality of the evening meal, and the views across the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean provide a cosy environment to relax in.

 

Accommodation: Hotel.
Meals: Breakfast & dinner provided.
Total walking: 12km (7.4 miles)/6 hours.
Total elevation gain: 150m (500ft).

 

Day 3 Taneichi - Samurai-hama - Noda


After breakfast, a reserved vehicle awaits to transport you to the start of today’s walk at a remote location in a pine forest along the trail. The sea can be spied through the trees and soon you reach the waters at Samurai-ishi, a local landmark of giant rock slabs. A short diversion from the trail brings you to a tiny picturesque fishing port hemmed in by rocky cliffs. The path continues on through more forests, composed mostly of native deciduous trees. Every now and then gaps in the foliage open up to spectacular views across the sea. At a quiet hamlet high on a cliff a reserved vehicle awaits your arrival. But before your onward transfer to your evening accommodation, a visit to a shrine set on a high promontory provides a lovely way to finish today’s walking. From here views are afforded back north along the coast you have just navigated. 
 

You spend the evening in a Japanese-style hotel sited on a rise overlooking the ocean. Enjoy a relaxing soak in the baths, which make the most of the views, before settling down to a multi-course dinner centred, not surprisingly, on locally caught fresh fish.

 

Accommodation: Japanese-style hotel.
Meals: Breakfast & dinner provided.
Total walking: 11.5km (7.0 miles)/6 hours.
Total elevation gain: 320m (1,050ft).

 

Day 4 Noda - Fudai - Kurosaki


An early start after breakfast this morning as you set off from your accommodation on foot. The trail undulates through beech and oak forests and passes through several small fishing ports before reaching a railway station. Transfer from here on the famed Sanriku Railway to nearby Fudai. The railway was devastated by the tsunami, but its reconstruction has become a symbol of the locals’ spirit in the face of adversity.
 

After lunch at a local restaurant, stride out of town past its giant flood gates to the sea. These gates, which when first proposed caused great controversy amongst the locals, saved Fudai and all its inhabitants from the tsunami in 2011. Beyond, the trail spectacularly hugs soaring cliffs and passes through hand-hewn tunnels between little-visited beaches. A steep staircase ascending a cliff-face leads to your accommodation immediately above. The hotel provides more expansive views over the seas below and another sumptuous meal composed of local produce.

 

Accommodation: Japanese-style hotel.
Meals: Breakfast & dinner provided.
Total walking: 15km (9.5 miles)/8 hours.
Total elevation gain: 480m (1500ft).

 

Day 5 Kurosaki - Kitayama - Tanohata


A relaxed later start today allows some time to explore the grounds of the hotel which incorporates a lighthouse and provides views north along the coast you have travelled. The trail leads from the accommodation, along cliff tops threading its way through native woodlands and some cedar plantations. Occasionally, the undergrowth opens up to offer glorious views over the vast blue Pacific Ocean, ideal spots to enjoy a bento picnic lunch, which was provided this morning at your hotel.
 

A final descent through a forested ravine is followed by a climb up to the Kitayamazaki Visitor Center. A popular scenic spot, mingle here with visitors and relax over an ice-cream or coffee. Given enough energy, descend the steep flight of steps to view up close the towering jagged coastal crags the area is famed for. A vehicle transfer quickly brings you to your accommodation, a hotel beside a small fishing port providing yet another lovely place to spend the evening and enjoy a mouth-watering banquet.

 

Accommodation: Japanese-style hotel.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Total walking: 10km (6.3 miles)/5.0 hours.
Total elevation gain: 250m (820ft).

 

Day 6 Tanohata - Miyako



After breakfast, depart for the local station, where you once again board a charming Sanriku Railway train for transfer to a remote halt, an unmanned station. Rejoining the trail on the coast you soon reach a tsunami memorial park, the first of two local landmarks. The second is a blowhole that spumes water to a height of over 30 meters in heavy seas. From hereon south, the scars left by the 2011 disaster are much more apparent, so too are the subsequent and often mammoth reconstruction efforts, undertaken to ameliorate future inundations.

 

Lunch, another bento provided at your hotel this morning, is eaten al fresco at your choice of one of the many scenic spots along the trail. The day finishes at Jodogahama, a series of heavily weathered cliffs topped with akamatsu red pines that frame a scene of quiet clear-water bays bordered by sparklingly white sandy beaches. Nearby is an informative visitor centre, a pleasant place to complete today’s journey. Your accommodation is nearby, where you start your, by now, well-practiced routine of enjoying a relaxing soak before settling down to dinner, once again composed of delicious local produce.

 

Accommodation: Japanese-style hotel.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Total walking: 14.5km (9 miles)/5 hours.
Total elevation gain: 480m (1,575ft).

  

Day 7 Miyako - Kuwadai Pass - Ryori


The centre of Miyako was devastated by the tsunami and many empty lots remain to this day. Nevertheless, some locals have rebuilt their homes and businesses, encouraged perhaps by the protection seemingly afforded by the newly constructed giant sea wall. You pass by this on your way to catch the train to the start of today’s walk over the Kuwadai Pass. 

 

Beyond Miyako, the more remote and dramatic rocky coast of northern Tohoku changes to a ria coast, an intricate and scenic web of peninsulas and sheltered bays. The fishing grounds are particularly rich here supporting a greater number of communities and larger population. Here the Michinoku Coastal Trail incorporates the Hama-kaido, an old mountain route that used to be the main thoroughfare 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. A steep but brisk climb through forests leads to the 437 metre-high Kuwadai Pass beyond which lies Yoshihama, a bucolic village. After inundation by a tsunami in 1896 the locals moved their village out of harm’s way to higher ground and survived unscathed in 2011.

 

Board a train here for a short onward journey to your accommodation, a delightful modern Japanese inn providing yet more grand views over the sea, comforting baths and delicious fare. The owner is a jazz aficionado and delights in playing records from his extensive collection for his guests.

 

Accommodation: Modern Japanese inn.
Meals: Breakfast & dinner provided.
Total walking: 11.5km (7 miles)/4 hours.
Total elevation gain: 477m (1565ft).

 

Day 8 Ryori - Ryori Pass - Ofunato


Today, the trail follows another stretch of the old Hama-kaido up and over the Ryori Pass. The beginning of the climb is marked by an atmospheric shrine set in a narrow gorge carved by a tumbling stream. Timeless torii shrine gates guard the way to the inner sanctum, the seat of the Shinto kami god, set between two large waterfalls. An entrancing site, it provides the impetus, if needed, to start the climb up and over the 484 metre-high Ryori Pass.
  
Few visitors venture beyond the shrine and the path is little used in modern times. However, it was literally a life-saving conduit after the 2011 tsunami when it was briefly resurrected to connect local communities after the modern roads along the coast had become impassable. Now once again a quiet backwater, the forested trail over the pass leads to Ofunato, one of the large bustling fishing ports in the Tohoku region. Here, your hotel for the evening features an onsen hot spring. Onsen are uncommon along the Tohoku coast, and a relaxing soak in the baths, which overlook a bay, add an extra pleasure before enjoying yet another impressive dinner.

 

Accommodation: Hotel with onsen hot spring baths.
Meals: Breakfast & dinner provided.
Total walking: 14km (8.7 miles)/5 hours.
Total elevation gain: 530m  (1,740ft).

 

Day 9 Ofunato - Goishi - Rikuzentakata - Kesennuma


A reserved vehicle transfers you to Goishi and the intriguing Anatoshiso, a rock outcrop eroded by the sea to form three geometrical holes. Your walk begins here and leads along the coast to a cape and lighthouse. A local bus transfers you to nearby Rikuzentakata to visit the understated but beautifully rendered memorial to those lost locally in the 2011 tsunami. In equal measure it is beautiful, sombre, educational and a marketplace for local produce and gifts - a symbol of the Japanese forthright and positive attitude to life’s ups and downs. An express bus whisks you to Kesennuma, another major fishing port. A particularly vibrant spirit, which belies the destruction wrought here in 2011, permeates the town making it an ideal place to complete this tour. Your accommodation is in the centre of town close to the port and nightlife quarter, where you may savour the memories of your journey in the company of the locals.

 

Accommodation: Japanese inn.
Meals: Breakfast provided.
Total walking: 11.5km (7.1 miles)/4 hours.
Total elevation gain: 200m (656ft).

 

Day 10 Kesennuma


The tour finishes after breakfast in your accommodation. Before continuing on your way you may like to visit the early morning fish market, which is close by. Onward journeys are made by train.

 

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

 
Optional add-on experiences
 
The Michinoku Coastal Trail Wayfarer also offers optional add-on experiences to allow a hands-on more immersive approach to understanding Tohoku’s culture and its people as you make your way on the tour. These experiences have been developed by Walk Japan with locals who live along the trail and are experts in crafts, art, food culture and fishing. Examples include:
 

- Visiting a master carpenter's workshop and learning about the exquisite and intriguing techniques of Kesennuma joinery.
- Joining locals to learn about, prepare and cook their freshly-landed catch of the day before enjoying lunch together on the beach.
- Visiting a boutique family sake brewery in the company of the fifth-generation young boss before enjoying a sake-pairing multi-course dinner.
- Boarding a fishing boat to see an oyster farm before trying your hand at shucking them for a tasty snack.
- Being guided through a bustling early-morning fish market.


Each experience also allows easy engagement with the locals, and to not only learn about and appreciate their skills but also to hear their personal stories. Experiences are usually either morning or afternoon sessions. Depending on the option, they may be integrated into the tour's itinerary, or may require additional walking or an additional night’s stay on the tour.
  

For example, an option over the course of a morning is to visit by private-hire vehicle a remote Shinto shrine high on a mountainside. Known for its sacred shimenawa rope made from old fish nets, fishermen and their families come here to pray. After receiving a blessing from the head priestess, follow an atmospheric forest path up to the shrine’s inner sanctum on the mountain peak. Participate in an engaging performance of the local kagura dance, an elegant appeal to the kami god for bountiful harvests and protection from the seas. Travel back by vehicle to your accommodation and relax, or alternatively walk back the 7km on the Michinoku Shiokaze Coastal Trail. This option requires an additional night's stay.
 
 

Please contact us for more information on optional experiences and their prices.
The itinerary for the Michinoku Coastal trail tour is ground-only, beginning in Hachinohe and ending in Kesennuma.

 

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.
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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 Kesennuma to Narita Airport via Tokyo Station takes approximately 5.5 hours and to Haneda Airport approximately 4.5 hours.

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