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Oshika Hanto

 

Above all, Miyagi is a peculiar shape.  This is largely due to the coastal geology, which has created such beautiful features as the much-hyped Matsushima Bay, and the scenic hills which dominate the east coast and make up the Minami Sanriku Kinkasan Quasi National Park.

 

This is:

 

a)      a mouthful

b)      a very beautiful and generally unspoilt stretch of coastline, where thickly forested hills plunge into the Pacific Ocean with spectacular results  

 

At the southern most point of the Park, the rock defies the ocean to form the picturesque and secluded Oshika Peninsula.

 

Access to the Peninsula is through the metropolises of Ishinomaki and Onagawa, as both of these towns' borders extend part way towards Oshika Town itself. Oshika Town is something of a misnomer as it is really a collective term for the fifteen or so scattered fishing villages and islands which huddle precariously around the various inlets and bays. 

 

From Ishinomaki station, the hour and a quarter bus trip to Ayukawa passes through a number of these villages, as well as offering excellent sea views. It is however, a trip for which one must be physically prepared, as the numerous twists and turns have been known to persuade less hardy souls to part with their lunch.  The slightly shorter journey from Onagawa is best undertaken by way of the Cobalt Line, which wends its way through the hilltops, thus giving spectacular sea views both port and starboard.

 

Nowadays, as in the past, the majority of visitors to Oshika are there to take in a pilgrimage to Kinkasan Island (one of the top three most holy places in Tohoku, apparently). Indeed, one can begin to understand why this accolade was bestowed upon arrival at the island; the peace and quiet, and incredible views from the peak of Mt. Kinka adding to the holy atmosphere of the ancient shrine at which visitors can stay overnight.  

 

Kinkasan is a 25 min boat ride from either Onagawa or Ayukawa, and whilst the return fare is a little steep, it's not nearly as bad as the 45 minute hike to the summit!  On a clear day though, the panorama of the ocean, the peninsula and the coastline is priceless. And anyway, legend has it that if you return three years running you can wave a cheerful sayonara to any money worries.  Kinkasan is also the only place in Oshika where you are guaranteed to meet deer, from which the town gets its name.

 

One animal which you can't avoid in Oshika is the whale. Whatever your standpoint, Ayukawa was once a flourishing whaling port, and is historically one of the major centres for such activity. How­ever, just as the whalers have had to turn their attention to less lucrative fishing, the town has slightly refocused its use of whales, drawing hoardes in for the August 3rd Whale Festival, and the Oshika Whaleland museum.  

 

Both are interesting windows on the history and culture of the local people. Oshika eateries will gladly furnish you with whalemeat specialities (including sashimi) alongside the more usual array of local seafoods, which are sure to be Fresh (note the capital F).

 

Another attraction near Ayukawa is Gobansho Park; its hilltop location overlooking Kinkasan and Oshika provides both great views and perfect conditions for stargazing hence the observatory lodges which have been built. From the park's playground on a clear day, you can see the 30 km of the peninsula and its islands, Ishinomaki, Matsushima, and right over the bay to the big smoke of Sendai, with the Zao mountain range behind.

 

Other popular activities from Ayukawa are of course boat trips (notably Ajishima for its beach and clear waters), and gold­panning at the Oshika Kinzan. It may be off the beaten track, but there's plenty to do once you get there!

 

Elsewhere on the peninsula are various small beaches like Kugu­nari and the Norihama beach area (which is good for secluded forest walks and surfing). Of course, there is always the oppor tunity to go fishing, or just to watch the professionals at work with the oysters and scallops, etc.

 

At Kyubunhama you can even see a 12 hundred year old carving of a Japanese demigod with 11 heads! There are also many places to stay, like campsites, a kokuminshukusha (“peoples’ lodge”), and many reasonably priced minshuku (guest houses).

 

Further north at the gateway to the peninsula are other attractions such as the San Juan Bautista museum in Watanoha, a replica of the ship which set sail from Oshika to Rome in the 17th century (a gallery a few miles away marks the spot), the Bay Park fairground (the less said the better) and the Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant PR Centre. 

 

However, when all is said and done, the main attraction must surely be the breathtaking scenery - whatever the season. The place's beauty is undeniable, and well worth seeing first hand. You can get information on timetables and places to stay etc. from the Town Office tourist department. But if it's English you want, then it's probably a good idea to ring up the local ALT before heading out.

 

Alternately, just hop onto some form of transport and follow the whales!

 

by Jon Rose

 

 

 

This page was last updated: 02/14/00

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