Se-Rias-ly tough: The Sanriku Railway Rias Line
Readers who have been reading my articles would know by now that I am very fond of the Tōhoku area (東北地方 Tōhoku-chihō)—as mentioned in my writeup on the Tsugaru Railway Line, it was the Great East Japan Earthquake (東日本大震災 Higashi Nihon Daishinsai) and tsunami that got me, who had only been to Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo up till that point, to look up more about a region in Japan apart from the major metropolitan areas. Ever since then, I have made multiple trips to the area, as there is just so much to see and experience. Of all the six prefectures, though, I have a particularly soft spot for Iwate Prefecture (岩手県 Iwate-ken).
Being the second-largest prefecture in Japan after Hokkaido, Iwate has a fairly sizeable rail network, with Morioka Station (盛岡駅 Morioka-eki) being the terminal connecting many of the local lines, such as the Hanawa Line, to the Tōhoku Shinkansen, as well as the Akita Shinkansen that branches off at Morioka. There are also two non-JR companies with lines that cross the prefecture: the Iwate Galaxy Railway (IGR), as well as one of my favourite lines in the whole of Japan—the Sanriku Railway Rias Line (三陸鉄道 Sanriku-Tetsudō Riasu-sen), which runs along the coastal side of Iwate.
The Sanriku Railway Rias Line
Railway lines along the Sanriku Coast in Iwate. (Image credit: JR East / Carissa Loh)
Sanriku Railway currently operates the Rias Line (リアス線 Riasu-sen), a behemoth of a line that opened in March 2019 and spans 163km from Kuji Station (久慈駅 Kuji-eki) up north in Kuji City to Sakari Station (盛駅 Sakari-eki) down south in Ōfunato City, making it the longest non-JR line in the whole of Japan. Before the Rias Line came into existence, though, it was formerly the Kita-Rias Line, between Kuji and Miyako (宮古駅 Miyako-eki) Stations, and the Minami-Rias Line, between Kamaishi (釜石駅 Kamaishi-eki) and Sakari Stations.
Sanriku Railway Kuji Station house. (Image credit: Kevin Koh)
The section between Miyako and Kamaishi Stations was once part of the JR Yamada Line (山田線Yamada-sen) that ran between Morioka and Kamaishi Stations via Miyako, but operations along that segment were ceased for nearly 8 years after the line suffered some of the most devastating damage in the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. At one point, it seemed as if JR East was about to convert that section to a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line, as what they did with the Kesennuma and Ōfunato Lines, but after discussing with the local community, they decided to restore the railway line.
The old (left) and new (right) Miyako Station houses. After it became the Rias Line, Sanriku Railway started using the JR East Miyako Station, with the old station house becoming the head office building. (Image credit: Kevin Koh)
As nearly all the railway tracks needed to be rebuilt from scratch, with consideration for where to rebuild the lines—building along the old tracks might make them susceptible to being destroyed by natural disasters again—it took almost 8 years to restart operations. Since it would be easier for one company to operate the entire line, after rebuilding the tracks and stations, JR East handed the section between Miyako and Kamaishi over to Sanriku Railway, thereby paving the way for the formation of the Rias Line.
One of Sanriku Railway’s kotatsu train carriages. (Image credit: 東北観光推進機構)
As with other local lines, Sanriku Railway also runs special seasonal trains. Unlike the Tsugaru Railway, though, which has one for every season and then some, Sanriku Railway only has one: a kotatsu train (こたつ列車 kotatsu-ressha) that runs in winter, where travellers get to savour gorgeous seafood ekiben (駅弁 lunch boxes for eating on trains), enjoy beautiful views of the coast, and be entertained (or terrified!) by namomi (なもみ), Japanese ogres believed to inhabit coastal Iwate, all while relaxing in the warmth a kotatsu, a small electrical heater attached to a table and covered with a blanket, has to offer, almost as if they were at home.
Though not a seasonal train, Sanriku Railway has also been carrying out special train tours for tour groups since 2012 as a way of sharing their history, and ensuring that the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami do not get forgotten. During such tours, company staff or local residents share their experiences during the earthquake and its aftermath, and the train slows down at spots along the line where the scars left during the disaster can still be seen. This year, a special version of the train is scheduled to run the whole length of the Rias Line on the 11 March, with the train stopping at 2:46pm, the exact time when the earthquake occurred, to observe a minute of silence for the deceased.
The Sakari Station house, with JR Sakari Station, now used as a bus terminal for the BRT, next to it. (Image credit: Kevin Koh)
Despite the number of natural disasters that have struck the coast, one thing that strikes me about Sanriku Railway is how resilient they are—they were back in operation almost immediately after the 2011 earthquake, with the section between Kuji and Rikuchū-Noda Stations reopened a mere 5 days later, the free train shuttling between these two stations not just a means of transport, but also a symbol of hope and encouragement to the residents of the area.
A sign on one of the pillars at Tōni Station in Kamaishi City depicting how high the water level reached on the day of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. (Image credit: rail02000 / CC BY-SA 2.0)
While the Kita-Rias and Minami-Rias Lines were earning a steady stream of profit for the first ten years since the formation of Sanriku Railway in 1984, decreasing populations along the line, as well as increased motorisation, meant that they were slowly bleeding and losing money in the following years. Their fortunes changed, though, when the Kita-Rias Line was featured prominently in NHK’s morning drama series “Amachan” (あまちゃん) in 2013.
In fact, that was when I first heard of the railway, and viewing the comical antics of the main characters as they went about their daily lives in Kuji City made me want to visit the region and ride the line, not only as a form of support for the locals, but also to see with my own eyes the degree of devastation wreaked by the tsunami, and how rebuilding efforts were progressing.
Reminders of the tsunami
Trains passing by each other at Rikuchū-Noda Station. (Image credit: Kevin Koh)
Though I have taken the Rias Line in its entirety only once, my first time taking the Kita-Rias Line was in March 2015, and after I decided that I wanted to see more of the Sanriku coastline and what had become of it. All of my trips on the Sanriku Railway have started from Kuji, but none struck me as hard as that first time when, a few minutes after leaving Kuji Station, the attendant made this message over the broadcast within:
“If you look on your left now, you will see a row of breakwaters being built to keep tsunamis at bay. These breakwaters are expected to be completed in a few years’ time.……In the past, visitors would be able to view the ocean from the train, and the scenic view was something that we locals all enjoyed. However, now, this is the scenery that we can offer you.”
Breakwaters being constructed near Kuji Station. (Image credit: Kevin Koh)
I had believed I was mentally prepared to handle the raw scenes of debris and destruction that I would inevitably chance across, but hearing the attendant make such an announcement still came as quite a shock to me—though I had done some volunteer work shoveling dirt and mud in Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture, one of the areas badly hit by the tsunami, it was my first time directly hearing how the event had drastically changed the landscape locals used to cherish.
Closeup of a breakwater near Tanohata Station. (Image credit: JR East / Shibata)
In fact, most of the sea views, previously touted as a draw of the line, were now barely visible because of the breakwaters. While this is inevitable when one considers the risk of possible future earthquakes and tsunamis, I did get a sense of entrapment when seeing all those gray walls standing on the coastline, almost as if they were preventing people from escaping from a prison. Indeed, some of the people I spoke with during my volunteer trips up to Rikuzentakata City in Iwate, another area devastated by the tsunami, mentioned the same sentiments. For these people who have lived their lives with the ocean up till now, it must have been painful to have that taken away; yet, who is to blame for the outcome of a natural disaster?
Backdrop for Amachan
Some of the “Amachan”-related artifacts on display at Kuji Station – the guitar was donated by Ōtomo Yoshihide, renown Japanese jazz/noise musician who composed the “Amachan” soundtrack. (Image credit: Kevin Koh)
Being heavily featured in “Amachan”, many artifacts used in the drama, as well as posters made to promote it, can be found all over Kuji, and this applies to Sanriku Railway as well. For instance, Kuji Station has one of those photo stands where one can stick one’s head through a hole and pretend to be someone else, in this case the two heroines of the drama, and faded promotion posters of the cast can be found plastered on the walls of the station, as well as in some of the older trains. I even once found a sign aboard a train proclaiming how that particular carriage was the one used in the filming of the Iwate scenes in the drama!
The interior of the carriage used in the filming of “Amachan”, plastered with posters and fanart, and the drinks vending machine within the train. (Image credit: Kevin Koh)
That carriage, being one of the older models, also had a drinks vending machine aboard it, something that I had seen only once elsewhere on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen from Osaka to Tokyo back in 2005, and which most likely does not exist anymore. Seeing it again was almost like taking a trip back into time, and it was definitely a cheap thrill being able to buy a drink from the machine while on a train!
The Sodegahama Station sign at Horinai Station. (Image credit: Kevin Koh)
The most enjoyable artifact, however, would be the signboard at Horinai Station (堀内駅Horinai-eki), a few stops from Kuji which overlooks a fishing port. In the drama, it was renamed Sodegahama Station (袖が浜駅Sodegahama-eki) and designated as the station closest to the heroine’s home. The sign with the fictious name still stands on the platform today, making it a treat for fans of the drama who will most certainly wish to take a picture with it!
Enjoying the locality
The first time I took the Rias Line in 2019 June, though, I was surprised at how time just seemed to zip by. A direct train from Kuji to Sakari takes more than 4 hours, but because I wanted to explore more of the sights along the line, I ended up staying a night at a hotel near Tanohata Station (田野畑駅Tanohata-eki) and spent 2 days on the line. Perhaps it was because I had been eagerly anticipating that moment ever since the Rias Line began operations in March that year, or that the weather, clear and sunny, was excellent, but be it just looking out at the sea on the left, or enjoying the scenery of the forests and mountains on the right, every single moment of my ride on the Rias Line was wonderful, and I did not find myself bored at any point during both days.
The view from the train on the Rias Line between Miyako and Kamaishi. (Image credit: Kevin Koh)
The ride on the Rias Line also gave me a chance to observe how it was being used by local residents. Perhaps it was because I took the stretch between Miyako and Kamaishi in the middle of the day, but it was packed full of junior high and high school students heading home, so much so that it felt as if I were taking a rush-hour train in Tokyo, rather than what was supposed to be an idyllic ride in a rustic part of Japan! It was good, though, to see that despite the threats of motorisation and a slowly-but-surely decreasing population, there are still moments where local lines do get crowded, further reaffirming the need to maintain a public transportation network in such prefectures. It did make me wonder, though, how much livelier the Sanriku Coast was before the earthquake struck and people left (or were forced to leave) the area.
The train I was on about to pull out of Iwate-Funakoshi Station. Note the students in the background waiting to cross the level crossing within the station. (Image credit: Kevin Koh)
Perhaps more importantly, though, taking the Rias Line allowed me to see how much the area had changed since my first ride in 2015. 4 years later, many of the rebuilding works that were still ongoing between Kuji and Miyako had been completed, and a lot of the debris had also been cleared, leaving behind large swathes of empty land awaiting the construction of new buildings. Seeing the landscape change with every visit makes it much clearer that reconstruction efforts are paying off. Perhaps on my next trip, there will be new houses built in those areas, some of them hopefully inhabited.
The sights and experiences
Views from the train
The view from the Rias Line at Koishi-hama Station. (Image credit: Kevin Koh)
It goes without saying that the views of the Pacific Ocean the Rias Line has to offer are excellent. With much of the line running near the coast, spectacular shots are almost guaranteed no matter where one points one’s camera lens.
View from inside the train while crossing the Osawa Bridge. (Image credit: JR East / Shibata)
One of the best points for images, though, is actually within the train—between Horinai and Shirai-Kaigan Stations (白井海岸駅 Shirai-Kaigan-eki) is Ōsawa Bridge (大沢橋梁 Ōsawa-kyōryō), the tallest bridge on the Rias Line at 30 metres high. From all the way up, it is impossible to not be mesmerised by the sight of the Pacific Ocean right before one’s eyes—so picturesque is this view that trains stop at this point for a minute to allow travellers to take in the view, and to take as many photographs as they like!
A shot of a Sanriku Railway train on the Ōsawa Bridge. (Image credit: くろふね / CC BY-SA 4.0)
Those who wish to take photographs of Sanriku Railway’s trains on the Ōsawa Bridge with the sea in the background can head up to Horinai Bridge (堀内大橋Horinai-ōhashi), a 20-minute walk from Horinai Station. Built even higher than Ōsawa Bridge, there is a viewing platform at the end which offers excellent views for those who would like to train-watch. A small restaurant next to the viewing platform, Resthouse Ushio (レストハウスうしお), offers food like ramen and rice bowls featuring fresh seafood from the Sanriku Coast, and one can have a bite there while waiting for trains to pass by.
Resthouse Ushio (レストハウスうしお)
Address: Dai 19 Chiwari 104-13 Shirai, Fudai, Shimohei District, Iwate 028-8311
Access: 20-minute walk from Horinai Station (堀内駅)
Opening hours: 11:00–14:00 daily (rest days vary)
The breathtakingly beautiful Jodogahama Beach
The breathtakingly beautiful Jōdogahama Beach. (Image credit: Kevin Koh)
For those who are not satisfied with looking at the ocean from afar, but instead wish to experience it up close, there are plenty of opportunities to do so along the Sanriku Coast! While there are many beautiful spots along the coastline, the most famous of them all would arguably have to be Jōdogahama Beach (浄土ヶ浜) in Miyako. Its name, meaning “beach of the pure land”, is most apt considering its clear azure waters, white pebble shoreline, and the rocky outcrops that dot the coast. There is a coastal walk which one can have a leisurely stroll along to enjoy this view, and at its end is an inlet sheltered from the rest of the ocean where one can take a refreshing dip in the cool waters in summer, as well as a rest house offering quick bites and a souvenir shop.
The entrance to the Jōdogahama Visitor Centre. (Image credit: Kevin Koh)
There is also a visitor centre where one can find out more about the geography of Jōdogahama, as well as learn about the flora and fauna that inhabit the region. I have been to Jōdogahama twice, and both times I found myself enjoying the peace and calm the coastal walk brought—it truly is paradise, and one of the best ways to experience the Sanriku Coast.
Jōdogahama Visitor Centre (浄土ヶ浜ビジターセンター)
Address: 32-69 Hitachihama-cho, Miyako, Iwate 027-0001
Access: 15-minute bus ride from Miyako Station (宮古駅)
Opening hours: 08:00–18:00 daily
The ama divers of the Kosode Coast
The entrance to the Kosode Fishing Port at the Kosode Coast, where ama divers put on a show in summer. The huge flags, called tairyō-bata, are traditionally flown by boats to signify a large catch, but are mainly used decoratively nowadays. (Image credit: Kevin Koh)
Another unique ocean-related experience to have can be found in Kuji City itself. Kuji is home to ama (海女) divers, skilled divers who dive and fish without the use of oxygen tanks. Traditionally female, as the ladies of the house had to manage their finances while their fishermen husbands were out away at sea, and the ama of Kuji have been dubbed “the Northenmost Ama” (北限の海女Hokugen-no-ama).
Ama divers fishing for sea urchin at the Kosode Coast. (Image credit: Kevin Koh)
At the Kosode Coast (小袖海岸Kosode-kaigan), a 40-minute bus ride from central Kuji, ama divers put up a show twice daily in summer, fishing for sea urchin and bringing their catches ashore. This diving show takes place only during the summer months of July to September, coincidentally the uni season, so it is definitely worth a trip down to have a look at this centuries-old form of fishing!
Freshly cracked sea urchin in my hand— it was so good! (Image credit: Kevin Koh)
For an additional small fee of ¥500, one can purchase a sea urchin from them, which they will crack open and clean for you on the spot to enjoy. I did feel a little bad for the spiny creature, who was still moving a little even as I held it in my hand, but one spoonful of fresh sea urchin, creamy and sweet and completely unlike the metallic-tasting uni I had previously tasted in conveyor-belt sushi restaurants, was all it took to make me a fan of uni.
Kosode Ama Centre (小袖海女センター)
Address: 24-110-2 Ube-chō, Kuji, Iwate 028-8111
Access: 40-minute bus ride from Kuji Station (久慈駅)
Opening hours: 09:00–17:00 daily
Admission fee (for ama diving during summer): ¥500/person
The freshest catches
Locally produced fresh scallops and oysters at the Miyako Fish Market, delivered straight from Miyako Port. (Image credit: Kevin Koh)
Being so close to the sea, it only makes sense that the seafood in the Sanriku area is of the highest quality, both in terms of freshness and taste. There are seafood markets all over With so many restaurants in the area selling sushi and kaisen-don (海鮮丼), rice bowls topped with fresh seafood, one is definitely spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding on a place to eat at for lunch!
Gyosaitei Sumiyoshi at Miyako
While there are many places touting kaisen-don of all different kinds and grades, one of the best I have had is at Sumiyoshi (魚彩亭 すみよしGyosaitei Sumiyoshi) in Miyako. That the restaurant was right outside Miyako Station and that it was ranked fairly well on Tabelog (食べログ), a Japanese restaurant rating site, got me curious, so I decided to have lunch there.
The kaisendon at Sumiyoshi. (Image credit: Kevin Koh)
While they do serve quite a few kaisen-don options, Sumiyoshi also serves other options, like ramen and set lunches featuring fried chicken and pork cutlets. I was not in a mood for anything meaty, so I decided to go with their Sanriku-don. Priced at ¥2,500 for the regular option, and ¥4,000 for the deluxe version, it is definitely not one of the cheaper options on the menu. But since I was there, I figured I might as well bite the bullet, right?
I was unprepared for the rice bowl that was set down before me a few minutes later, though—the sheer amount and variety of fish laid atop the bowl of rice was a huge surprise, and I counted 10 different types (and that was the regular!) of sashimi laid atop!
With small side dishes of simmered hijiki (ひじき) seaweed and pickles, as well as a bowl of miso soup, the portion was much more than I had expected, and the freshness of the fish was top-notch. With a steady stream of customers entering Sumiyoshi while I was there, I can definitely see why the restaurant is a favourite amongst locals.
Miyako's bindon is packed in a glass milk bottle. (Image credit: JR East / Arima)
In 2018, the concept of bin-don (瓶ドン), where various ingredients are packed into an empty glass milk bottle and served as is, with diners emptying the bottle over a bowl of rice to construct their own kaisen-don, began to take off in Miyako, with the city promoting it as a new culinary experience. Various eateries in the city all have their own version. Sumiyoshi’s looks quite promising, and I would definitely like to go back to try it sometime soon!
Gyosaitei Sumiyoshi (魚彩亭 すみよし)
Address: 2-10 Sakae-chō, Miyako, Iwate 027-0076
Access: 3-minute walk from Miyako Station (宮古駅)
Opening hours: 11:00–13:30, 17:00–22:00 daily
Restaurant Purple at Noda Roadside Station
For those who would like to enjoy their seafood at more reasonable prices, Restaurant Purple (レストランぱあぷる) on the second floor of the Noda Roadside Station (道の駅のだMichi-no-eki Noda), located right next to Rikuchū-Noda Station, is the right place for you. What makes this place so special is that local aunties are placed in charge of food preparation, and freshly harvested local ingredients are used abundantly in their cooking, making it a place where one is able to taste local cooking.
The iso-jū at Purple. (Image credit: Kevin Koh)
The last time I was there, I tried their iso-jū (磯重), consisting of scallops and sea urchin cooked in egg and served atop rice. While nowhere near as showy as Sumiyoshi’s kaisen-don, it had that homely taste and feel to it, almost as if it were a dish I ate while growing up. Coming with pickles, a small side of sashimi and miso soup, this is definitely value for money, and is a place worth stopping by for something less touristy, and to hear locals speak in their dialect.
The salt soft-serve sundae sold at the takeaway booth at the Noda Roadside Station. (Image credit: Kevin Koh)
The shops on the first floor sell a variety of local products, including vegetables and seafood items. Those who still have space in their stomachs should try the local soft-serve ice cream flavoured with Noda salt! It is an interesting flavour combination, the sweet milkiness of the ice cream a surprisingly good foil to the hint of mineral saltiness that comes through from the salt added. I had the sundae, layered with cornflakes and topped with crushed nuts and a sauce made from local wild grapes, and it was delicious, the richness and sourness of the grape sauce adding a further depth to the ice cream. This is definitely a must-try for those of you with more jaded palates!
Noda Roadside Station (道の駅のだ)
Address: 31-31-1 Noda, Kunohe District, Iwate 028-8201
Access: Right next to Rikuchū-Noda Station (陸中野田駅)
Opening hours: 07:10–18:00 daily
Writer’s note: The different facilities within the roadside station all have different operating hours – Restaurant Purple operates from 11:30 to 14:00 (L.O.) daily except Wednesdays, while the takeout corner operates from 09:30 to 17:00 daily between April and October, and to 16:30 between November to March.
Rias Tei’s uni bento
Since this is first and foremost a rail travel page, one cannot get away with not talking about ekiben. Althoigh the only ekiben that can be bought along the Rias Line is an uni bentō (うに弁当), a sea urchin bentō sold by the old couple managing the soba restaurant, Sanriku Rias-Tei (三陸リアス亭), within Kuji Station, it more than makes up for the lack of options with just how good it is.
The uni bentō from Rias-Tei, being consumed at Kuji Station. (Image credit: 岩手県観光協会)
Freshly harvested sea urchin is steamed and carefully laid out in neat rows atop rice cooked in the juices from the steamed sea urchin. When one removes the lid and takes in a deep whiff, one can almost smell the brininess of the sea emanating from the sea urchin. The rice, deeply flavoured with the savoury juices of the sea urchin, melds with the soft steamed uni to deliver a punch of flavours in the mouth. Unlike other ekiben which come with a plethora of side dishes, the uni bentō is garnished simply with two slices of radish pickles and a slice of lemon, but that is all it needs, the star being the uni and the rice. Only 20 a day are made apart from reservations, though, so one has to hope for good luck when at Kuji Station!
Sanriku Rias Tei (三陸リアス亭)
Address: 3-38-2 Chūō, Kuji, Iwate 028-0061
Access: Within Kuji Station (久慈駅)
Opening hours: 07:00–16:30 daily
A sluice gate near Tanohata Station painted to resemble a Sanriku Railway train. The two images were taken four years apart – note the restoration works done to the road on the left. (Image credit: Kevin Koh)
To me, a ride on the Sanriku Railway is not just a train ride from Point A to Point B—it is also a window into finding out more about how reconstruction works have progressed along the Sanriku coastline, and viewing how peoples’ lives have changed in the years after they were turned upside down by the earthquake and tsunami. Rather, taking a train on the Rias Line is an opportunity to learn about the present, as well as the future, of the coastal side of Iwate.
Despite the many challenges that it has faced both before and after the Kita-Rias and Minami-Rias Lines were merged with the Miyako to Kamaishi section of the Yamada Line, the Sanriku Railway has managed to get back on its feet every time, be it the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, Typhoon Hagibis in 2019 October, or COVID-19 in 2020.
Sanriku Railway is waiting for your visit! (Image credit: JR East / Shibata)
Loved by rail enthusiasts both within and beyond Japan, it is not hard to figure out the reasons why when one takes a ride on the Sanriku Railway— with its views and sights, it is sure to fascinate and mesmerise visitors. Not only a symbol of recovery, but also one of the resilience of the people of Iwate, as well as the indomitability of the human spirit, it is my hope that the Sanriku Railway will continue to run for a long, long time, carrying with it stories of hope and a vision for a brighter future.
P.S. For those interested, NHK World has a documentary on Sanriku Railway dubbed "The Sanriku Coast's Unbeatable Spirit", and can be viewed for free at the link provided here until the end of March 2023.
In addition, in commemoration of operations resuming between Miyako and Kamaishi in March 2019, NHK has also uploaded to YouTube a Sanriku Railway version of “hana wa saku”, the charity song created after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. The song and video can be viewed for free via the link above.
The Sanriku Railway can be accessed via its major stations at Kuji, Miyako, Kamaishi, and Sakari, all in Iwate Prefecture.
- Kuji: Take the Tōhoku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Hachinohe (approximately 2 hours 50 minutes) and transfer to the Hachinohe Line to Kuji (approximately 1 hour 40 minutes).
- Miyako: Take the Tōhoku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Morioka (approximately 2 hours 15 minutes) and transfer to the Yamada Line to Miyako (approximately 2 hours 10 minutes).
- Kamaishi: Take the Tōhoku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Hanamaki (approximately 2 hours 15 minutes), and transfer to the Kamaishi Line to Kamaishi (approximately 1 hour 30 minutes).
- Sakari: Take the Tōhoku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Ichinoseki (approximately 2 hours 30 minutes from Tokyo), and transfer to the Ōfunato Line to Kesennuma (approximately 1 hour 25 minutes), followed by a transfer to the BRT to Sakari (approximately 1 hour 25 minutes).
Header image credit: Kevin Koh