Soak up the beauty of nature when you travel to Kamaishi in Tohoku for the 2019 Rugby World Cup™ in Japan

Of the twelve cities hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup™ in Japan, Kamaishi in Iwate Prefecture is the only one that will hold matches in a brand-new stadium. Kamaishi is a small town along the Pacific, but its ties to rugby run deep: it is the home of an amateur rugby team that once won the national championships seven years in a row. In 2011, Kamaishi suffered deeply from the giant tsunami triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake. The area is still recovering in some ways, but local residents are all eager to welcome visitors to the rugby venue and express their gratitude for the support that flooded in from around Japan and overseas in the wake of the disaster. We asked a local writer familiar with Kamaishi to give us the inside scoop on the best the town has to offer.

A local train is a great way to enjoy the pastoral landscape on your trip to Kamaishi

The city of Kamaishi in Iwate Prefecture lies along the Pacific coast, apart from major transportation routes. It cannot be directly accessed by either the bullet train or air. The Tohoku Shinkansen is a convenient way to get to Iwate from Tokyo. It’s about a three-hour ride from Tokyo Station to Shin-Hanamaki Station. From there, you can change to the JR Kamaishi Line for the two-hour ride to Kamaishi Station. Service is infrequent along the Kamaishi Line, so make sure to check the train schedules in advance.

Cap: The JR Kamaishi Line makes its way through peaceful rural landscapes

Iwate Hanamaki Airport offers once-a-day service to and from Taiwan and Shanghai, but otherwise can only be accessed by domestic flights. You can take a taxi from the airport to JR Shin-Hanamaki Station in ten minutes. From there, you’ll need to get on the JR Kamaishi Line and head for Kamaishi.

Cap: Distant views of Kamaishi

On match days, the city plans to run direct Liner Buses between the venue and Iwate Hanamaki Airport as well as Shin-Hanamaki Station. Seats will be by reservation only and the ride will take between one-and-a-half and two-and-a-half hours. The details will be posted on the Kamaishi Iwate Rugby Information portal site for the 2019 Rugby World Cup™ in Japan, run by the city of Kamaishi, once they are finalized. Check the venue access page to find out more.

Kamaishi boasts a beautiful jagged coastline plus a World Heritage Site

Nearly the entire city of Kamaishi is covered in steep mountains, though about a third of its border runs along the Pacific Ocean, offering views of its beautiful jagged coastline. The city is sometimes called “the town of iron and fish”, and the fact that the Hashino Iron Mining and Smelting Site was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015 is testament to the importance of iron. The site marks Japan’s oldest remaining Western-style blast furnace, built in 1858.

Hashino Iron Mining and Smelting Site
At the Iron and Steel Museum in Kamaishi City, visitors can see a replica of the original Hashino Iron Mining and Smelting Site (admission required)

The city’s strength in fishing is evidence by the abundant seafood it harvests from the Pacific Ocean. Off the coast of Kamaishi are the Sanriku Fishing Grounds, a part of the Northwest Pacific Fishing Grounds—said to be among the top three fishing areas in the world. You can get sushi or seafood dishes prepared with the fresh catch at locations throughout the city. Our local writer recommends an eating and drinking spot called the Uogashi Terrace, located within walking distance of the heart of the city. The seafood there is of course incredible, but you can also catch amazing views of Kamaishi Bay from the terrace.

Uogashi Terrace
Ocean view from Uogashi Terrace Photo by Yoshiyasu Saijo / Grafica Inc

The Kamaishi Dai-Kannon statue is one of the hallmarks of Kamaishi and a must-see. This massive white statue of the Buddha of Compassion stands nearly 48 meters in height. The observation deck she holds in her arms (at 120 meters above sea level) offers sweeping views of the area’s stunning jagged coastline.

Kamaishi Bay spreads out below the Kamaishi Dai-Kannon

Kamaishi Unosumai Memorial Stadium, a symbol of recovery after the Great East Japan Earthquake

Kamaishi Unosumai Memorial Stadium

Kamaishi Unosumai Memorial Stadium, where matches for the 2019 Rugby World Cup™ in Japan will be held, is built on the site of an elementary and junior high school that was destroyed in the massive tsunami triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake. It is a meaningful landmark for city residents.

Kamaishi Unosumai Memorial Stadium (aerial view)

It takes about 12 minutes to get to the Kamaishi Unosumai Memorial Stadium from Ishinomaki Station on the Sanriku Testsudo Rias Line. When you get off at Unosumai Station, you’ll see the Unosumai Tomosu disaster memorial park, which also has eateries and shops selling local sake and unique rugby items you can only find there. You can’t bring food or drinks into the game venue and the limited-edition rugby items they sell at Unosumai Tomosu aren’t available at the stadium, so make sure you stop by before you head out!

Unosumai Tomosu

It’s about a ten-minute walk from Unosumai Station to the Kamaishi Unosumai Memorial Stadium. It’s an area that’s still in the midst of recovery, so even the buildings are few and far between. Note that you won’t be able to travel to the stadium by car on game days and there are limited roads in the area, so if you’re coming by car, your best bet is to reserve a (paid) spot at one of the several park & ride locations in the area and take a paid shuttle bus from there into the venue.

Kamaishi-style seafood paella brimming with locally-caught mussels, oysters, scallops, and shrimp

There are plenty of places to eat and drink at the stadium, and you can even get signature Kamaishi dishes like Kamaishi-style seafood paella made with local seafood or a vegetarian homestyle dish from Iwate Prefecture called suppuku, which is a soup made from a shiitake mushroom broth flavored with soy sauce and thickened with starch.

Suppuku, a homestyle dish from Iwate Prefecture to be sold at the stadium

Take a drive north up the area’s jagged, endlessly varied coastline

Kamaishi is by no means a convenient place in terms of getting around, but it is in a gorgeous natural setting that offers countless opportunities for enjoyment if you can get access to a car. Driving north up the Pacific Coast is particularly rewarding, with endlessly varied views as the ocean appears to be cutting into the mountains along the jagged rias coastline.

At the tip of the Hakozaki Peninsula are massive, craggy ohakozaki and senjojiki rock formations

Even if you don’t have a Japanese driver’s license, the Geneva Convention still allows you to rent a car in Japan with an international one. If your country participates in the program, apply for your international license and have it issued in your home country before you leave. There are two car rental shops at Kamaishi Station, and they have English websites available. They’re likely to be packed on the days around the matches, so make sure you reserve a car well in advance. The best place to start your drive is at Nebama Beach, located at the base of the Hakozaki Peninsula. The view of the ocean peeking between the pines is a scene full of classic Japanese charm.

Nebama Beach

If you drive about twenty minutes north of Nebama Beach, you’ll find yourself at Namiita Beach with its beautiful sands and crystal blue waters. The ocean is tranquil here, but the area is still popular with surfers. It’s not great for swimming during September and October, but you’re sure to get some enjoyment out of simply walking through the sand.

Namiita Beach

If you keep driving north for another ten minutes from Namiita Beach, you’ll end up at the Michi-no-Eki Yamada roadside station—which is famous for its wakame seaweed soft-serve ice cream. Tinted with just a touch of green, it has a unique and interesting flavor with hints of seaweed and salt on the finish.

Wakame seaweed soft-serve ice cream

The final destination on your drive is Jodogahama (Pure Land Beach) in Miyako, about sixty kilometers from central Kamaishi. Here, fascinating natural rock formations and white sand beaches form a stark contrast with the green-blue seas that you don’t want to miss. A monk who lived here about 340 years ago marveled that it was beautiful enough to look like the Pure Land (heaven in the Buddhist tradition), which is how it got its name.

Jodogahama

You can finish this entire route in about two hours, even with all the stops along the way. If you take the Sanriku Expressway, you can make it back to Kamaishi in about an hour.

Helpful multilingual websites for your Kamaishi trip

Kamaishi,Iwate Rugby Information

This is the official website for the 2019 Rugby World Cup™ in Japan run by Kamaishi City. Here you’ll find information on game schedules at the Kamaishi venue, how to get around, and more. There is also information on sightseeing spots and accommodations throughout Iwate Prefecture, including Kamaishi City.

https://www.rugby-iwate.kamaishi.pref.iwate.jp/en/index.html

DISCOVER JAPAN WELCOME TO RUGBY WORLD CUP 2019™ HOST COUNTRY

This is a special website on the 2019 Rugby World Cup™ in Japan run by Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO). Learn about the highlights of the twelve cities hosting matches during this year’s World Cup event.

https://visitjapan2019.com/kamaishi/

En-trance

This is a portal site run by Kamaishi City with basic information on getting around, sightseeing, food, history, and culture as well as background information on why Kamaishi is sometimes called “rugby town”.

https://en.en-trance.jp/

Visit Kamaishi SNS

Social media sites are great for getting the latest scoop on what’s happening in Kamaishi. Follow the city’s official Facebook and Instagram pages for a wealth of additional information that we couldn’t fit into this article.

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/visitkamaishi/

Instagram

https://www.instagram.com/kamaishi.city.japan/

VISIT IWATE

There are plenty of hotels in Kamaishi, but they’re likely to be fully booked around game days. This website is a great place to get information on more accommodation options throughout Iwate Prefecture.

https://visitiwate.com/things-to-do/stay-relax

Rent a Car

Kamaishi is by no means a convenient place in terms of getting around, but it is in a gorgeous natural setting that offers countless opportunities for enjoyment if you can get access to a car. This website features locations where you can rent a car in English.

JR Rent-A-Car

https://www.ekiren.co.jp/phpapp/en/

TOYOTA Rent a Car

https://rent.toyota.co.jp/eng/