Cover picture caption: Ships departing from Ofunato Port, in search of Pacific saury: a fish that Ofunato City catches the most of in all of Honshu, Japan’s main island. Shipments for the ILC would share a port with a thriving fishing and aquaculture industry.

It’s no wonder that the area around the ILC candidate site is rich with agriculture and harvests from the mountains, as it’s located in the Kitakami mountain range. The area isn’t just blessed with land resources – you only have to take a short trip east to reach one of the most prominent fishing grounds in the world: the Sanriku Coast.

The Sanriku Coast reaches from Aomori to Miyagi prefectures, covering the whole coast of Iwate. The mountainous, rocky coast is full of stunning views, making it perfect for hiking, as outlined on THE KITAKAMI TIMES in the “Breathtaking Views at the Michinoku Coastal Trail (October in 2017)”. Along with being a beautiful area for a hike or a swim, the ocean currents in Sanriku meet to make a habitat ideal for diverse sea-life.

Ofunato: a charming fishing city located on the Sanriku Coast

One charming city on the Sanriku Coast, which could play a key role in the construction of the ILC, is Ofunato. If the ILC is built in the Kitakami Mountains, Ofunato Port could be vital for transporting materials to the ILC site, as described in “Spotlight on Ofunato (#34) (August in 2017)”. Along with Ofunato’s strategic proximity to the site, Ofunato has expressed continual support of the ILC Project, and has been planning for the intake of ILC cargo at the port.

In addition to Ofunato’s importance to the ILC, the city would also give people working with the ILC quick access to a wealth of fresh seafood. Whether you’d like to fish yourself, try fresh fish at a restaurant, or stop by one of the huge free fish festivals in town, there’s no end to the seafood experience in Ofunato.

Personally, although I’m from a coastal town in the U.S., seafood has always been on the expensive side where I’m from, so I grew up enjoying it only on more special occasions. Coming from this background, I was shocked the first time I stopped by the seafood section in your average Ofunato grocery store—there were so many low priced options for fresh seafood.

Fish selections in Ofunato

Pictured is flying fish (tobiuo) at 110 yen per fish, Pacific saury (sanma) at 100 yen per fish, and sea bream (hanadai) at 85 yen per fish—all freshly caught in Ofunato.

Not only were the grocery store options a lovely surprise, I also soon realized that there are specialty fish shops throughout town, selling seasonal seafood.

Live scallops, oysters and abalone being sold in a seafood shop in Ofunato

Enjoying seafood at restaurants in town

The abundant seafood reaches many restaurants in Ofunato as well, with options such as kaisen-don: a steaming rice bowl topped with sashimi fish slices.

A kaisen-don seafood bowl in Ofunato

For those who don’t eat fish, the seafood in Ofunato also has options for vegetarians and vegans to enjoy, as the Sanriku Coast is a prime environment for seaweed farming.

In many places, when someone hears about seaweed, their first thought may not be to eat it. Around Ofunato, however, in addition to an array of different types of seaweed, there are also a variety of ways to enjoy it. One local way to enjoy wakame seaweed is called “shabushabu”. If you’ve been to Japan, you may have heard of shabushabu with meat, where you swish around thinly sliced meat and in a large boiling hot pot. Replace the meat with wakame seaweed, and you have wakame shabushabu.

Once you dip the wakame in the boiling hot pot, its color immediately changes from a dark yellow to a bright green. In just an instant, it’s ready to be eaten! The smooth texture and subtle taste of the seaweed goes well with ponzu, a tangy sauce made from yuzu fruit.

How about catching the seafood yourself? Try fishing in Ofunato!

For those who prefer a more hands-on experience, there are also many spots in Ofunato where you can go fishing, be it at a river, on the docks, or out at sea on a boat. Authorization isn’t required for saltwater fishing in Japan, so it’s easy for beginners to get started as well.

To find out more about the charms of fishing in Ofunato, I asked a couple of enthusiasts in Ofunato about their experiences and recommendations. First, I talked to a local doctor of fisheries to learn about specifics. Afterwards, I talked to an Ofunato resident from Australia, to hear an international impression of fishing in Ofunato.

Naoshi Sato works for Ofunato City Hall and holds a Ph.D in Fisheries Science.

A photo of Naoshi Sato doing what he loves: being in the ocean

What would you like people working with the ILC to know about the charms of the ocean and fishing in Ofunato?

The sea in Ofunato has an array of fish depending on the season, so I would like everyone to eat, see, and enjoy the sea-life here. Thanks to the ocean currents, many types of sea-life gather in Ofunato. In winter, the cold ocean currents bring in fish from the north, while in summer, the warm ocean currents bring in fish from the south.

One of the best things about fishing in Ofunato is the vast diversity of fish that you can catch, and the many fishermen who can take you fishing on their fishing boats. Because Ofunato is one of the cities with the most fishing boats in Iwate Prefecture, it’s a popular spot for fishing. As such, you can reserve for a fisherman to take you out fishing to sea on their boat.

Generally, it costs at least 6,000 yen to reserve for a fisherman to take you out fishing by boat. The boat trip lasts around six hours and usually departs at around 5 AM. There are various options to choose from, such as paying a little bit extra for special deep-sea fishing.

Another great point about fishing in Ofunato is how close the fishing grounds are from the port. The coast in Ofunato is blessed with a perfect environment for sea-life, so once you depart to sea by boat, you can reach a spot good for fishing within just a few minutes.

Once at sea, the waves at bay are also calm, thanks to the rias-styled coastline (“rias” is a geological term indicating that a coastline is jagged with many bays and inlets).

And of course, even if you don’t ride a boat out to sea, you can still enjoy fishing at the ocean docks.

What should someone do if they are interested in fishing for the first time in Ofunato?

If you live by the ILC candidate site and would like to fish in Ofunato, I’d first recommend that you visit any shop nearby you that sells fishing tools. For instance, there are also fishing shops around Oshu and Ichinoseki. There, you can rent or buy tools and bait. At large shops you can even make reservations for fishing boat trips in Ofunato. They’ll also have plenty of information about fishing classes and events. If you’re new to fishing, they’ll explain the rules and manners for you as well. If you visit a fishing shop, I’m sure they’ll be happy to teach you what you need know.

Are procedures necessary to get licensed to fish in Ofunato?

One unique thing about Japan, in comparison to abroad, is how easy it is to fish here. For fishing at sea, there is no license or ticket required for you to fish. For freshwater spots, such as rivers, on the other hand, you’re required to get permission from officials, so please keep this in mind. If you’d like to get started freshwater fishing in Japan, I recommend you stop by a fishing shop near you and ask about the details. Even though you don’t need to be authorized for fishing at sea, there are still local rules and manners, so before you go, it’s best to ask the staff at a fishing shop, or a Japanese person you know who fishes.

What type of fishing or activities would you recommend for beginners?

In Ofunato, there are traditional inns which have their own fishing boats, and if you stay there, they can take you fishing. This makes for a lovely experience, as the staff at the inn can prepare dishes of the fish that you caught together. Even if you can’t go fishing, I still recommend the inns here for their delicious seafood cuisine.

There is also a tour in Ofunato which a fisherman runs. They’ll take you fishing, and then you get to grill up and eat what you caught right on the boat. As part of the tour, they’ll also show you how they farm scallops, and can take you for a boat ride to cruise around the area.

A photo of a salmon that Naoshi Sato took in Ofunato

How can you enjoy Ofunato, besides fishing?

I also recommend swimming and diving in Ofunato. The diversity and beauty of the ocean here are astounding, so I want everyone to come and see it for themselves.

Besides the ocean, the mountain streams running through the forests here are also gorgeous and make for lovely strolls. 

Do you have any message for the ILC?

Let’s all do our best to make the ILC a reality!


Next, I talked to Julian. Julian is originally from Australia, and has been living and working in Ofunato as an English teacher for 4 years.

Photo of Julian and the righteye flounder he caught in Sakihama, Okirai, Ofunato

Did you fish back in Australia?

I didn’t. Fishing is popular in Australia too, but because I wasn’t near the coast I didn’t get to fish much. I was able to really go fishing for the first time after I came to Ofunato.

Where do you fish in Ofunato?

I fish out at sea on a boat, or out on the docks. I haven’t fished in the rivers before, but there are many people who fish in the rivers too. I recommend going out on a boat, since you can catch the most that way. The fishing tournaments in town are also fun. I’ve participated in some private fishing tournaments with my workplace group, where we competed with others to get the biggest catch.

What kinds of fish can you catch in Ofunato? Did you have those fish back home?

Usually out at sea we can catch a lot of righteye flounders (karei) and fat greenling (ainame). The other day I caught a mackerel (saba), which I was happy about. I hadn’t eaten these fish back in Australia before, but they’re all delicious to me, and there’s a lot of different ways to prepare them.

Do you have any fishing stories you’d like to share?

I got really sea-sick the first time I went out on a boat here. I thought, I’ve been on a boat before, I won’t get sick—but I was wrong. I threw up then slept for the rest of the time I was on the boat. I was recommended medicine for motion sickness afterwards though, and ever since I started taking it I never got seasick again. The medicine I take is called Panshiron Travel SP.

Do you have any message for the ILC?

Do your best. I’m rooting for you all. And welcome to Iwate!

If you come to Ofunato, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to taste seafood that you may have never heard of before, be it sea pineapple (hoya) in spring, sea urchin (uni) in summer, or Pacific saury (sanma) in autumn. If you’re open to experiencing something new, there’s an array of sea-life waiting for you in Ofunato. The kind locals in Ofunato will be happy to give you a warm welcome, and introduce you to a world of ocean culture and cuisine.


食べて良し 遊んで良し 海を満喫 大船渡!



三陸海岸は、青森県から始まり、岩手県のすべての海岸が含まれ、そして宮城県まで続いています。山々や奇岩で形成される海岸は、美しい景色に富み、Kitakami Timesのバックナンバー「Breathtaking Views at the Michinoku Coastal Trail(2017年10月)(」に記載のとおり、ハイキングにも適しています。散歩や水泳に映える美しさだけでなく、三陸の海流は、様々な海の生き物にとって理想的な棲み処をつくっています。

三陸海岸は、ILCの建設に当たり重要な役割を果たすことが期待され、その三陸海岸における魅力的な市の一つが大船渡市です。ILCが北上山地に建設されれば、Kitakami Timesのバックナンバー「Spotlight on Ofunato (#34) (2017年8月)(」で紹介されたとおり、大船渡湾はILC部品・機器等の輸送において、必要不可欠な場所となります。大船渡市は、ILC建設候補地に距離的に近いというだけでなく、ILCプロジェクトへの支持を継続的に表明しており、大船渡港でのILC部品・機器等の輸送についても計画しています。