[Currently, travel to Sumita is not recommended, and for many not possible, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, several of the facilities and businesses showcased in this article are closed at the time this article is published, to prevent the spread of the virus. Please check the hours and closures before visiting. We sincerely hope that all readers stay safe, and are able to visit Iwate Prefecture when it is safe to do so.]

Sumita is a quaint little town which lies east to the ILC candidate site cities of Oshu and Ichinoseki. If the ILC is built, the town’s mountainous roads could be used to transport some parts for the ILC from Ofunato Port. The small town has a population of 5,315 people (as of March, 2020) and an area of 335km2—of which 303km2, or about 90%, consists of forested land. As such, visitors are likely to come across wildlife in Sumita, such as deer or antelope. If you give a Sumita local a moment of your time, they will be happy to tell you about the town’s rich history and abundance of natural resources. Sumita’s small-town hospitality makes the town all the more enjoyable to explore.

Map of Iwate Prefecture, showing Sumita

During the Edo period (1603-1868 CE), Sumita was a post town that played an important role in connecting inland areas to the coast, due to its key location between the two areas. The town was a vital route for trade of goods such a rice, which was transported to towns on the coast, as well as seafood which was sold to inland towns. As such, merchants between inland and coastal areas would stop by Sumita to trade and to stay at inns during their travels. Visitors can get a feel for the town’s past by just looking at the historical buildings throughout the town.

Machiya Setamai Eki

The Machiya Setamai Eki is made up of several facilities which embrace the town’s history. The Machiya Setamai Eki contains a townhouse and storehouse which were built over 100 years ago, that have been repurposed into a community hub and restaurant.

The restaurant inside, Kerasse, has a lovely variety of western and Japanese dishes that use fresh ingredients from Sumita. During lunch time, there’s even a salad and dessert bar, as well as free-refill drinks and soup.

Spaghetti at Kerasse, with self-serve salad and soup

In addition to working as a link between trade for coastal and inland Iwate, Sumita’s location and lush nature have made the town virtuous with resources such as timber, gold and limestone.

Sumita Town Hall

You can see the influence of Sumita’s rich natural resources by simply passing by the town hall. The beautifully designed town hall is built with cedar wood local to Sumita, called “Kesen Cedar”. The term Kesen represents the Kesen region which includes Sumita, and the cities of Ofunato and Rikuzentakata.

The town promotes living in harmony with nature, and the town hall is also designed to be environmentally friendly, which can be seen in its use of renewable energy.

 Inside the town hall, there are even several award-winning wooden carvings made out of Kesen Cedar on display.

Kesen Cedar

One of Sumita’s town goals is to be the top town in Japan for forestry, which is complimented by the various wood art carvings throughout town.

A wood carving located outside of Setamai Pre-school in Sumita

In addition to Sumita’s history as a post town, the town has also valued Buddhism and Shintoism for ages, which is evident in the temples and shrines you can find all throughout the town. If you stop by Sumita, you’re likely to notice torii, or shrine gates, throughout the town. The town’s torii can often be spotted alongside mountains, where the Shinto shrine is located on the base of a mountain.

A red torii gate leading up to a shrine in Sumita

The town is also home to several magnificent temples, such as the Jofuku Temple.

The main hall at Jofuku Temple

The temple was original established in 1536, and the current main hall was built in 1800. The architecture of the hall is unique to Kesen Carpentry. This carpentry style is representative of Kesen, and buildings designed in a similar style can be found throughout the region. One characteristic of Kesen Carpentry is the distinct curve to the roofs, which can be seen in the Jofuku Temple as well.

A statue of Shinran, a monumental Buddhist monk, on Jofuku Temple’s grounds, overlooking the town

Into the beautiful nature of Sumita

True to being made up of 90% forested land, Sumita is full of pristine nature. The clear rivers and streams flowing through Sumita give a mystical atmosphere to the town.

Cherry blossoms blooming over a stream in town

The Kesen River, and the Hayama Megane Bridge

The Hayama Megane Bridge is located along the Kesen River, which flows through Sumita and Rikuzentakata City and ends in the Hirota Bay. The bridge’s name, “Megane Bridge” translates to the “Glasses Bridge” and refers to how the bridge is shaped like the lens of a pair of glasses. The river’s light green water and pale rock surfaces come together to make an enchanting scene next to the bridge.

From the Hayama Megane Bridge, it’s about a 20-minute drive to one of Sumita’s most thrilling sightseeing spots: the Rokando Cave.

Rokando Cave

The Rokando Cave boasts Japan’s largest waterfall inside of a cave, at a height 29 meters. Visitors can take the adventure of walking through the limestone cave and see the waterfall themselves*. The waterfall is located at the end of the cave, which can be reached after walking through the cave for roughly half an hour. Along the way, there are plenty of intriguing spots throughout the cave to enjoy as well. The inside of the cave is well lit, and helmets and boots will be rented out as part of the entrance fee. You might even meet some small friends along the way!

*The entrance price is 1,100 yen for adults, 700 yen for children (elementary school and middle school aged), and free for infants.

One of the bats which inhabits the cave

Be sure to keep an eye out—the bats are small so they’re easy to miss!

You can also spot the traces of lifeforms from the past inside the cave, as there are various fossils etched into the cave walls.


While the cave is quite a distance from the ocean now, the fossils you can find in the cave are actually from ancient sea-life. This is because Sumita, including the Rokando Cave, used to be underneath the ocean, before it was pushed up above the water due to tectonic movement. One fossil is circled in red in the photo above, but there are a few more in the photo. Inside the cave, visitors are free to look at and touch the fossils in their natural setting.

Aside from the cave itself, visitors can also enjoy a meal at Rokando’s eatery in the Rokando Tourism Center, which is next to the cave’s entrance. You can even try out the “Waterfall Nagashi-soba” experience, where soba is sent down bamboo shoots into your bowl. While entrance to the cave is possible throughout the year, the eatery and nagashi-soba experience are not operated during winter, and can be enjoyed from April to October. Entrance to the cave is generally possible everyday outside winter (from November to February) which has weekend-only operation, and the New Year holiday.

The Waterfall Nagashi-soba experience at the Rokando Tourism Center. The soba will slide down a bamboo shaft into the bowl!

For those who are looking to enjoy Sumita’s nature through a hike or climb, the town is full of mountains which offer gorgeous views, and are also home to diverse wildlife.

A photo taken on Mt. Goyo

Mt. Goyo borders Sumita, Kamaishi and Ofunato cities, and is also the tallest peak on Iwate Prefecture’s coast, at a height of 1,351 meters. The mountain has breathtaking views of the ria coastline, and is home to wildlife such as Japanese monkeys, deer, and black bears. The photo above was taken from the eastern side of the mountain during spring, when azalea flowers bloom along the mountain. There are also several mountain huts on the mountain, which visitors are free to stay the night at. There’s nothing like waking up on the mountain to see the sunrise off of the ocean in the morning.

A trip to Sumita is a lovely way to experience nature and to learn about the history in the area. Time passes slowly in the town, which makes it a calming place to get away and feel rejuvenated. We hope that, in addition to being a key route for the transport of ILC parts someday, the little town of Sumita can be a special place for visitors to enjoy as well.

If you would like to know more about the town of Sumita or the Kesen region, you can read English articles on the KESEN & BEYOND blog. (https://visitkesen.wixsite.com/kesenandbeyond/blog)



















*入洞料は大人1,100円、小・中学生700円、未就学児 無料。





住田町、又は気仙地域についてもっと知りたい方へ、気仙地域についての英語版ブログ「KESEN & BEYOND」をご覧ください。