Kenji Himeno / Grain Division
* In this column, Marubeni Group staff provide a glimpse of the cities in which they are living and working.
Kamaishi, the “City of Iron and Seafood”, is located on the southern coast of Iwate — the widest prefecture by land area and opposite of narrow Kagawa, one of the four prefectures on the island of Shikoku, which has the smallest land area in the country. Iwate prefecture has a complex topography and the weather changes dramatically depending on your location. For those coming to Kamaishi, in order to avoid being caught out by preparing ahead based on the weather report for inland Morioka, please be sure to check the climate of Kamaishi instead.
To get to Kamaishi, you will need to change to the local train line after alighting from the Shinkansen in Shinhanamaki. From there it takes 1.5 hours on the rapid or about two hours on the local train, but there is so much to see outside the train windows. It takes about 10 minutes by car between Shinhanamaki Station and Iwate Hanamaki Airport, so taking an airplane is also convenient.
As of spring 2014, the C58-239, hauling the rapid SL Ginga train set, began operation on the Kamaishi Line (Hanamaki-Kamaishi). The train runs from Hanamaki to Kamaishi on Saturdays and makes the return journey on Sundays. It is a popular ride and always bustling with passengers. There is a better chance of reserving a seat within the Tono-Kamaishi zone, and if you want to enjoy traveling over famous Sennin-Touge, then this is a good choice (services are scheduled to commence in April 2015).
The best part of Kamaishi is the seafood. I recommend sea urchin in summer. The fishing season is short, stretching from June to mid-August — a period when fresh sea urchins soaked in sterilized seawater-filled milk bottles are sold. If you wash it lightly in fresh water, you will be lost for words at how amazing it tastes. Japanese squid is cooked from the second half of the sea urchin season. It isn’t as famous as its Hakodate counterpart, but locally caught squid is superb. The local style is to eat it as sashimi (raw), or cook it whole, cut it into rings, and then boil it with wata (the insides of the squid). If you’ve had enough of Japanese cuisine, one delicious option is to use the wata and black ink in fried rice or pasta.
Fall is the season for saury. Two great ways to enjoy it apart from the usual salting and grilling is to deep-fry minced flesh or make it into a broth. Salmon also run in Kasshi-gawa River, which flows alongside Kamaishi Station. I recommend cooking up these salmon into a Western-style cream stew with bok-choy and Chinese cabbage. At the end of fall, the abalone season begins. With the smell of the seashore wafting around you, this is the ultimate indulgence.
Apart from seafood, there are locally harvested matsutake mushrooms. I have been blessed with many opportunities to eat these, and the aroma has always been one that enriched my life. Drinkers can enjoy local sake. With a delicate taste owing to high quality water, it can be savored both cold and hot.
It might be a little hard for first-time visitors to enter restaurants in Kamaishi, but the locals are all kind and very welcoming. It is best to have a local person introduce things to you.
Kamaishi was devastated in the Great East Japan Earthquake and has been greatly undergoing recovery and reconstruction. The city cannot welcome guests in its full capacity yet, but please come and visit.
Marubeni Group communication site “MS+ (MS Plus)” (January 15, 2015)