At a Glance
Welcome to Kurihara! Kurihara City is a collection of ten rural towns that merged to form a large, spread-out, municipality. Although the geographic area is large, the population is quite low. We're home to rice, bears, the best sake on the planet and the most charming people you will ever meet! Kurihara is home to eight talented masters of grassroots internationalization and off-road driving. While K-Town itself can be sparse at times, it's the ALTs that really make being a Kurihara JET something special. We're Miyagi's attic and proud of it. Social life in Kurihara generally centers around Tsukidate. It is the most central region of the city, and is home to city hall, the cultural center, a number of eateries, a golf center, an onsen, karaoke, and much, much more. It is the place many people in Kurihara go to for after work entertainment. However, each town contains its own charming restaurant scene that everyone can enjoy. Kurihara also boasts picturesque, natural scenery that is impossible to find in densely populated cities. Want to see a lake? You can enjoy Lake Izunuma from the balconies at the Sanctuary Center and Korpokkur Café, or from a boat winding through the lotus flowers in the water. Want to climb a mountain? Another beautiful location is Mt. Kurikoma. It's stunning autumn foliage is regularly featured on TV programs in fall. It’s home to a national geo-park that attracts visitors from around the country and beyond. Too tired to leave home? You can enjoy the full Milky Way Galaxy and thousands of stars from your own parking lot on clear nights. Overall, Kurihara is a lovely place to live, from the hustle of the small town-shopping scene,to quiet walks through the Lily Garden. It’s rural Japan! Enjoy the scenery, the tight knit community atmosphere, and engage yourself within it all. Come on in!
Kuri means chestnut and koma is the old Japanese word for horse. Kurikoma is a small town of 15,000 people located in the northwestern Miyagi, bordering our neighboring prefectures, Iwate and Akita. It is well known for the inactive volcano Mt. Kurikoma (1600m). Kurikoma Mountain is a great place to enjoy nature’s presents. There are cabins available at a reasonable price, along with onsens, a pool, sauna, gift shops, coffee shops, and restaurants. Kurikoma Sports Center allows people to enjoy their pool, aerobics, basketball, badminton,and weight training for a bargain of 500yen. Within the town there are some popular restaurants such as Kinryu-beef and Katsudon that has a traditional interior and music that creates a great atmosphere. Genpei is a great sushi place, while Chiroru serves pasta, pizza, gratin, sandwiches and cakes, which might quench a craving within a few months of being in Japan. Yoronotaki has a picture menu with inexpensive western and Japanese food. The Dashi Matsuri is on last weekend of July every year. On Saturday afternoon through the evening you can see illuminated floats, eat festival food, and watch traditional dancing and the carrying of the shrine. The floats parade through town on Sunday. There is also a Hanabi Matsuri (fireworks) in August and a taiko festival in September.
Tsukidate is the largest town in the area. From Route 4, you can find grocery stores (Yoku Benimaru, Big House, Yamaya), 100 yen shops, and convenience stores. For beers and a relaxing atmosphere, head to ZEST. Just around the corner is Palette Bakery. For sushi, visit, Tsuzumi restaurant, along route 398. There’s also a great Italian restaurant off Route 4 near Big House and Daiso. It looks like a log cabin on the outside and serves great pizza and pastas. Yakushiyama is located behind the elementary school in Tsukidate and is visible from Route 4. It has a 1000+ year old tree, a Buddhist temple and a small park which is great for cherry blossom viewing in the spring. There is a festival the first weekend of November, called Yakushi Matsuri, which involves sake and a parade.
Ichihasama 一迫 & Takashimizu 高清水
Rumoured to exist. If you are an ALT there, please share your Ichihasamic wisdom in next year’s welcome guide. Every around setsubun, Ichihasama does a mikoshi parade through the snow-covered streets. The carriers wear nothing but loincloths and the spectators throw buckets of cold water on them as they pass by.
Kannari has a population of 7,000 people bringing 2 districts, Kannari and Sawabe together. Between them one can live a simple inaka life without going completely crazy. Don’t worry, there is a Maxvalu, Yakuoko (pharmacy), Homac and a 100-yen shop, the bare necessities. Though it’s a small town, it has a lot to offer. There is a small Russian orthodox church, an old school converted into a museum, and many small shrines. One of the shrines has a Samurai festival every year on the first Sunday in April. There is an onsen at the top of the hill. It is 400yen for entrance and has a lovely view of Kurikoma Mountain. If you travel further up Route 4, you will come to a small store called Agurikko, which sells the BEST ice cream as well as inexpensive vegetables and flowers. Kannari has many rice fields and many views of Kurikoma Mountain. In fall the (rather nice) town festival is held and hosts Kabuki performances and such. From Kannari, it’s only a 15-minute drive to its larger neighbour, Ichinoseki in Iwate-ken.
Hanayama is the smallest town in Miyagi in terms of population (1650). But don’t let that get you down! It has 3 onsens and camping facilities. Hanayama is a great getaway for some chilling time due to the lack of nightlife and the fact that most things close by 7 or 8 pm every night.
Hanayama has some great things to offer. There is an old guard gate/customs gate by the Nuruyuu Sansou onsen that dates back to when samurai ruled. There are 2 shrines in town; one is close to the elementary school, on top of a hill with an excellent view of the lake. The other is larger and is close to the border with Ichihasama. Close to the JHS, there is a campground that is located beside the Hanayama Lake. You can boat and kayak there. In the springtime, the campground is also a great place for viewing the local cherry blossoms. There are two notable waterfalls in the area, Azabu Keikoku and Shiraito no Take. People interested in pottery, you can visit Mr. Shuji Kudoh. He is a residential potterist originally from Iwate, and he speaks some English. Lastly, there is a house from the Edo period, previously owned by samurai Chiba Shyuusaku.
This small, humble and GREAT town makes up for its lack of modern entertainment options with some stunning scenery. It is home of the only hip-hop bar in the area. Lake Izunuma is a lovely area, which is beautiful all year round. Cherry blossom season is probably the best time to check out the river and the lake. There are Yoku Benimaru and COOP supermarkets and a great deal of fun at the Japanese department store JUSCO. There are no fast food joints or big chain restaurants, but there is the Jaki Café, which has a great reputation. There is also a Sports Center, which has a nice fitness room and only costs about 200 yen a visit.
Originally a mining town of over 30 000, Uguisuzawa is now one of the smallest towns in Kurihara-shi. With a current population of only 3000 people, Ugu (as it’s been fondly nicknamed) really does epitomize inaka life. There’s nary a supermarket, but a couple of little restaurants and Mama-san’s snack bar ensure you won’t go hungry (as long as you don’t leave it too late in the evening).
Although certainly not the bustling metropolis that it once was, Ugu is well worth a visit. This old mining town is very peaceful and ideal for anyone running from the law hoping to lay low for a year or two. Nestled at the foot of mountains, Mt. Kurikoma is a mere stone’s throw away. Lush rice fields stretch in every direction and a river runs through the centre of town. It’s a great place to unwind or take a Sunday drive. There are also some festivals throughout the year. In March, on the first Saturday and Sunday there is the Ume Matsuri festival displaying an amazing range of bonsai trees. In June, there is the Satsuki Bonsai Matsuri, again rows of bonsai trees, but this time in full bloom. Very very low key, but highly recommended to anyone with an interest in bonsai. Another attraction is the Mine Park. It’s open every day except Tuesdays. You can go into the mountain and see mining things or check out the slide park. There is a souvenir shop and a restaurant there as well.
Small in population, but huge geographically, this town is known for its abundance of vending machines. There is also a grocery store and a few convenience stores. However what makes this small town unique and special is the Kurikoma Kogen shinkansen station, literally situated out in the middle of rice fields, with the multi-purpose Epoca, plopped down right behind the station. Inside, you will find a gym, an onsen, and a walking pool. The gym has treadmills, bikes and weights. On the first floor of Epoca there is a gift shop which sells inexpensive produce that local farmers bring to sell. There’s also good cake and ice cream in this store. On the second floor of Epoca, there is an Internet café for 100 yen/hour. Also has an amazing AEON which is good for groceries, home furnishings, clothing, and anything else- a godsend.
Hmm what to say about Semine? Semine is home to a grocery store and a few convenience stores, but most of all is located right on the Touhoku Honsen JR train line. For less than 1,000 yen, a ride to Sendai is simple and easy and gives you great access to just about anything you need, and many places around the prefecture.
Places to Eat
Places to Visit
Things to Do
Ice Mura (Ice Cream Village) - あいすむら
A home made ice cream shop in Ichihasama. Seasonable flavors. There's sometimes food trucks that are in the parking lot so you could have takoyaki and ice cream in one place! The scenery around is nice to look at while eating!
Near the 4 and 398 intersection down a small alleyway. You’ll see the yellow and red sign from route 4. Good for parties and nomi/tabe-hodai (all-you-can-drink/eat).
This is a cute restaurant that looks like a log cabin from the outside. It serves mainly Italian food.
Sawazen - さわぜん
On an intersection with Route 4 in southern Tsukidate. Good nomi/tabe place… a bit more expensive, but worth it.
Sumibiichiba Ju. - 炭火いちば じゅう。
A yakiniku place on route 4 near the over bridge. Ju and Sawazen are probably the nicest restaurants in Kurihara – but take that with a grain of salt.
Ryutenko - 龍天鴻
Yaki-niku place is Kannari. The owner, Endo-san, has pretty solid English and loves classic rock. He puts mango chutney in the cow tongue curry. The man is a genius. We go there a lot. It's got all the standard yaki-niku fare, but the servings are beyond generous.
Ayame's - あやめの里
This restaurant is near the hollow log and the Sanno Ruins/Iris Park in Ichihasama, on Route 398. It serves basic Japanese fare, their katsu curry is great! Also has a farmer’s market.
Koropokkuru - コロポックル
A jazz cafe on Lake Izunuma. Their main draw is baked curry doria as well as BLTs.
An izakaya-styled café. Has a wide variety of food and drinks ordered a la carte. French toast is the best.
A family owned café that serves pasta, pizza, salads, and lovely coffee. Everything there is decently priced and have big portions. The coffee drinks are really good and come dressed up in local pottery cups.
Time Cafe - たいむカフェ
In Kurikoma. When Route 457 going north ends, turn right. Look for the sign on the right. Serves some good food, and lots of drink choices. They have two floors and have a nice lofted ceiling. The owner is super chill and might strike up a conversation with you! The closest thing Kurihara has to a nice coffee shop.
Miyagi Lapras Pokelid - Ducklett
Did you know that Miyagi's Ambassador Pokemon is Lapras? There are 35 decorative Lapras Manhole Covers all over Miyagi! You can see this manhole at Kurihara's Road Station Rotarii Hanayama! Why Ducklett? Kurihara's Iwanuma Lake is a famous annual nesting spot for all kinds of waterfowl!
Michi no Eki - Rotarii Hanayama - 道の駅 路田里花山
Did you know that Miyagi has fifteen Michi no Eki's or Road Stations? They all have restaurants that offer meals usually made from local ingredients! At each Road Station, there usually is a store that sells local products that can range from local produce, local sake, small souvenirs, to wooden crafts! Please check out your closest Michi no Eki for unique goods!
Mt. Kurikoma - 栗駒山
Spanning the northwest part of Miyagi Prefecture and standing 1627 meters tall, Mt. Kurikoma is one of the first things that people think when they hear Kurihara. It borders three prefectures; Miyagi, Iwate, and Akita. It is considered an stratavolcano and considered one of the famous 200 Mountains of Japan. Due to the richness of the soil on Mt. Kurikoma, the mountain is covered in flowers in spring and has impressive fall colors in the beginning of autumn. Being a volcano, there are plenty of hot springs on Mt. Kurikoma but during winter when it snows a lot it is difficult to get to them. Mt. Kurikoma is also the location for the annual MAJET hiking trip in November (usually)!
Onikobe Ski Area - オニコウベスキー場
If you like snowboarding or skiing, you’re in a bit of luck. We just happen to have a small slope reasonably close to us near Naruko called Onikoube. Gasan, Appi, and Zao are a bit further away but offer a lot more variety. If you are really interested in skiing or snowboarding, you might like to ask some others where they like going. There are lots of options in Miyagi. Onikoube is about a 1 hour drive from Tsukidate. You can rent gear on the mountain. There are lessons available in Japanese. I recommend heading to Naruko for a well-earned onsen on the ride home!
Koma no Yu - 駒の湯温泉・蕎麦カフェ
Ａ recently rebuilt onsen and cafe on the foothills of Mt. Kurikoma. The water is fairly cold (39~41C), but it is relaxing. Good to stop in after hiking up the volcano. Closed in winter for obvious reasons. There's a cafe next door that sells soba.
Yubama/Yunohama Onsen - 湯浜温泉
Do you want to get away from it all? Really get away from it? Then this is the place for you. Located in a valley along Route 398 on Mt. Kurikoma, this ryokan/onsen has no cell service and no electricity (short of a generator) and is the only habitation around for kilometres. You can stay overnight with dinner and breakfast included (both featuring vegetables grown right at the ryokan) if you want, and a one-time onsen pass runs ￥700 (bring your own towel). For those who aren't squeamish, there is also a mixed bath in front of the waterfall which courses near the inn. Closed in winter for obvious reasons.
Nuruyu Sanso - 花山温泉 温湯(ぬるゆ)山荘
Located next to a museum in a historic building, it's a very quiet hot spring en route to Akita via 398. It's fairly cheap at ￥510, and supposedly has some good autumn scenery in the open air bath.