Watari is located in the southeastern part of Miyagi Prefecture, about 26 km south of Sendai. Relatively warm in winter and with pleasant sea breezes to relieve the heat in summer, it is a very comfortable place to live.
The Kuroshio Current flows in the Pacific Ocean to the east. The Abukuma Highlands to the west is a hilly zone about 200 m high, and the Abukuma River has created fertile land in the region. Watari covers 73.60km², running 10 km north to south and 7 km east to west, creating a vertically long shape. It is a rural town full of greenery, where residential areas surround the central rice paddies.
Located on the southern shore of the Abukuma River, Watari takes its name from wataruchi, or “river crossing.”
The castle town was built during the reign of the Watari–Date clan in the Edo period, and the atmosphere of the time can still be seen throughout the town.
In February 1955, the towns of Watari and Arahama and the villages of Yoshida and Okuma merged to form the current town of Watari.
Watari has ocean, rivers, mountains, and widespread fields. With a wide variety of fresh foods from this natural environment, a rich food culture was born, including seafood, rice, and vegetables.
The most important item is harakomeshi !
This extravagant dish of salmon and salmon roe is now a regional dish that could be considered soul food for Miyagi residents.
Fruit production is also active here. Special products include strawberries known as Mouikko, as well as apples and acerola. Visit a direct sales outlet to enjoy seasonal tastes.
Watari suffered severe damaged from the Great East Japan Earthquake. The surging tsunami reached a height of 7 m, destroying and washing away houses along the coast.
Coastal forests were not spared, either. Along the coast, thick woods of Japanese black pine forests were nearly all knocked down and washed away. Strawberry farms that had boasted the highest production in the Tohoku region suffered devastating damage, as they were located on land along the sea. In Torinoumi, an area where tourists gathered, many shops were washed away. The tsunami reached as high as the second-story floor of the five-story Torinoumi Onsen spa, which overlooked the sea.
In towns that lost homes and industry, employment was also lost and local communities collapsed. Long-standing neighbor relationships were lost, as well as the means of passing on traditions and culture to future generations.
Following this heartbreaking experience, Watari began moving step-by-step on the path to recovery. The town is not only returning to the conditions before the earthquake but also beginning initiatives to make the area even more attractive.
The planting of coastal forests is underway, thanks to local residents and volunteers. Currently, the stands of thin trees are the height of a child, but, in a few decades, the rich forest will have regenerated. Strawberry farmers have come back through the power of the younger generation, who are undertaking the production of new varieties using modern cultivation techniques.
Watari Onsen Torinoumi, flooded by the tsunami, underwent a remodel and reopening. Once again, tourists are beginning to gather at the open-air baths.
Companies addressing disaster preparedness and the employment of local residents are also seen. Cosmetic Aida has gone beyond the rebuilding of its damaged factory by building a new disaster-resistant factory.
New organizations, such as WATALIS, are shouldering the handing down of traditions and culture. Local women have carried Watari’s culture of recycling kimono fabric into accessories forward in new forms.
Watari is rising from the major disaster like a phoenix. Come look, and head off on a journey of unforgettable experiences.
From Sendai: About 50 min on National Road 4 to National Road 6
From Sendai Airport: About 20 min on the Shiogama Watari Prefectural Road
From Sendai: About 30 min to Watari Station on the Joban Line
From Sendai Airport: About 10 min to Natori Station on the Sendai Airport Access Line; about 20 min from Natori Station to Watari Station on the Joban Line
From Tokyo: About 90 min to Sendai Station on the Tohoku Shinkansen Hayabusa; about 30 min to Watari Station on the Joban Line