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My first shot at planning a tour! Kesennuma & Mt. Tokusenjo

This year, Kesennuma Tourism & Convention Bureau was granted the license to work as a tour operator, and I was charged with creating Kesennuma’s first-ever self-produced group tour. Weeks of planning finally culminated in “Fall in Love with the Mountains and Sea,” a two-day excursion which combines Kesennuma’s famous oysters and world-renowned sake with Japan’s best spot for azalea-viewing, Mt. Tokusenjo. Over the past weekend, I had the pleasure of sharing the best of Tohoku’s beautiful springtime with six guests from all over Japan, and even a visitor who had come all the way from the U.K.!

Day 1

We spent the first part of our day with Masaya Hatakeyama, a local oyster farmer and his wife Kana. They took us on their boat, and gave us a tour of the setups that are used for aquaculture.

 

Sanriku Oysters are called “Momare Oysters,” “oysters massaged by the waves of the sea”. From the time they are planted, these oysters take 2.5 to 3 years to reach full maturity.
During the mid-part of theie growth cycle, each oyster is rinsed off with hot water. Although this process is highly labor-intensive, it rids the oysters of other marine life and stimulates them to take in more nutrient-rich plankton.
In the final stage of their growth, the oysters are groomed to the specifications of each restaurant which purchases them. Each of these baskets is marked with a placard indicating which restaurant the oysters will be shipped to.
They’re huuuge! Kesennuma’s oysters are an experience of their own!
Trying to lure a seagull to the boat!
My friend Mayumi-san (center) saw me present about this tour two months ago, so she came all the way from Tokyo to join with a friend!
After lunch, we got a tour of Otokoyama Honten, which produces the renowned “Sotenden” sake.
Summer is the off-season for sake production, but even so, the aroma of sake in the air is intense!
Otokoyama President Akihiko Sugawara, and his son Hiroki explain the differences of their various products.
Everyone looks happier with a glass of sake in hand!

Day 2

The main event for Day 2 was a trip to Mt. Tokusenjo. While an unseasonably warm spring hadn’t left behind quite as many azaleas as we might have hoped, the beautiful weather made for a great day of hiking.
Tokusenjo is also home to the first two treehouses built by the Tohoku Treehouse Tourism Association.
At Treehouse #1 we happened to find Michiari-san, leader of the Treehouse Tourism Association. Michiari-san says he wants to build 100 treehouses in Tohoku to give people a positive reason to come visit this region.
My friend Rob is a British grad student. He’s going to be in Kesennuma for a few weeks to learn about how the town is using grassroots tourism projects like this one to revitalize the local community!
Haruka and Andre came all the way from Tokyo! It was Andre’s first time back to the city in five years, so he was surprised to find Kesennuma as vibrant as it is now.

From planning to execution, doing a tour like this was not just a first for me, but a first for Kesennuma as well. Something that started out as just an idea on a piece of paper evolved into (hopefully!) a memorable experience for everyone involved. I know that it certainly was for me. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have met such a wonderfully diverse group of people, and I want to keep working to spread the word about the beauty of Tohoku’s coastal communities by planning more trips like this one.

A huge thank you to everyone who made this trip possible!

 

 

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