In this 15th installment of the multipart series on my favourite Japanese moorage ports, I introduce four ports in northeastern Honshu.
Observant readers will note that, with this article, I am skipping all of southeast Hokkaido. There are many places to moor there, but none that would qualify as a “favourite” in terms of the moorage facility and/or local history and culture and/or scenery and/or the people.
Also, I am only introducing a few places in the entire northeastern Honshu region, not because there are few “favourites” but because all the ports in the region have undergone (and, in some cases, are still undergoing) extensive changes as a result of the reconstruction efforts after the devastating 2011 earthquake/tsunami. So what was an excellent moorage spot a few years ago may no longer exist or is now fully occupied by local fishing boats. For those cruising this coast, therefore, one has to be prepared to just enter a port and look around for a good, unoccupied moorage spot.
For those going to/from Hakodate, Shimofuro is a convenient one-day sail away, and it’s a good place to sit out weather in the often-boisterous Tsugaru Strait.
Although it is a very active fishing port, one can almost find an empty spot to tie up for the night. Cruisers typically moor in the western basin. I and several friends have moored in the spot marked by the red dot (41°28'11.2"N 141°05'27.9"E), but others have moored on the far western wall.
Shimofuro is popular among cruisers because of its excellent hot-spring baths (“ofuro” means bath), as well as for the great seafood that can be found in the local restaurants/pubs.
At the far northeastern end of Honshu is the small port of Shiriyamisaki. Its only reason for existence is for ships to load cement from the two nearby factories; there is no town or anything else of note.
I include it as a favourite because it’s a good backup option if Shimofuro is full (unlikely, but possible) and because it’s an excellent place to wait for a break in the thick fog that often blankets the area. The entrance is simple and unobstructed, so one can pick one’s way to the moorage spot (red dot; 41°24'32.8"N 141°26'05.1"E) even in very restricted visibility.
About three kilometers to the north is Cape Shiriya, Honshu’s northeasternmost point, with a small information center and café. And about three kilometers to the south is a village with a few small restaurants.
Sailors going around Cape Shiriya need to be mindful of the many nearby reefs and islets and of the tricky currents (which is why charts indicate that there are numerous sunken wrecks in the area). Of course, that encourages sailors to give the Cape a wide berth, but they also have to stay out of the way of the many fast-moving cargo ships transiting the area.
About midway along Honshu’s northeastern coast is the fairly large port town of Miyako.
Approaching Miyako, stay in the middle of the channel to avoid the extensive aquaculture areas on both sides. There are two moorage options in Miyako, both on one’s starboard side.
The first is a wall tie next to a “Road Station” that has shops selling local delicacies, a restaurant, and washrooms. There is a convenience store and a few restaurants fairly nearby, and downtown is about two kilometers away. (Red dot; 39°38'18.7"N 141°58'12.3"E.)
Further south is the second option, a small marina, Rias Harbor Miyako. It can accommodate boats up to about 45’ on the two finger piers south of the marina’s main docks (but larger boats may be permitted if the marina is not too busy; I once arranged moorage there for a client’s 60’ boat). The moorage fee is ¥3,000 (about $22) per night. No power or water on the dock. There is a convenience store within walking distance, but otherwise there is little in the way of restaurants or shops in the area. It is about three kilometers to downtown, and the marina has been known to let visitors use their little electric car for running errands. (Blue dot; 39°37'03.0"N 141°57'59.5"E.)
Heading south from Miyako, one passes by the beautiful Sanriku coast, with its many rocky outcroppings and deeply indented bays. Sadly, it was those long, narrow bays that funneled the 2011 tsunami into higher (30+ feet), more destructive and deadly waves. In the first few years after the tsunami, it was almost impossible to find moorage space in the Sanriku ports, which were under extensive reconstruction even while trying to accommodate the large number of new, bigger fishing boats that replaced the many boats lost in the tsunami. Now, however, it is usually possible to find moorage space if one is prepared to just enter a port and look around for a likely spot.
At the far southern end of the Sanriku coast, near the entrance to Sendai, the largest city in northern Japan, is the small island of Tashirojima. At the southeastern end of the island is the fishing port of Nitoda.
One can moor along the new wall at the northwestern end of the port. (Red dot; 38°17'46.9"N 141°25'28.3"E; despite what the chart shows, there is ample depth.)
The village has the rather rundown feel, and excessive number of cats, common in most small Japanese fishing ports. But it also has a somewhat interesting-quirky quality, the product of several “outsiders” who have moved to the island in search of a slower life. That includes a young couple who have established Marine Life, a small inn and restaurant; I enjoyed a long chat with them while eating their delicious homemade cake and coffee brewed from freshly ground beans from Peru.