Ishinomaki is a large city located along the eastern coast of Miyagi prefecture. Whilst considered to be one of the most heavily damaged areas following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Ishinomaki is doing remarkably well. Though reconstruction activities will likely continue for years to come, the modern Ishinomaki has revitalised itself and is very much open for business, welcoming overseas visitors keen to explore beyond the Matsushima tourist trail to the west.
Arriving in Ishinomaki, the first thing you might notice is the incredible influence of manga on this city – literally every step you take will see you encounter a new manga character on the streets of Ishinomaki. This is the legacy of local hero, Ishinomori Shotaro, the celebrated manga artist credited with the record for most comics published by one author: over 770 titles. His most famous titles included Cyborg 009, Super Sentai and the Kamen Rider series. His influence extends far beyond Ishinomaki's Manga Museum located on the 'Mangattan' island to the east, but also hundreds of life-sized characters located throughout the city, many concentrated along the Manga Road route that connects the museum to the station.
Ishinomaki does attract a number of visitors looking to support the area's recovery and learn a bit about the recovery in progress. A number of sites are worth visiting in this regard, from the Ishinomaki Community & Info Center, to the Ganbarou Ishinomaki sign towards the barren coastal area, to the hilltop Hiyoriyama park – a refuge point for residents during the events of 2011. The Community & Info Center provides a lot of information about the disaster as well as the recovery since and the ongoing and future projects planned for Ishinomaki.
A number of visitors journey up to Ishinomaki to make a connecting trip to Tashirojima – otherwise known as one of Japan's Cat Islands. Ferries depart twice a day from the Ajishima Line ferry terminal towards the coast and a proper excursion can take about half a day, though some visitors choose to stay overnight. Hundreds of cats roam the island and there is also a camping resort known as 'Manga Island' with some interesting cat-shaped properties.
Ishinomaki Fish Market is the largest fish market in all of Japan, and if you visit in the early hours of the morning you'll be able to witness some of their famous fish market auctions in progress. Ishinomaki is the commercial fishing hub for the Sanriku fishing grounds, so you can expect to try a lot of fresh seafood when visiting the city – why not try scallops, oysters or the peculiar local delicacy – Hoya sea squirt (sea pineapple)?
The Sant Juan Bautista is a beautiful ship construction out to the east, which helped put Ishinomaki on the map over 400 years ago. It set sail on a trade mission to Mexico under orders of Sendai's samurai lord, Date Masamune. The grounds here provide incredible views of Ishinomaki Bay.