“Location / Terrain”

Kesennuma City is located in the northernmost part of Miyagi Prefecture, in the Tohoku region of Japan’s main Honshu Island.  It is a port city with an intricate and fascinating rias coastline facing the Pacific Ocean, and lush mountains.  It is the closest port city to the offshore area where the warm Kuroshio current meets the cold Oyashio current.  This offshore fishing spot is considered to be one of the three most important fishing spots for global fishing.  Kesennuma has a calm and deep natural harbor that has Oshima Island which is also called as "green pearl", situated at its mouth.  The bay is an important connection between Kesennuma and the world as it is an important base for long term commercial fishing, coastal fishing, , aquaculture and the fish processing industry.  Also, Kesennuma area is included in “Sanriku Reconstruction National Park”, and Kesennuma is widely known as a tourist city.  The city also has a fish market where tourists can enjoy fresh fish and other seafood.


- Etymology of Kesennuma -

The name of the city "Kesennuma" came from Ainu (northern native Japanese) word "Kesemui" or "Kesemoi".  "Kese" means "End of downside" or "End".  "Mui”or Moi" means “calm ocean” or “bay".  Thus the word “ Kesennuma” is presumed to mean the southernmost port of the Ainu people who lived in Tohoku.  

The area known as “Kesennuma” has long been called “Kesema” or “Kesenma”, and it first appeared in the literature as “KESEMA Oshima Shrine” in the history book of Heian period called "Sandai Jitsuroku" written in 901.

Kesennuma has few arable plains, but the lack of arable land is made up with a bountiful ocean.  Because of that, sea and fishing has been an important part of Kesennuma City's history.  Ruins suggests that people who inhabited the area going as far back to the Jomon Period, lived by the blessings of the sea.

Whilst the sea and its bounty have played an important and constructive role in the history of Kesennuma City, it has also been the cause of many disasters in the form of tsunamis.

Like many areas of Japan, Kesennuma City and the coastal areas around it are prone to tsunamis. It was struck by the tsunamis resulting from the following recorded earthquakes in modern times:  -The Meiji Sanriku earthquake of 1896, - The Showa Sanriku earthquake of 1933, - The Chile earthquake of 1960, - The Miyagi-ken earthquake Oki earthquake of 1978, and - The Great East Japan Earthquake of March, 11, 2011.

“The Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster”

- Tribulation, Appreciation and New challenge -

"The Great East Japan Earthquake" caused wide scale devastation in the Tohoku region, claiming 15,900 lives. 2,500 people went missing. The tsunami and the major fires that followed claimed 1,200 lives in Kesnnuma City whilst 220 people went missing.

Kensennuma City and its people are very grateful for the overwhelming help and support from people and organizations throughout the world.

In our mind with immense gratitude and appreciation, step by step, we are steadily progressing towards regeneration.

We recognize and respect the fact that it was a disaster brought by the sea.  However we also recognize and respect the fact that it was also the sea that raised Kesennuma into an attractive town. Effectively, we have chosen a path of coexistence with the sea and the revival of our inheritance of our predecessors.

“The Kesennuma Earthquake Disaster Reconstruction Plan (2011-2021)” formulated by the city in full consultation of its citizens, has the theme of “Zero Tsunami Death City” as its foundational principle as way of coping with and resisting disaster damage and deaths.  The City has embarked on a reconstruction and revival program that focuses on the long standing traditional theme and practice of coexistence with the ocean.  The subtitle “Living with the Ocean” which was chosen by a public offering now forms the spiritual backbone of the community and its people.


Traditional Recipes (Regional Food)


Azara is a typical regional Kesennuma dish and is based on the idea of enjoying food without wasting. It consists of a stew containing Menuke (a red rockfish), pickled cabbage, red snapper and sake cakes.  Azara is at its best from March to May when the pickled cabbage is too sour.   Once one has tried Azara, one can't help coming back for more. It is addictive. There are many varieties and procedures for making Azara, and these vary from family to family.  


Onishime is a dish for when friends of relatives gather.  It is made from fish stock of tuna bones, swordfish and menuke that is cooked with local ingredients and vegetables such as radish, carrots, burdock, and SATSUMAAGE. The type of stock and ingredients vary from occasion to occasion and from household to household.  

TSUMIRE JIRU (Saury Meatball Soup)

Soup with ground sour fillet meatballs is called Tsumire Jiru.  This dish forms a popular part of home cooking in Kesennuma.  Also, there are various original ground sour recipes such as “Kesennuma AGE” (Kesennuma Fries) which is ground sour, carrots, green peas and beaten eggs, fried in oval shape. 


“Ara” means bone of fish.  Kesennuma is Japan's No.1 bonito fishing port, and the leftover bones after processing bonitos are cut into small pieces, stewed with radishes, carrots, tofu, green onions etc, and seasoned with miso or soy sauce.This is KATSUO NO ARA JIRU.  This is another example of the food culture of the region of enjoying food without wasting.

HATTO (Hatto Soup)

HATTO is also called "Tsumeri" or "Suiton."  It is a soup of strips of flat flour dough, stewed with vegetables such as radish and shiitake mushrooms and seasoned with soy sauce.  There are many variations of Hatto, for example, "Kanibatto" with crab, "Azukibatto" with sweat boiled red beans etc.  Hatto is eaten as main dish or as snacks.  During a OBON season, some families make “Horokibatto” (Senakabatto) with sprinkled KINAKO flour.

DONKO JIRU (Greenling Soup)

DONKO JIRU is the staple winter soup of the region.  First the gills of DONKO (Whitespotted Greenling) are removed, next they are chopped without removing the heads and guts, then they are boiled with radish, carrots and burdocks.  You can season it with soy sauce or miso as you prefer.

KURUMI MOCHI (Walnut Rice Cake)

In a New Year season, we make KURUMI MOCHI.  Grind walnut in a mortar, add sugar, salt and a little bit of soy sauce, and stir. Transfer it to a pot, add water and tea, simmer it to a pulp (add sake as you like).  Then grill and boil a rice cake, and dip it in the walnut sauce.  Add tofu for mellower taste. Locally produced rich taste walnuts called “Onigurumi” are very hard that their shells don’t break unless you use a hammer.

Speciality products (and their best season)

KAKI (Oyster) -February to April-

Kesennuma oysters are famous for the "Forest is a lover of the sea" movement, which is to cherish the forest to protect the rich ocean.  The Kesennuma oyster is rich in minerals from the lush green forest that descends down from the rivers.  Oysters harvested from October to March are rich in taste and there are a variety of recipes for cooking them.  They are good to eat raw, boiled or fried.  The oyster population was also devastated by 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.  The people of France helped us in that crisis.

Back in the 1970s Miyagi’s oyster seeds were sent to France to save the French oyster farming from extinction, this time oyster seeds were sent from France by air as "French Repaying Project" that saved our oyster farming.

HOYA (Sea squirt) -March to August-

By eating HOYA, you can enjoy five kinds of taste, namely: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, umami and bitterness.  This area’s Hoyas have less fishy smell and have stronger sweetness.  Hoyas are also called "sea pineapple" because of their shapes.  Peel the outer skin and eat the orange colored body inside.  By eating as sashimi or vinegared, you can enjoy the distinctive sea aroma.  Also, it can be put in a soup, grilled, or cooked in tempura.

KATSUO (Bonito) -May to November-

As Kesennuma is Japan's No.1 bonito fishing port, bonito is the representative fish of the city along with saury.  The bonitos that swim northward from late May to early June are called “Hatsugatsuo” and are less greasy, and plain.  The bonitos that swim southward from Hokkaido in autumn are full of fatty meat and are called "Modorikatsuo".  Modorikatsuo is said to be more delicious than tuna.

MANBO (Sunfish) -June to August-

Sunfish are caught from spring to summer by spear fishing and stationary net fishing, offshore from Kensunnuma. The meat is white and soft, and you can enjoy its crunchy texture.  The people of Kensunnuma traditionally eat them with soy vinegar.]

SANMA (Saury) –August to November-

Grilled salted saury is a popular fall dish, but the sauries landed off Kesennuma are so fresh that they are eaten raw by the locals as sashimi or minced.  There are also various other methods of cooking saury such as SURIMI (mince), HIRAKI (fillet) and NITSUKE (stew).

AWABI&UNI (Abalone& Sea urchin) -January to February / May to August-

Abalone and sea urchin represents the grace of the Sanriku seashore.  Fishermen fish in small boats early in the morning on the specific days called "KAIKOH".  Because of their freshness and rich flavor, it is popular to eat them raw, but also they are eaten as AWABI DON (abalone rice bowls) and UNI DON (sea urchin rice bowls).

WAKAME seaweed -January to March-

Wakame are cultivated in the shallow sea of Kesennuma Bay and has a good taste and color.  In recent years, it is getting popular as a health food because it is rich in minerals, and is used not only for Japanese food but also for western style salads.  There are two types of Wakame seaweed products.  One is "Enzo Wakame" which is boiled and salted, and the other is "Kanso Wakame" which is dried.

FUKAHIRE (Shark fin) -whole year-

FUKAHIRE is a fin of blue shark and prized as a luxury food ingredient of Chinese cuisine.  FUKAHIRE is a national brand representing Kesennuma.  Kesennuma is No.1 in the amount of shark landing and the amount of shark processing products.  FUKAHIRE are used for soup, ramen, sushi and other items.  Not only their meats are distributed as food, shark bones are used for dietary supplements, and their leather are used for producing leather goods such as leather bags.  All shark parts are used up without any wastage. 

MAGURO (Tuna) -whole year-

Tuna live in warm and tropical waters of the world.   Here are many kinds of tuna landed of Kesennuma port such as “Kuromaguro” (Bluefin Tuna), “Mebachimaguro” (Bigeye Tuna), “Binnagamaguro” (Albacore Tuna), “Kihadamaguro” (Yellowfin Tuna) etc.  With their exquisite freshness, you can enjoy them as AKAMI (red tuna) sashimi, CHUTORO (semi-fatty tuna) sashimi or OHTORO (fatty tuna) sashimi.

MEKAJIKI (Swordfish) -whole year-

MEKAJIKI are 4 meters maximum in length and are the biggest specie in the swordfish family.  Their upper jaws extend like long swords.  Though there are landed throughout the year, swordfish exclusively caught by spear fishing during the summer are called "Natsumeka", and they are characterized by their less greasy and plain flavor.  "Fuyumeka", swordfish landed from October to March, has plenty of fat, and is known to be so greasy that it renders a knife useless.  You can enjoy its rich greasy flavor.  They are good for steak, sashimi, teriyaki, and ingredients for curry.  The meat of base part of fin is called "Harmonica" and is good for salt-grilling or boilng.  In recent times recipes for "MekaSuki" ( thick cuts of meats for sukiyaki) and "Mekashabu" ( sliced meats for shabu-shabu) are becoming popular too.


Project (Event)


  • Fish Market’s First Auction - The vibrant start of the port city of the year
  • Osaaki Shrine Festival - The festival at the Osaki Shrine at the tip of the Karatsu Peninsula, praying for sound health and good fishery for the year


  • Kesennuma Tsubaki marathon - The citizen marathon in camellia blooming Kesennuma Oshima Island


  • Kesennuma Tenki Festival (Schedule varies) – A handmade kite festival
  • Tokusenjo Azalea Festival (late May) – 500 thousand azalea bloom at Mt. Tokusenjo


  • Beach Opening


  • Kesennuma Minato Festival - The biggest event in this region with nearly 70 years of history.


  • Petit Chef Contest in Kesennuma – A cooking contest of local recipes using local products for school kids to learn about the spirit of slow food  
  • Mo-Land festival – A ranch festival for families
  • Kesennuma City Industry Festival - Many local seafood and agricultural products are exhibited and sold at low prices


  • Karukuwa Gottsuo Fair – Fresh local products at low prices.  Oysters and scallops tasting is available.
  • Abalone festival - Live abalone sold at low price at the “Motoyoshi Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery Direct Sale Center” next to “Road Station Oya Kaigan”.
































































 1月 魚市場初入札




4月 気仙沼つばきマラソン


 5月 気仙沼天旗まつり




 7月 海水浴場海開き

 8月 気仙沼みなとまつり


 10月 プチシェフコンテストin気仙沼






 12月 唐桑ごっつぉーフェア