Photo by Roger Smith
Photo by Roger Smith
Photo by Wesley Keppel-Henry
Writer & Inaugural editor
March 5, 2020
When the 2011 tsunami devastated downtown Minamisanriku, the area’s stores relocated and began operating out of a cluster of prefab temporary shelters. The shopping center was dubbed the Sun Sun Shopping Village, in honor of the power of the sun to bring light to even the darkest of moments. In March 2017, it reopened in its current, permanent location. The attractive solar-powered, all-wood buildings have become a draw in their own right, bringing in customers from across Miyagi Prefecture and beyond. Anyone can support the recovery by stopping by and purchasing some local products.
The Minamisanriku Sun Sun Shopping Village has twenty-eight stores, including eateries, fish markets, dessert shops, and general stores supplying daily necessities to locals. Special morning farmer’s and fisherman’s markets are held from 6:00 to 8:30 on the first and third Sunday of every month.
One must-try highlight is the Minamisanriku kirakiradon, a seafood rice bowl with toppings that vary by season and restaurant. A dessert shop here sells its own ingenious take on the dish—adorable “rice bowl” cakes that look surprisingly like the real deal, with fruit jellies shaped to resemble the seafood they are based on.
Unexpectedly, there is also a real moai here, representing the long-standing relationship between Easter Island and Minamisanriku. Naturally, that means there are many moai-themed souvenirs and novelties available for purchase. The Village also offers rental bicycles, which prove very helpful in navigating this spread-out town.
I visited the Minamisanriku Sun Sun Shopping Village back when it was just a group of tiny prefab shelters, and again after it opened in its permanent location. What surprised me most was seeing the parking lot filled with license plates from all over the region. I found it heartening that despite the area’s ongoing reconstruction work, many people had come to visit. I bought a kirakiradon topped with the best salmon I’ve ever had, soft and fatty like a fine cut of tuna. The presentation of the fresh seafood is also superb, perfect for sharing on social media!