The Oshika Peninsula lies just northeast of Ishinomaki, Miyagi’s second-largest city. Despite the physical proximity, the atmosphere of the peninsula is a world away: scattered fishing villages hug the coastline and the interior remains undeveloped.
A scenic road called the Cobalt Line weaves along the mountainous spine of the peninsula’s otherwise natural interior, flanked by low-elevation coastal roads connecting the fishing villages. It’s possible to ride for hours at a time without seeing a single car. In spite of, or perhaps because of, the roads’ disuse, their surfaces remain smooth, some of the smoothest I’ve had the pleasure of cycling in Japan.
The villages here were devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Reconstruction efforts are ongoing and include some unexpectedly hip touches, like the street-art covered shipping containers that dot the peninsula. Local fishermen using them as storage units commissioned local graffiti artist D-Bons to paint them with street art renditions of Japanese gods and folktale heroes.
In addition to their smoothness, the roads’ gradation makes them a pleasure to ride. The average gradation is around 6%, with a maximum of about 8%—no quad-busting double digits here! The Cobalt Line traverses several low peaks and hits a maximum elevation of 230 meters. Don’t let those low numbers fool you into thinking this is an easy ride, though—so little of the ride is level that the overall elevation gain totals well over 1,000 meters.
The route starts from Onagawa Station, located near both a sport cycle rental shop and the cyclist-friendly Hotel El Faro. The ride begins in earnest about 2 kilometers from the station, with a 5-kilometer climb up the Cobalt Line to the Dairokuten Parking Lot and Observation Deck, popular with locals for its sunrise views. At 230 meters, it’s also the literal high-point of the ride. For the next 24 kilometers, it's rolling hills punctuated by panoramic views all the way to Gobansho Park at the tip of the peninsula. The dramatic view of Kinkasan from the observation deck here will take your breath away, if the climbs haven’t already.
Take the steep descent down to Highway 220 and cycle back toward the mainland along the southern shore. This section makes its way through the fishing villages. There are a couple of good lunch stops along this stretch, like Hamasaisai, located 16 kilometers from Gobansho Park. About 8 kilometers after Hamasaisai, you’ll spy the Kamayama Saburo Treehouse perched in a tree above the road. Anyone is free to enter, so take a break here to stretch and indulge your inner child. From the treehouse, continue along rural roads until you cross a short bridge. The bridge marks the end of the scenic portion of the ride. Return to Onagawa by cycling north on Highway 398 for about 10 kilometers. Enjoy a post-ride soak in the hot springs at Yuppopo, then stroll down to Garuya or Bar Sugar Shack for dinner and drinks.
Nuts & Bolts
＊The ride starts from Onagawa Station, so can easily be enjoyed as a day trip even by those not staying overnight in Onagawa.
＊There are no restrooms, shops, or even vending machines along the Cobalt Line, so make sure to eat a good breakfast before starting the ride and pack some spare beverages and snacks with you. The first restrooms you will come to are at Gobansho Park, the approximate halfway point of the ride.
＊The first (and only!) shop you will encounter along the ride is the FamilyMart convenience store in Kobuchihama, about two-thirds of the way through the ride.
＊The final 10 kilometers back to Onagawa is inevitably along the terrifyingly narrow and congested Highway 398. Cyclists who want to avoid it can instead stop at Watanoha Station, near the turn onto Highway 398, and catch a train in from there.
＊If you are protective of your bicycle and don't want to leave it outside exposed to the elements overnight, Hotel El Faro will let you keep your bike inside your room with their Cyclist's Plan.
For other ride ideas in this area, see the Tour de Tohoku website.
August 8, 2019