Michi-no-Eki (道の駅, みちのえき) is a roadside facility providing travel information, 24-hour free parking and restrooms for folks with vehicles. The station also runs restaurants and shops where you can eat/buy local specialities. It is a fun place to stop by for travelers and the stations are located in more than 1,100 spots across the nation!
Not just any roadside stop can call themselves a Michi-no-Eki, however, with a long and strict approval process. Onagawa’s seaside facilities joined the Michi-no-Eki cohort in April 2021 with a diverse range of delectable food and drink options.
Onagawa is a port town in Miyagi prefecture, about 90 minutes drive/train ride from Sendai, the capital of the prefecture. Located on the east coast and facing the Sanriku Rias shoreline, fisheries has been the leading industry of the town.
The rich and ideal marine environment makes it possible to farm high-quality oysters, scallops, seaweed (Wakame わかめ), this region’s speciality sea squirt (Hoya ほや) and coho salmon (Ginzake 銀鮭). Onagawa is also well-known as a port with one of the big catches of Sanma (さんま), Pacific saury, in fall.
However the town suffered immensely from the Great Northeast Japan Earthquake and tsunami in 2011, the tsunami invaded the land and washed away everything people had built for their lives.
From the absolute devastated land, year by year, Onagawa has slowly but surely been reconstructed by passionate local people. And now, this town gets full attention for their success. When you visit, you see a brand new town on freshly mounded soil but the original townscape sleeps underneath your feet.
Access & Facilities
If you don’t have a car, no worries! This is what’s unique about Onagawa, four existing facilities in downtown were collectively approved as Michi-no-Eki; namely SEAPAL-PIER (シーパルピア) where many tenant shops are located, Hama Terrace (ハマテラス), a local marketplace, machinaka Kouryuukan (まちなか交流館, community hall) and puratto (ぷらっと, travel information center). Once you get off at the train station, you are instantly there!
From the station is one big path towards the pier along with Michi-no-Eki facilities.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to the eateries in Onagawa’s Michi-no-Eki, including all the local dishes and delicious offerings you just have to try.
Hama Terrace marketplace – eat in
Hama Terrace marketplace is a popular spot for visitors where you can eat and buy local specialities.
If you want to try Onagawa’s iconic dish, try Okasei’s (お魚市場おかせい) Onagawa-don (女川丼), assorted sashimi (sliced raw fish) rice bowl. You can enjoy the season’s best sashimi in a bowl!
If you want to go for something more fancy, try the Premium Onagawa-don (特選女川丼), it’s insanely gorgeous! Take an outside seat when the weather is nice so you can feel the seabreeze.
How to order: Buy a ticket at the vending machine and your order will automatically be placed (no need to give the ticket to the staff). When your food is ready, an automated voice will call out your order number. If you’d like to sit outside, you can request a beeper so you won’t miss when your order is up.
Marukichi (マルキチ女川めし屋) offers Kamameshi (釜飯), seasoned steamed rice with seasonal seafood in a pot. You can also buy Onagawa’s specialty dish hoya tamago (ほやたまご), boiled egg covered in hoya (sea squirt) meat and boiled in a soy sauce based broth.
This dish is commonly made in households around this area as fresh hoya gets fishy in a short time. It’s a long-time fisherman’s (fisherwoman) wisdom recipe to enjoy this unique seafood!
Hama Terrace marketplace – to enjoy later
Bring back the taste of Onagawa with these local food products.
Katakura Shoten (片倉商店) sells locally caught sea urchin and seasonal seafood.
TEAVER TEAFACTORY is also located at the corner of Hama Terrace. You can enjoy their original blend and flavored tea at the shop or buy some to take home.
They have both Western style tea and a Japanese tea selection. One of my favorites, “Fig glace” flavor, is based on Hōjicha (ほうじ茶), a roasted green tea with locally grown candied figs and raw cane sugar. Have a tea break with your favorite tea and sweets here!
SEAPAL-PIER Shopping Area
Restaurants in the SEAPAL-PIER shopping area offer a wide variety of dishes.
How about Napoli style pizza at IL GABBIANO? From classic margherita to their original menu using local ingredients, they have over 25 different pizzas. Zeppoline, deep fried seaweed mixed pizza dough puffs are really tasty, too!
At Ribon restaurant, you can eat Onagawa’s seasonal seafood in pasta dishes and wild deer meat since this area is famous as a habitat for wild deer. If you are familiar with Japanese style chop steak called hambāgu (ハンバーグ), they offer a wild deer version!
You can eat the best Maguro-don ever in Onagawa! Run by a local tuna fishery company, Maguro-ya Myojinmaru (まぐろ屋明神丸) offers a variety of Maguro-don (sliced raw tuna on rice) at a reasonable price! You can try different types of tuna or taste different parts (fatty to lean) in one bowl.
Ramen-sou Yamaroku (ラーメン荘 ヤマロク) is a standing counter ramen shop where you can customize the ramen to your liking. Their ramen is known for huge portions with lots of raw garlic and pork fat, thick noodles and a big piece of roast pork on top, so come with an empty stomach!
Yakitori bunbun/Touka (焼き鳥ぶんぶん/中華料理 杜華) offers authentic Chinese cuisine at lunch and dinner, as well as yakitori, skewered charcoal grilled meat, at dinner time. I recommend trying Negima (ねぎま), green onion and chicken thigh skewers. The chicken is tender and smoky!
Takeout – snacks and drinks
Get your favorite drink and snack at the shops and explore the park in front of the pier! There is a kids playground area and skateboard park!
Mother Port Coffee offers original roast coffee and pastries.
You can order seasonal fresh juice at Aiki Fruit shop (相喜フルーツ).
At Kirara Onagawa (きらら女川) check out this cute fish-shaped soft bread, you can slightly taste sanma as it is kneaded in the bread!
onagawa factory sells sea salt vanilla ice cream using locally produced natural salt.
Dinner and drink options
If you are staying over, enjoy the local atmosphere at restaurants and bars at night!
Garuya (ガル屋) is a cozy taproom where you can taste domestic and international craft beers. They also brew a variety of original pale ale here with the recipe differing depending on the season. If you are a beer person, you have to try some!
You cannot miss Koraku (焼肉 幸楽) BBQ house if you are fan of wagyu, Japanese brand beef. You can eat Sendai beef for a reasonable price!
Korean dishes such as Galbi (karubi カルビ in Japanese) ribs are highly recommended to try – the rich and fatty meat is incredibly delicious – and gukbap (we say kuppa クッパ in Japanese), an egg, vegetable and rice soup, is comforting. It’s a good match!
At Kagura (酒飯処かぐら), you can enjoy assorted sashimi and other classic dishes such as tempura, grilled fish and agedashi dōfu (揚げ出し豆腐), deep fried tofu in broth. They have a variety of Japanese sake, especially from breweries in Miyagi prefecture!
Izakaya Cafe M
Izakaya Cafe M (居酒屋カフェM) is a lively spot with regular local customers. They offer a variety of dishes that go well with booze.
Natto inari-age (納豆稲荷揚げ), deep fried tofu pocket stuffed with fermented soybeans and then baked, and Sanma tsukune (さんまのつくね), sanma meat ball, will be interesting for you to try if you haven’t had any.
Izakaya Yoko (IZAKAYA ようこ) is a karaoke bar and also busy with local people. Enjoy home-cooked style dishes while listening to other people singing or you can sing for ￥200 per song!
Yamaimo isobe-age (山芋磯べ揚げ), deep fried Japanese yam dumpling rolled in nori seaweed, and ika ichiyaboshi yaki (いか一夜干し焼), grilled semi-dried squid are must-have dishes!
Bar Sugar Shack
Bar Sugar Shack is great for the closure of the night. From hard liquor to mocktails, enjoy your preference of drink!
Their original “sake squash” (酒スカッシュ), Japanese sake mixed with soda and lemon, is very refreshing. Cobaltore highball is the local football team Cobaltore Onagawa’s official cocktail – the bright blue (cobalt blue) represents the sea of Onagawa! You might also want to try “Reggae punch,” an oolong tea and peach liquor cocktail that originated in Sendai.
The bar is run by a local graffiti artist, check out the work as well!
＊Smoking is allowed inside at Izakaya Cafe M, Izakaya Yoko and Bar Sugar Shack
＊Check out the business hours of each shop here: http://onagawa-mirai.jp/
Recommended Nearby Restaurants
Sanshu (お食事処三秀) is a favorite diner of locals. Their Yakiniku-meshi (焼肉飯), sautéed thinly sliced pork and vegetables in sweet and savory sauce with rice is super popular and filling!
new conori (ニューこのり) is famous for their Anago tendon, deep-fried locally caught conger eel dipped in a soy sauce based sauce atop rice.
Kinkaro (味の館 金華楼) is a long-run Chinese restaurant, very popular with locals and tourists. They offer specialty ramen in each season: with fresh seaweed in spring, hoya (sea squirt) in summer and sanma in fall etc. Their seasonal menu is like a milestone of the Onagawa climate!
Further information for your visit
Each Michi-no-Eki sells a special souvenir ticket. It’s a collector’s item to commemorate your visit. You can buy an Onagawa Michi-no-Eki ticket at ‘puratto’ travel information center.
Michi-no-Eki website: https://www.michi-no-eki.jp/stations/views/19965
Follow and tag Michi-no-Eki Onagawa on Instagram: @michinoeki_onagawa
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Masae is a Tohoku native who has been heavily involved in disaster relief efforts, particularly working with foreign volunteers, following the Great Northeast Japan Earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Since then, she has been rediscovering the wonders of her hometown in Miyagi, especially through food and drink.