Land area: 12,212 ha
Designated on May 2, 1955
A range of sheer cliffs 100 – 200 m high stretches along the coastline. It presents a spectacular landscape which is referred to as the "Alps on the Coast". The park also provides a natural environment that is an important breeding ground for seafowl. As warm and cold currents meet offshore, this area has been one of the largest fishing grounds in Japan since old times. It is interesting to take a tour around the park which overlooks the Pacific Ocean and think about the lifestyle and culture of the people who live in the coastal region.
Rikuchukaigan National Park is located on the Pacific side of the Tohoku Region. It is a coastal park which extends 180 km north and south from Kuji Beach in Iwate Prefecture to Kesennumawan Bay in Miyagi Prefecture. It is composed of two types of coast: a large raised beach and a typical rias coast.
In the northern part of the park, there is a range of large-scale raised beaches that forms sheer cliffs of 80 – 100 m high, while in the south there is a typical rias coast with many deep inlets, sea-eroded cliffs and rocky beaches making a complex coastline. The sea cliffs at Cape Kitayamazaki in Shimohei County, Iwate Prefecture are especially prominent with vertical cliffs 200 m high extending along the coast. Wild waves of the Pacific breaking on the cliffs create a spectacular view.
Jodogahama Beach in Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture consists of whitish rocks and pebbles, which present a bright and graceful landscape. Goishikaigan Coast is another notable site. The beach is covered with flat black pebbles and has a unique appearance. Its name came from the fact that these pebbles resemble goishi, pieces used in the Japanese traditional board game go.
While there are few islands off the coast in the park, there are many reefs including cave mouths and sea caves which blow water when the waves recede. These create wonderful sights.
Kesennumaoshima Island is the largest and only inhabited island in the park. Many tourist facilities are situated on the east coast of the island. Here, there is a beach of "naki-suna (singing sand)" which produces a squeaking sound when stepped on. It is believed that the characteristics of naki-suna can be maintained only on clean beaches with clear water.
The main vegetation on the sheer cliffs along the coastline is mixed forest of Japanese red pines (Pinus densiflora) and broad-leaved deciduous trees. As the climate in this area is relatively mild for Tohoku, natural forests of tabunoki (Machilus thunbergii) which grow in warm places can be seen in the Funakoshihanto Peninsula in Yamada Town, Iwate Prefecture. The peninsula is the northern limit for the growth of the tree. In Cape Kitayamazaki, there are communities of shirobana shakunage (Rhododendron brachycarpum var. roseum). As rhododendrons basically grow in the subalpine zone, it is very rare to see communities of them in a coastal area.
The area is the home of various seafowl. There are many spots where storm petrels and other species of rare seabirds breed. In the breeding season, large flocks of black tailed gulls fly in and the park becomes a paradise for seafowl. In winter, raptors such as white tailed eagles can be observed.
As the shore off the coast in the park is one of Japan's major fishing grounds, there are many large-scale fishing ports and harbor facilities in this area. Large tide embankments are established near inhabited areas since the region has often been struck and damaged by tsunami.