Natural parks in the Pacific coastal area of the Tohoku region that were devastated by the 3/11 massive earthquake and tsunami will be reorganized into a new, large national park. As a first step, two such parks were designated as the Sanriku Restoration National Park on May 24. Inauguration ceremonies were held in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, and other parts of the region on May 25.

It is hoped that the new national park will promote eco-friendly green tourism in which natural landscapes play an important role in attracting tourists. The government must develop a new national park policy that will contribute to the economic revitalization of local areas through the skillful utilization of nature’s bounty while at the same time taking necessary measures to protect the environment from an increase in the number of visitors.

As the first step to create the new national park in the Sanriku coastal areas characterized by ria coastlines, the Rikuchu coastal national park and Aomori Prefecture’s Tanesashi Coast and Mount Hashikami prefectural park have been integrated into the new park. Kabushima Island in Hachinohe, a habitat for black-tailed gulls that is designated as a special natural treasure by the central government, will serve as a north entry point for the park.

Since the central government will manage the new park, it is expected that it will improve the facilities and promenades inside park areas. It is hoped that the new park will become known across the country and attract many visitors, thus providing an economic boost to the areas devastated by the 3/11 disasters.

The Minami Sanriku-Kinkazan quasi-national park of Miyagi Prefecture is expected to be integrated into the new park next year. But the integration of Matsushima Islands and other natural parks in the prefecture will take more time because the central government and local governments must coordinate their actions.

People in the Matsushima area are concerned that its integration into the Sanriku Restoration National Park may weaken its identity. They are also worried that if the area becomes part of the new national park, restrictions on the construction of new buildings will become tougher.

The new national park can push “restoration eco tourism,” which will bring visitors into closer contact with local residents and their cultures that have developed around the area’s natural assets. It also can highlight both the gifts of nature as well as its dangers, as exemplified by the massive 3/11 tsunami.

Tourist attractions will center on food resources in and near the new national park, cruises by small fishing boats, visits to areas devastated by the 3/11 disasters and firsthand accounts of the disasters by local residents.

The 700-km hiking trail stretching from the Kabushima area to the Matsukawaura inlet in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, will play an important role in tourism. Hopefully this trail will encourage the emergence of a new type of tourism in the new park that doesn’t rely on large tour buses.

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