Day 5 of MCT (Michinoku Coastal Trail): Natori 名取市

The Routein Hotel Natori ルートインホテル名取 we stayed last night was only two stations away from the Sendai International Airport 仙台国際空港 terminal station. Though the airport area strangely lacked accommodations, the convenient airport line provides travelers with swift and easy access to downtown Natori and the bustling prefectural capital city, Sendai.

Our hotel was located in the next block of Morisekinoshita station. The station is also directly connected to an especially large Aeon shopping mall. While Aeon may be typical cookie-cutter malls we could see across Japan, they give us comfort and familiarity. We can assume most things we usually use should be available here. This particular one in Natori looked like the largest Aeon we had ever seen.

Even after dinner and the following long soak in the hotel’s large public bath, my feet remained sore from the extensive walk on the sun-drenched concrete roads.

Guest rooms of many Japanese Business hotels often have a flyer for massage services, and I found it on our room desk. The temptation was especially irresistible.
I contacted the front desk to ask about the availability of a masseur.

Surprisingly, the masseur arrived at our room in less than ten minutes.

As our room had only a double-sized bed, the masseur gave a good foot massage to me laying on the right side of the bed while Erik I indulged in a foot massage on the right side of the double-sized bed in our own room, Erik reclined to the headboard on the left side focusing on his IT-work-related tasks.
I asked the masseur what the secret of his impressive arrival speed was. He chuckled and said he usually stayed in the area in his car during the night, ready for whenever business hotels called him.

Back to Sendai Airport

“What the heck is this sky?”
This morning, the entire sky through our room window looked weirdly white. It was not simply overcast but literally white, with thick fog, the polar opposite of the sunny blue sky yesterday.
The air felt cooler, too, which might not be a bad thing, though. We expected our walk on the MCT today would be along the coastline through another super open flat area all day.

As the Routein Hotel Natori offers its guests a free shuttle bus to the airport, we happily took advantage of it instead of taking the train back to the airport to save time, money, and energy for another long walk awaiting us.

At the airport, we went inside for the convenience store to get breakfast and hiking snacks, and the shining, clean bathrooms. This area of Miyagi prefecture seemed to really try to attract cyclists and bikepackers. We walked on nicely built bike roads and saw many bike racks in the past few days. — Well, in fact, the MCT route we planned to walk today would also run on a long, long bike road.
We even found special large-sized coin lockers, “Locker for Cyclists”, to store bike bags and boxes inside the airport.

We left the airport and started walking through the grassed, empty land again. This time, soon after we started, a few new greenhouses of leafy veggies came into our sight. Then, we kept walking between plowed dark-brown soil fields, probably preparing to grow rice.

I was seriously running out of vocabulary and expressions to describe this never-ending walking through the middle of nothing the past few days. My willingness to find its positive side was dying down, too.
It would feel quite different, of course, if these empty lands turned into a sea of fresh green grass waving in the early summer breeze or the autumn golden carpets of rice tussles. But, those beautiful seasons have a tradeoff; the sunlight and heat would be much more torturous. Which is more intolerable for you, boredom but comfort or beauty but burning?

MCT Natori Trail Center and Yuriage Morning Market Yu

After walking for two hours or so, we crossed the historic Teizan Canal 貞山運河, which connects the Natori River 名取川 and the Hiroura Bay 広浦. There, the flat building of MCT Natori Trail Center みちのく潮風トレイル名取トレイルセンター was only a few hundred meters ahead of us.

Hiroura Bay at low tide

We already knew MCT Trail Center closes on Tuesdays, and today was, unfortunately, one of them.

Besides, I am a subscriber to their newsletter and recently received a special issue informing of their temporary close from March 31 to April 11 due to Miyagi prefecture’s independent declaration of state of emergency on COVID. Under this circumstance, all public services, such as libraries and community halls, needed to be close to the public. Michinoku Coastal Trail is a part of the long-distance nature trail network that the Japan Ministry of Environment maintains, so the MCT trail center and its regional branches are public facilities.

This Double punch made it impossible for us to visit the Trail Center, even if we tried to switch around our itineraries for the next couple of days we were still not too far away from here.
Probably, we could come back to visit after we reach the northern terminus and complete our thru-hike.

The MCT Natori Trail Center

We could not enter inside, of course, but we still looked around outside of the Trail Center building. Its lawn garden looked like a possible nice campground then, really became a hikers’ camping field by 2023. We also tried to see inside through big windows. It was quiet and dark, but still, we could see a bit of very neatly designed rooms and halls.
Later, we learned that the Trail Center staff came to work in the office on Tuesday, too. So, if a Tuesday is the only available day for a hiker, they can contact the trail center in advance and arrange a private meeting. Let’s say, you completed walking the entire MCT and want to get the certification and an MCT patch — that sort of case.

While walking around the Trail Center, we spotted some other flat buildings placed in a bayfront behind the Trail Center.
It was Yuriage Minato Asaichi ゆりあげ港朝市. As the name of the place, Asaichi, means a morning market, most stores there were quiet and seemingly already closed. But the closest building to the Trail Center, Maple-kan メイプル館, was open and had a small food court and souvenir shop. On the corner wall of the souvenir shop, photo panels showed this empty, quiet area called Yuriage Village 閖上 used to be busy and vibrant with a lot of houses before the Earthquake and tsunami washed everything away.

The Food Court inside Maple-kan

All the food and drinks there looked so good, but it was still too early for our stomachs to finish digesting all we ate for breakfast.
We chose a coffee shop, and I got a good coffee freshly hand-brewed right in front of us, while Erik had his favorites, a cream pudding and a classic bottle of coke. We enjoyed a longer break in the outdoor seating area on the wooden deck.

While this side of the Hiroura Bay was very quiet, we saw the small shadows of runners and bikers and also kids moving around the Natori Cycle Sports Center 名取サイクルスポーツセンター on the opposite side, Oceanside, of the bay. At that time, the Sports Center was closed, and could not be our accommodation option. As of the end of 2023, it has been renovated and reopened and looks like an amazing place to stay with a restaurant and beautiful ocean-view indoor/outdoor hot springs.

Natori Cycle Sports Center

The MCT route turned towards more inland along the Natori River 名取川 to cross the closest bridge to the river mouth, Yuriage Ōhashi Bridge 閖上大橋. We walked through a newly rebuilt residential area with a big apartment complex. Many new apartment complexes along the MCT have wide, all-age-friendly emergency spiral slopes instead of stairs so that residents and neighbors can easily run up when they need to evacuate to the rooftop. Often, they are connected by bridges on high floors.

Just before crossing the bridge, the route joined a busy road, R-10, and we dropped by a shopping center with a big grocery store, a drug store, and a 100-yen store at the corner. This is the best and the last supply point before entering a bike road stretching multi-kilometers without any shops.

Hikers need to pass under the Yuriage Ōhashi Bridge first, as the sidewalk is only on the opposite side
Heavy traffic on the Yuriage Ōhashi Bridge

Since we started from the Southern Terminus, every major river played the role of municipal border. The Natori River was not an exception either. While crossing the busy bridge, we left Natori City and entered Sendai City 仙台市, the prefectural capital of Miyagi and the biggest city in all Tohoku region.

But we had stopped counting how many cities and towns we passed at that point. We were much busier trying to lift our bored spirits against the view of another broad flat land beyond the bridge. We seriously missed some elevation differences.

Although the MCT map book directed us to cross the busy R-10 at the end of the bridge, it was easy to walk down to the north shore of the river and pass under the bridge again. Instead of going up to the road on the riverbank, we kept walking the grassy trail on the north shore to go back closer to the coastline.

Walking on a Bicycle Road along the Tenzan Canal

The very straight Tenzan Canal also crossed the Natori River and stretched into the Sendai City area. After hitting the river mouth, we stepped into the Sedai-Watari Bicycle Path 仙台亘理自転車道, which goes mostly along the canal running parallel to the coastline.

I cannot imagine what the areas on both sides of the canal used to look like. The lone memorial board said the wave of Tsunami on March 11, 2011, reached as high as 9.3m in this area. We passed a lonely pine tree standing by the canal, which was the only thing that had height around there. We also passed a newly rebuilt shrine.
Other than occasional pine trees, everywhere was low and flat. Both sides of the bike road were either carpets of Japanese pampas grass on wetlands or leveled higher and fenced lands to grow young pine trees for the new windbreak forests.

The bike road was straight. Like, really straight.
It was a well-maintained asphalt-paved road that no cars were allowed to enter. Bikers would love to peddle along this road on a sunny, breezy day.

Once in a while, along the road, we passed the familiar man-made evacuation hills. Beyond those hills were usually various parks with bathrooms and vending machines. But we were walking on this side of the hills, and those rest points were on the other side, closer to highways for easy access by car. We didn’t feel the need for drinks or rest, thanks to the cooler weather, so we skipped walking up and over the evacuation hills to check out each park and kept walking almost obligately.
Honestly, we just wanted to get this boring walk done as soon as possible.

Click to download (Sendai City Green Association)

Some Tsunami memorial sites, mostly the remains of destroyed buildings, were kept in their original location along the bike road.

We passed a half-broken concrete and metal bridge and saw an old school building, Sendai Arahama Elementary School 仙台市立荒浜小学校 whose apparent condition looked fine, but we never knew the inside condition from this far away. Instead, we entered an area right next to the bike road where some completely destroyed residential foundations were kept. According to the information boards at the observation path in the area, the big scar-like dips on the land, Tsunami Eroded Land, were caused by massive waves of the tsunami hitting and scratching soils off.

Sendai Arahama Elementary School
Ruins of the former Arahama Village
Tsunami scars on the land

But with the presence of these “things to see,” we felt like we hit the bottom of boredom today while walking on this mostly monotonous landscape. To rub salt in the wounds, I had even harder pains than yesterday in my soles.

After passing those Tsunami memorials, located about the midpoint of the bike road walk part, we exercised our best zen mind and patience through the five-kilometer straight line in a torturously plain area without anything particularly interesting.
Then, finally, the shadow of some factory buildings on both sides of the canal came into our sight on both sides of the road. We knew that this bike road would end beyond the factory indications and that this all-day-long boring walk was coming to an end.

The bike road hit another river, Nanakitagawa River 七北田川, and made a right-angle turn to the left towards another busy bridge, Takasago Bridge 高砂橋.

Arriving at the Sendai Port area

Crossing the bridge, we saw a heavy industrial area and a lot of large warehouses around the Senday Port. We walked along the very busy wider road with lines of cargo tracks to finish up the last bit of distance we planned to cover today. Our original estimation was 22 kilometers, but we ended up walking 26. I had no idea how that happened because we didn’t really make detours today. But the longer than we thought walking on all hard-surfaced roads made my feet and hip joints scream in agony for sure.

The Takasago Bridge over the Nanakitagawa River

At last, we arrived at the business hotel, Dormy Inn Express Sendai Seaside ドーミーインExpress仙台シーサイド, where we stayed for the night.
This hotel was also the first “supply box point” of our MCT thru-hike. We had put our camping gear and a few extra goods we were unsure if we needed for thru-hiking on the MCT in these two boxes, one for Erik and another for me, at home and shipped them out to this hotel in the morning we left home. For this reason, we booked all accommodations for the first 6 days before kicking off our journey and kept booking places to stay for the next week or more ahead to know where to forward the boxes.

The boxes had already been waiting for us and were handed to us at check-in. Though everything inside was fine, the cardboard boxes had a few small holes and scratches. We didn’t expect them to survive through one more delivery, so we got new and sturdier boxes, white and thicker cardboard boxes for storing documents, at a big home improvement store conveniently located right next to the hotel. Amazingly, these new ones stayed intact after repeated openings, closings, shipping, and deliveries and survived through the 50 days of our MCT thru-hike.

During the past five days of walking, we learned a few goods in our backpacks were not needed and most likely not in the future, too. We put them in the boxes to cut down a bit of weight from our shoulders. Our camping gear also stayed in the boxes this time, waiting for the time we had no other choice. After re-organizing, we closed and shipped them out to the next supply box point from the hotel’s front desk the next morning.

Dormy Inn Express Sendai Seaside had an especially large public hot spring with a massage room. I could not resist again. So, two days in a row, I took an 80-minute body and foot massage, and this time, Erik joined me, too.

The public hot spring has a relaxation room with hundreds of comic books

Our MCT Thru-hike : from late March to mid-May, 2021

Day 5

StartSendai Int. AirportFinish  Sendai Port
Distance 26.4kmTime 7h 23m
Elevation Gain/Loss14m/15mHighest/Lowest Altitude   4m / 1m


Dormy Inn Express Sendai Seaside

Official Website
MCT References


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