A bay of pine-covered islands and scenery worthy of a Basho haiku

Matsushima Bay, located in Miyagi Prefecture in Tohoku, japan, is known for its 260 islands covered in pine trees. This beautiful bay is considered one of the “Three Most Scenic Spots of Japan” and has been a source of inspiration for poets and artists throughout history.

The bay is famous for its Matsushima Bay Cruises, which offer a unique way to explore the islands and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. These cruises allow visitors to get up close to the islands and experience their beauty from the water. The islands themselves are a sight to behold, with their lush greenery and rocky shorelines.

One of the most famous poets to be captivated by the beauty of Matsushima Bay was Matsuo Basho. He struggled to find words to describe the stunning scenery and wrote many haikus about the bay. His poetry captures the essence of the bay and its natural wonders.

Visitors to Matsushima Bay can walk to a few of the islands and explore their pine forests and ancient temples. One of the most notable temples in the area is Zuiganji Temple, which is the family temple of the powerful Date clan that ruled the region. The temple has a rich history and is a must-visit for those interested in Japanese culture and architecture.

Don’t Miss

One of the highlights of a visit to Matsushima Bay is taking a sightseeing cruise around the bay. These cruises offer panoramic views of the islands and allow visitors to appreciate their beauty from a different perspective. The cruises also provide an opportunity to learn about the history and significance of the islands through bilingual audio announcements and maps.

Another must-see attraction in Matsushima Bay is Zuiganji Temple. This Zen temple is one of the most important temples in the Tohoku region and has a long history dating back to the 9th century. The temple grounds are beautifully landscaped and offer a peaceful and serene atmosphere for visitors to explore.

In addition to the sightseeing cruises and temples, Matsushima Bay is also known for its superb seafood. The bay is home to a variety of fresh and delicious seafood, including oysters, saltwater eels, and grilled squid. Visitors can sample these delicacies at the many restaurants and food stalls in Matsushima.

How to Get There

Matsushima Bay is easily accessible by train and bus from major cities in Tokyo and the Kansai area. From Tokyo, visitors can take a 90-minute bullet train ride to Sendai on the JR Tohoku Shinkansen. From Sendai, it is a 40-minute train ride on the Senseki Line to Matsushima. It is important to note that visitors should get off at Matsushimakaigan Station, not Matsushima Station, as the latter is far from the tourist attractions.

Take in the view

Once in Matsushima, visitors can take a leisurely walk along the coastline to enjoy the stunning views of the bay. For a higher vantage point, there are several spots that offer a loftier view of the landscape and the 260 islands in the bay. These spots, known as Matsushima Shidaikan, include Ogitani, Tomiyama, Otakamori, and Tamonzan. While they may take some time to reach, the views are well worth the effort.

Another popular way to take in the view of the islands is by hopping on a sightseeing cruise. These cruises offer the most popular close-up view of the islands and run year-round. Visitors can choose from different courses, including a loop of the bay or a one-way cruise from Matsushima to the city of Shiogama. The cruises provide a unique perspective on the islands and offer a chance to learn about their history and names through the bilingual audio announcements and maps.

Three footbridges to three islands

Three of Matsushima’s islands are connected to the mainland by footbridges and are easily accessible for exploration. The central island, located adjacent to the ferry terminal, is home to the small Godaido Temple. This temple, built in 1604 by Date Masamune, the first lord of Sendai, is a symbol of Matsushima. Its ornately carved hall is the oldest existing example of Momoyama architecture in the Tohoku region.

Fukuura Island, easily spotted thanks to its 252-meter-long red bridge, is another island that visitors can explore. For a small entrance fee, visitors can cross the bridge and wander around the forested island. The paths on the island lead to the opposite side, where another splendid view of the bay awaits. Oshima Island is another island that visitors can walk to. To reach it, visitors can exit Matsushima-Kaigan Station, head for the shore, and then go south along the coast for five to ten minutes. The island is home to temples and hand-carved meditation caves used by ancient monks, making it a perfect place for contemplation.

Two temples of note

Zuiganji Temple is the most important Zen temple in the Tohoku region and has a rich history dating back to the 9th century. Originally founded as Enpukuji Temple, a Tendai sect temple, by the monk Jikaku Daishi (Ennin), it later fell into disrepair. In 1609, Date Masamune, the lord of the Sendai domain, rebuilt the temple as Zuiganji Temple over the course of five years. The temple is a masterpiece of architecture and is known for its beautiful gardens and artwork.

Next to Zuiganji Temple is Entsuin Temple, which was built by the Date clan leader Date Tadamune in 1646. The temple was constructed to mourn his son Mitsumune, who died at a young age. The mausoleum at Entsuin Temple holds a statue of Mitsumune on a white horse surrounded by Western motifs. The temple is also known for its Japanese-style garden and Western-style rose garden, which are particularly beautiful during the autumn season.

Feast on the bounty of the bay

No visit to Matsushima Bay is complete without sampling its superb seafood. The bay is known for its freshly caught seafood, including oysters, saltwater eels, and grilled squid. Visitors can indulge in these delicacies at the many restaurants and food stalls in Matsushima. The oysters, in particular, are highly recommended and can be enjoyed in various forms, including oyster burgers.

Sample green tea on a veranda overlooking the sea

For a unique Japanese tea experience, visitors can visit Kanrantei, a teahouse located in Matsushima. Originally a gift from the ruler of Japan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, to the daimyo Date Masamune, the teahouse offers a stunning view of the bay from its engawa, an external corridor often used as a veranda. Visitors can sip on bitter matcha green tea paired with a locally-produced Japanese sweet while enjoying the scenic beauty of Matsushima Bay.

In conclusion, Matsushima Bay is a picturesque destination that offers a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and culinary delights. Whether it’s exploring the pine-covered islands, visiting ancient temples, enjoying a sightseeing cruise, or savoring the fresh seafood, Matsushima Bay has something to offer every visitor. Its timeless beauty and serene atmosphere make it a must-visit destination for those seeking a peaceful retreat in the heart of Japan.

Address And Maps Location:

Miyagi-gun, Miyagi-ken

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