One of the best and most recommended places in Tohoku, Matsushima is famous for the island (shima) formations around the bay that are covered with pine trees (matsu). These interesting island formations can be seen by boat trips and some can be visited by connecting bridges.
Since the Tohoku earthquake in 2011 they have also become known for saving the town from the tsunami. Apparently Matsushima town escaped major damage thanks to the waves being slowed down by hitting the islands.
On the left, is the train to Matsushima and on the right, at the end of the street, is the Matsushima station.
This first time going to Matsushima with Vera was marked by the fact that we bought the correct ticket but took the wrong line. Which was made obvious when we tried to get out of the station and the machine would not let us pass. The station guard then explained what had happened and let us out. I think the price for the trip might have been the same.
The port viewed from the Godaido temple island
Our first stop was the boat pier where we bought tickets for a boat trip around the islands. These boat tours go around the small island formations in the bay and can take a different amount of time depending on the company you choose.
The view of Matsushima as we left the city area
We had no idea of the importance of the islands at that time and we thought that it would be a simple boat trip around the bay.
Some of the small islands seen from the boat
Which was great! Thanks to that, we weren’t disappointed by not understanding anything the guide was saying in Japanese about the small islands. All in all we were able to have a great time, it was a perfect sunny day and we just sat outside the boat and enjoyed the ocean breeze.
After the boat ride we were really close to the Island where Godaido temple is. This really small island is connected with the town through small vermilion red bridges and even has some souvenir shops.
Godaido temple island and souvenir shops
Then it was time for lunch! Yei! So we walked around looking for a place to eat. There are apparently four great places to go in Japan for oysters and those places are Matsushima, Hiroshima, Hokkaido and Iwate. So make sure to eat oysters when you visit these places. Matsushima oysters are ginormous and extremely delicious.
Our kaki don lunch
We knew what we wanted, we just needed to find the right restaurant. We found a traditional restaurant next to the pier, Osakana Project お魚プロジェクト where we were taken to an upper floor to sit at a low table on the tatami overlooking the pier. Then, one look at the menu and ordered a kaki don かき丼, which is rice topped with oysters and egg. It was really, really delicious, I think one of the most memorable meals I had in Japan.
After leaving the restaurant we wandered around in search of a place where we could dip our feet into the water. Being the ocean girls we are, this was a requirement for this trip. Unfortunately we didn’t dip our feet because we realised that sadly the water was too dirty for dipping. I guess that having so many boats crossing the water again and again takes a toll on its quality. Despite this we did touch the water, we had to.
Matsushima Park 松島公園
As we returned back to the centre we found a garden that we decided to explore. We walked randomly and ended up in Oshima island. We loved to see all the different shrines and statues along the path and took notice of the extreme peace that could be felt along this area.
Views of Oshima Island
Following the people we ended up on the way to the Zuganji temple. Although we didn’t see it in the inside we manage to see the pine trees’ path and the temples’ caves
Around the Zuganji temple
The Zuganji temple caves are ancient burial places where people prayed in Buddhist traditions, for safe passage for the deceased. It is without question a very beautiful area.
Zuganji temple caves
On the way to the station ( this time the correct one, Matsushima Kaigan ) we passed one last time by the souvenir shops and bought some cakes for souvenirs. I don’t remember them so well but we chose them for their originality.
The amazing kokeshi shop and some road construction
While we walked there we passed by many small food stalls and the most perfect traditional kokeshi selling store. You could even see the Ojiisan making the dolls with the traditional machine. 二八屋物産店 is the name of the store so you can look it up. This shop represents to me this feeling of traditional beauty in Japan.
From Sendai there are two train lines that go to Matsushima. The line that goes to Ishinomaki and the line that goes to Hiraizumi. The closest one to the centre is Matsushima Kaigan on the line to Ishinomaki from Sendai.
Matsushima is the perfect daytrip from Sendai, traveling here and back will cost you around 8 dollars.
You will see that Matsushima is not short on things to do and see. However, the boat trip, to me, is one of the best things to do here. Second best thing will be to try the Oysters locally produced, preferably grilled but fried or boiled will also be perfect.
If culture is more your thing, the Zuganji is one of the most famous temples in Tohoku and exceptionally important being founded by Date Masamune and built with wood from Koyasan, a mountain famous for it’s religious connotation and tradition.
If you are a walker and love Nature, explore all the islands, so many of them can be explored by foot, it’s worth the experience. Later I will add a post on the other famous island, Fukuura island.
This is all this week, next stop will be our travel through Kyoto, Nara, Iga Ueno and Osaka. I have yet to see how I will organise everything but thank you for reading, see you soon.