The subject of Japanese poetry since forever ago, Miyagi prefecture’s Matsushima not only ranks as a top travel spot in Tohoku but is also one of the nihon sankei – a.k.a three most scenic spots of Japan.
Scattered across an azure sea, it’s said that the 260 pine-covered islands left even the most eloquent Japanese poet, Matsuo Basho, speechless.
View Matsushima up close via the Matsuo Basho boat tour and see the islands the way the famous poet did hundreds of years back. Cruises depart once every hour throughout the morning and early afternoon. Tickets range from 1,500 yen to 2,900 yen.
For those who prefer to stay on land, cross the iconic red bridge to Fukuura Island and take in the sights on foot. There are two walking courses; the shorter course can be completed in 30 minutes while the longer course takes about an hour. There are plenty of great places to get that perfect shot of Matsushima Bay and the nearby islands. The fee to cross is 200 yen and can be bought via vending machine at the entrance of the bridge on the mainland.
While it’s hard to take your eyes off it, the island scenery isn’t Matsushima’s only charm. Visit the 1000 year-old Zuiganji Temple, considered a national treasure, and feel the calm spiritual presence as you pass ancient pines and moss-covered Buddha statues.
For oyster fans, you can’t do better than Matsushima’s oyster festival held every first Sunday in February. Rent grills by the hour and warm up with freshly grilled oysters and free bowls of kakinabe, or oyster soup.
The 700 year-old annual summer Lantern and Firework Festival takes place every August. The islands are illuminated by over 10,000 fireworks and 8,000 floating lanterns to mark the end of obon – an annual Buddhist holiday when the spirits of people’s ancestors return to earth for a family visit.