Matsushima – 松島
Previously on Around Japan we wrote an article about the other two of the three most famous landscapes of Japan: Amanohashidate, in Kyōto Prefecture. and Miyajima in Hiroshima Prefecture. This time we are going to talk about Matsushima, located in Miyagi Prefecture, in the northern region of Tohoku!
What’s special about Matsushima?
Miyagi Prefecture’s Matsushima is reachable in 30 minutes by train from Sendai’s urban area.
While visiting Matsushima Bay, you can enjoy the view on more than 260 islands. Pine trees grow on their surface creating a suggestive landscape.
Also, the islands’ rock has been drilled and changed by the sea and the tides during the ages: this process led to what might look like natural bridges, which are an unique feature of some of these rocky formations.
The beauty of this place was already known and appreciated during the Edo period, and therefore it became a popular subject among several artists such as Utagawa Hiroshige, who draw many ukiyo-e portraying Matsushima.
Among Matshushima Bay’s islands, it is possible to cross the vermillion pier of Fukuura-jima. This island is provided with a path which allows you to walk on its perimeter. From a panoramic platform you can have a view on the sorrounding islands.
Close to Matsushima’s coastline the Zuigan-ji temple takes place. Formerly it was a Tendai School’s temple, but today it is a Zen temple. The glittering fusuma (sliding doors) in the main hall and the museum in the temple area are something you can’t miss.
How to reach Matsushima
Click here to read how to reach Sendai and Matsushima.
I visited Matsushima twice in total. The first time late it was fall, the second time was winter.
The Senseki Line leaving from Sendai Station was damaged by the Great Earthquake of Eastern Japan but nowadays it works as before the earthquake. Several characters from Ishinomaki (the last stop of the line)’s native mangaka, Ishinomori Shōtarō, are printed on the trains’ body, and this surely gives them a strong character.
Many restaurants and gift shops are located along the way from Matsushima Kaigan Station. The Kokeshi dolls made in Matsushima are a popular souvenir from the area, and so there are many nice shops selling them. Also, the grilled oysters sold at some kiosks near the station are just delicious! I suggest you to have some during your walk.
On the top of a small island connected to the land I saw the pentagonal building called Godai-dō, which is one of the symbols of Matsushima, although it is a reconstruction dating to 1604, built by Date Masamune, the lord of Sendai feud.
After watching around the Godai-dō for a while, I went towards the vermillion bridge leading to Fukuura-jima. The so-called “Fukuura-bashi” is 252 meters long and very beautiful. I crossed it and I felt fine while strolling on the island.
When I visited Matsushima during fall I entered also the Zuigan-ji temple: cedars are planted on the way from the entrance to the main hall, and this path was very impressive.
The trees are huge, and their branches and leaves create a sort of tunnel. The caves along the road are also interesting. It was also very mysterious, I was wondering about having arrived in a mountain area somewhere lost in India.
On my visit in winter I enjoyed a great sunset landscape.
I remember I was impressed by the sunset over the archipelago.
If I have the chance to visit Matsushima again I think I will have a trip on the cruise-boats to get closer to its hidden and most remote islands!