recall arriving in Matsushima
last summer and reading
the article my buddy Karen, a second year ALT, had written about the
town I had just moved into. I found
it to be quite sarcastic
and a somewhat scathing description of the town and I began to worry
that this one of the nihon sankei
(three great sights of
Japan) wasn't all it was cracked up to be. But then, I had already read
the Lonely Planet description of tacky peacock boats with speakers
blaring Japanese commentary, so I wasn’t necessarily expecting
Paradise on Earth.
10 months later, having experienced Matsushima through all four seasons,
I can honestly say that I have come to adore this little town. There is
so much natural beauty to be discovered and it only takes a little bit
of wandering. And it is certainly worth visiting in each of the four
seasons (might I mention that typhoon season is particularly
the summer, on August 15th, during the Toro Nagashi Festival, hundreds
of colored lanterns are floated out into the already spectacular view of
Matsushima Bay. In the fall, the changing leaves and cool crisp air make
it a great place to spend an autumn afternoon. On a snowy day in winter,
a walk among the snow-covered pine tree islands can be a very serene and
peaceful experience (and it may be the only time you can enjoy it with
no one else around).
great to be able to see Matsushima at different times of the day -
especially sunrise and sunset. I've been lucky enough to witness several
incredible sunrises, and it is definitely worth seeing the islands,
bridges and Godaido lit up after dark.
a walk across the long red bridge to the big island and stroll around.
Before you cross the bridge, don't miss my favorite English sign in
Matsushima: “No get over a forward fence please.” The island is a
botanical garden and the beautiful scent of flowers in the spring is
almost overpowering. It's also a great place for a picnic, so bring your
wine and cheese!
Planet says it's one of Tohoku's finest Zen temples and I’d have to
agree (not that I'm an expert or anything). The small road leading to
the temple, lined with pine trees, is worth a visit in and of itself. To
the left of the temple, there is also a small rock garden leading to a
spectacular shine dedicated to Date Masamune's grandson.
AHEAD. DO IT. TAKE A PEACOCK BOAT!
ok, I admit it I did it, and I loved every minute of it. So there!
Perhaps a cold winter day is not the best time to do this, but it's a
great way to see some of the 260
a pretty cheap place to have some green tea while enjoying a great view
of the bay.
is what's on all the postcards. It is reached by crossing 3 small red
bridges. The interior is opened only once every 33 years, and with my
luck it happened the day before I arrived, so chances are it won't
happen during your stint in Japan!
out the tacky souvenirs and pick up some fish paste omelettes.
PURIKURA (PRINT CLUB):
are several machines available and I think this is requisite to making a
tour of Matsushima complete!
far as food in Matsushima, there are plenty of places with plastic food
displays along the waterfront, offering a great variety of antennae,
suckers and tentacles to choose from. I haven't yet tried the grilled
octopus-on-a-stick, but you know what? I can live with that.
best I’ve found so far is a small soba shop that serves up heaping
piles of soba noodles at a good price. They go great with a bottle of
beer! Coming out of Matsushima Kaigan station, turn right and go through
the tunnel. The soba shop is on the right, across from Gusto (a fine
family restaurant recommended highly by Kokubu-sensei, one of my JTEs).
For dessert, the 7-11 has a nice little selection of Ben & Jerry's
get to Matsushima, take the Senseki line to Matsushima Kaigan Station
and the Bay will be right in front of you. Alternately, take the Tohoku
Line to Matsushima Station, walk straight to the main highway, then turn
right and follow the road around and down to the Bay (about 10-15
hope I haven't built Matsushima up too much, only to lead to
disappointment, but I really do think it's a great place to visit.