Matsushima Bay


A First-Time Visit to Miyagi

A 2-day itinerary covering the highlights of central Miyagi

This itinerary is geared toward first time visitors, hitting the best and most famous attractions in central Miyagi. It covers Matsushima, named one of the Three Most Scenic Places of Japan;  Shiogama, the Sushi Capital of Japan; and historical sites in Sendai related to the great samurai warlord Masamune Date.

  • Start
  • 1Day 1, 8:15 Depart Sendai Station

    This 8:15 departure time is easy to make even if you’re coming up from Tokyo that morning—just catch a Shinkansen bullet train out early in the AM.
    Train40 min.

    28:55 Arrive at Matsushimakaigan Station

    You’ve arrived in Matsushima, your destination for the day. Though there’s a whole lot on the itinerary, don’t worry—the main Matsushima sightseeing spots are all located quite close to one another, so you’ll be able to hit everything without rushing.
    Walk6 min.

    3Explore the origins of Matsushima

    Start by exploring the island where Matsushima began. The monk Kenbutsu Shonin lived on Oshima about a millennium ago, engaged in spiritual training. Soon enough, rumors about him having magical powers, like the ability to fly, began to spread. Upon hearing of these feats, in 1119 Emperor Toba sent him 1,000 young pine trees as a gift. Legend has it this was the origin of “Matsushima” (lit. “Pine Islands”).
    Walk10 min.

    410:00–10:50 See Matsushima Bay from the water

    Matsushima Bay, with its hundreds of tiny pine-clad islets, is considered one of the Three Most Scenic Places of Japan. See more than you can from shore with this convenient sightseeing cruise—no reservations necessary!
    Walk2 min.

    5Island temple Godaido

    Godaido Temple is the most famous manmade feature of Matsushima, a prayer hall built on one of the bay’s iconic islets.
    Taxi4 min.

    6Take in the scenery at Saigyo Modoshi no Matsu Park

    Now that you’ve seen Matsushima Bay from ground level, head up to the hilltop Saigyo Modoshi no Matsu Park for a bird’s eye view. The park’s cafe, with its understated architecture and delicious food, makes heading out to this slightly out of the way location well worth it. If you don't see any taxis around Godaido or the sightseeing boat pier next door, just walk back to Matsushimakaigan Station—there's a taxi stand there.
    Walk2 min.

    7Lunch with a view

    Cafe le Roman in Saigyo Modoshi no Matsu Park is one of the best spots in Matsushima to grab a bite, popular with locals as well as tourists. Lunch is served from 11:00 to 15:00, and say yes to dessert—the cafe’s French-inspired sweets are too delicious to pass up.
    Walk20 min.

    8Beautiful gardens and intriguing history at Entsuin Temple

    Now that you’ve had your fill of scenic bay views, immerse yourself in the spiritual heritage of Matsushima by visiting two of the area’s most renowned temples. The first is Entsuin, a temple with gardens so beautiful, they rival those of Kyoto.
    Walk0 min.

    9Make an udenenju prayer bead bracelet

    Entsuin Temple offers a visitor-friendly udenenju prayer-bead bracelet making next to the main prayer hall. Freely choose your bead colors and materials, and temple workers will guide you in arranging the beads in the traditional fashion while explaining to you the meaning of the beads you’ve chosen.
    Walk2 min.

    10Zen temple Zuiganji

    Next door to Entsuin Temple is Zuiganji, one of the most prominent Zen temples in the Tohoku region, with a main hall designated a National Treasure. Highlights include the opulent wall paintings inside, and the meditation caves outside.
    Walk5 min.

    11Tea & sweets at Kanrantei

    Refresh with an afternoon pick-me-up of matcha tea and Japanese sweets at Kanrantei, a teahouse once owned by samurai warlord Masamune Date, who would use it to entertain high-ranking visitors.
    Walk2 min.

    12Souvenir shopping in Matsushima

    With sightseeing finished for the day, take some time to poke around the gift shops lining the street. For an edible souvenir, we recommend Matsushima Kouren senbei, rice crackers made according to a recipe that has been passed down from the Buddhist nun Kouren for more than 20 generations.
    Walk17 min.

    13Stay overnight in Matsushima Onsen

    Relax in natural hot spring baths and indulge in delicious cuisine at a hotel along the shore of Matsushima Bay. Some, like Komatsukan Kofutei and Matsushima Onsen Ichinobo, feature open-air hot springs baths that overlook the bay, so you can soak while watching the distant waves glitter in the moonlight.
    Walk12 min.

    14Day 2, 7:16 Depart Takagimachi Station

    The Shiogama Fish Market is just a short train ride away. To make it there in time to watch the tuna auction, you’ll need to catch this 7:16 train.
    Train10 min.

    157:26 Arrive at Higashi-Shiogama Station

    Walk12 min.

    168:00 Watch the tuna auction at Shiogama Fish Market

    Shiogama Port lands the largest catch of maguro tuna in Japan. Visitors can watch the tuna and seafood auction freely from the second floor observation deck—no reservations or queueing necessary!
    Walk32 min.

    17Visit the most important shrine in Tohoku

    Shiogama-Jinja Shrine is the most important shrine in the Tohoku region, with a steep stone-step approach that’s an impressive sight. It was founded around the year 800, and 14 of the shrine’s buildings have been designated National Important Cultural Properties.
    Walk3 min.

    1811:00 Sake brewery tour & tasting at Urakasumi

    Tour the brewery of one of Japan’s most respected sake brands. Don’t forget to stop by the tasting counter at the end to sample some of their offerings!
    Walk2 min.

    19Lunch in the Sushi Capital of Japan

    Shiogama is known as the “Sushi Capital of Japan” for having the greatest number of sushi restaurants per capita in the entire country. Enjoy top-notch sushi on the cheap with lunch at one of the many sushi restaurants in town—perhaps even made from the very fish you saw auctioned off this morning!
    Walk3 min.

    2013:07 Depart Hon-Shiogama Station

    With a belly full of some of the best seafood and sake in Japan, it’s time to head to Sendai to learn a little about the area’s samurai past.
    Train28 min.

    2113:35 Arrive at Sendai Station

    Walk3 min.

    2213:45 Ride the Loople Sendai bus

    The Loople Sendai is an English-friendly bus service geared toward tourists, with a route that features stops at the major sightseeing destinations around central Sendai. A one-day pass for the Loople costs ¥630—the most convenient and cheapest option for those following this itinerary.
    Bus13 min.

    2313:58 Arrive at Zuihoden mausoleum

    The Zuihoden mausoleum is the final resting place of Masamune Date, the founder of Sendai and one of Japan’s most fearsome warlords. The architecture and ornamentation is opulent and colorful, reflecting the way the mausoleum looked back at the time of its original construction.
    Walk0 min.

    2414:58 Depart Zuihoden

    Board the Loople Sendai bus again to head to the site of Aoba Castle.
    Bus10 min.

    2515:08 Arrive at the Site of Aoba Castle

    No trip would to Sendai would be complete without visiting the site of Masamune Date’s castle. The iconic statue of Masamune on horseback is located here, and the location also commands a stunning view of the city.
    Walk0 min.

    2615:53 Depart Sendai Castle

    Catch the Loople Sendai bus again, this time for a ride to downtown Sendai.
    Bus29 min.

    2716:22 Arrive at sendai mediatheque

    A Loople Sendai bus stop happens to be located next to this architectural marvel. Admire it in passing from the outside, or for those with the inclination, explore inside as well.
    Walk0 min.

    28Strolling & shopping along Jozenji-dori

    Sendai mediatheque is located along Jozenji-dori Avenue, the street you’ll be walking down on your way to dinner. It’s a hub of culture and the pride of downtown Sendai, something worth appreciating as you stroll.
    Walk3 min.

    29Dinner & drinks in downtown Sendai

    Top off your visit to Miyagi with dinner and drinks in the heart of the capital. Pop in to whatever cafe, restaurant, or bar strikes your fancy as you stroll along Jozenji-dori Avenue, or head to one of Sendai’s beloved yokocho for delicious food in an unpretentious and cozy atmosphere.
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