Getting to & around Miyagi
Miyagi is located about 300 kilometers northeast of Tokyo, in the Tohoku region of Japan. Getting from Tokyo to Miyagi takes as little as 90 minutes by Shinkansen bullet train. Miyagi is also home to a ferry port and the Sendai International Airport. Direct flights are available from Taiwan, China, Thailand, and Korea, as well as major cities across Japan.
Getting to Miyagi
By Shinkansen (bullet train)
Tokyo–Sendai 90 min.
Miyagi Prefecture is close enough to Tokyo that the fastest way to travel between the two is by Shinkansen. The Tohoku Shinkansen transports passengers from Tokyo to Sendai in as little as 90 minutes. From Sendai Station, Shinkansen trains also offer quick and direct access to Hokkaido, Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Fukushima, Tochigi, and Saitama. Visitors using the Japan Rail Pass can access Miyagi from anywhere in Japan at no additional cost.
Shinkansen rail passes
In addition to the famous Japan Rail Pass valid for unlimited JR rail travel nationwide, several lesser-known rail passes offer unlimited rail travel within eastern Japan at significant savings. One of these passes, the JR East Pass, is available not just to short-term tourists, but to foreign residents of Japan as well! Visitors coming up from Tokyo should consider the JR East Pass (Tohoku area), an unlimited ride pass that costs less than a single regular-fare round-trip. The Tohoku–South Hokkaido Rail Pass offers similar savings for those coming down from Hokkaido.
Japan Rail Pass: Unlimited travel on Shinkansen, limited express, and regular JR trains throughout Japan. Available in 7-day, 14-day, and 21-day versions. Available only to foreign passport holders with a short-term visa.
JR East Pass (Tohoku area): 5 consecutive days of unlimited travel on Shinkansen, limited express, and regular trains throughout Tohoku (including Miyagi) and eastern Kanto (including Tokyo). The pass is valid for travel on JR lines, the Sendai Airport Access Line, and select other railways. This pass is available to foreign visitors as well as residents. Anyone with a foreign passport is eligible.
JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass: 6 consecutive days of unlimited travel on Shinkansen, limited express, and regular trains throughout Tohoku (including Miyagi), southern Hokkaido, and eastern Kanto (including Tokyo). The pass is valid for travel on JR lines, the Sendai Airport Access Line, and select other railways. Available only to foreign passport holders with a short-term visa.
JR Tohoku-South Hokkaido Rail Pass: 6 consecutive days of unlimited travel on Shinkansen, limited express, and regular trains throughout Tohoku (including Miyagi) and southern Hokkaido. The pass is valid for travel on JR lines, the Sendai Airport Access Line, and select other railways. Available only to foreign passport holders with a short-term visa.
Weekend Pass (週末パス): 2 consecutive weekend (or public holiday) days of unlimited travel on regular trains throughout Kanto (including Tokyo), southern Tohoku (including Miyagi), and parts of Chubu. For an additional fee, Shinkansen and limited express trains can also be used. Available to everyone regardless of residency or citizenship status.
Sendai Airport offers direct international flights connecting Sendai with Seoul, Taipei, Shanghai, and Bangkok. Domestic flights fly direct to cities throughout Japan. Estimated domestic flight times are as follows:
Sendai Airport is connected to central Sendai via the Sendai Airport Access Line train. Visitors flying in to the airport can reach central Sendai in just 25 minutes. The airport also offers direct bus service to Matsushima, Hiraizumi, the Akiu Onsen hot springs area, and other major sightseeing destinations. In fact, some sightseeing destinations, like Millennium Hope Hills and a trailhead of the Michinoku Coastal Trail, are even within walking distance of the airport itself.
ANA Visit Japan Fare: Fly any ANA domestic flight in Japan for just ¥13,000. This offer is limited to foreign passport holders with short-term visas who are in possession of an international flight ticket departing Japan.
JAL Japan Explorer Pass: Offers special discounted rates on domestic flights, with fares starting at just $51 USD. This offer is limited to foreign passport holders with short-term visas who are in possession of an international flight ticket departing Japan.
By Highway Bus
For those without a car, a robust network of highway buses provides long-distance transit to Miyagi from a number of cities throughout Honshu: Tokyo, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Niigata, and beyond. Buses are the most economical public transportation option. The savings are compounded by the fact that most long-distance bus routes offer overnight service, meaning one can get a full night’s sleep on the bus and needn’t book any accommodation for the night, or waste precious daytime sightseeing hours in transit.
Highway bus passes
Willer Express Japan Bus Pass: Unlimited travel on Willer Express bus routes nationwide. Available in 3-, 5-, and 7-day versions. Pass use days do not need to be consecutive. This pass is available to foreign residents as well as visitors. Anyone with a foreign passport is eligible.
Tohoku Highway Bus Ticket: Unlimited travel on over 100 bus routes across all six prefectures of Tohoku (including Miyagi). Available in 2- and 3- day versions. Available only to foreign passport holders with a short-term visa.
Ferries can be used to transport cars, motorcycles, and bicycles, but can also be used by anyone wishing to travel by sea, regardless of whether or not they have a vehicle to transport. Those with a little time to spare will find traveling by domestic ferry not only affordable, but also surprisingly comfortable and convenient. The on-board suites, ocean-view baths, dining, and free live entertainment make for long-distance travel so comfortable, you might just find yourself feeling reluctant to disembark when you arrive at your destination!
From Sendai Port, the Taiheiyo Ferry offers direct access north to Tomakomai in Hokkaido, and south to Nagoya. The port itself is about three kilometers from Nakanosakae Station, a trip that takes about 10 minutes by bus or about 40 minutes on foot.
Getting around Miyagi
Though Miyagi offers ample comfortable and convenient public transit options relative to many countries, it is not as well-connected as metropolises like Tokyo and Osaka, particularly in sparsely populated areas of the prefecture. Visitors staying near Sendai or major tourist destinations like Matsushima Bay will have no problem sticking with public transit, but those wishing to explore the rural reaches of the prefecture may find travelling by car to be the most expedient option.
You can get almost anywhere in Miyagi by car within about 2 hours. Major toll-road highways include the Tohoku Expressway, which runs north-south through inland Miyagi, and the Sanriku Expressway, which provides access to the Sanriku Coast area. There is also a network of toll-free public highways throughout the prefecture.
Miyagi’s well-maintained roads also make for fantastic cycling. For those who love being outside and active, this is a wonderful transportation option. Many smaller municipalities offer cheap (sometimes even free!) comfort-cycle rental for roaming the local area, and some municipalities near popular long-distance cycling routes offer sport cycle rental. For details, see our Bicycle Rental in Miyagi article.
Roadside rest areas
Traveling by road is worry-free thanks to the rest areas ubiquitous along common routes. Toll-road expressways come equipped with SA (Service Areas) and PA (Parking Areas) at regular intervals, which provide restrooms, parking, and beverages 24 hours a day. Service Areas generally also include convenience stores and fast food restaurants. The free, public highways are dotted with charming Michinoeki rest areas, offering local flair in addition to convenience. Parking, restrooms, and beverages are available at Michinoeki 24 hours a day. During the daytime, Michinoeki also offer local product shops, farmers markets, casual restaurants serving local cuisine, and sometimes even onsen or sightseeing facilities. To get a feel for what one is like, see our A la Datena Michinoeki article.
Miyagi’s well-maintained toll-road expressways and public highways are also utilized by an extensive network of local and highway buses. The buses are a real boon for travelers without a car, though navigating the bus routes can be a little tricky at first. Tourist information centers, like the Sendai Tourist Information Desk, are happy to help you sort out bus routes—feel free to stop by with any questions!
The Loople Sendai Bus is a special English-friendly bus line designed with tourists in mind. It has stops near all the main tourist destinations in downtown Sendai. A day pass called the Loople Sendai Pass offers unlimited rides on the Loople Sendai and, for an extra fee, the Sendai City Subway lines as well.
Train travel in Japan is convenient, affordable, and often even fun. Train stations in urban areas serve as bustling gateways to their respective cities. Train lines passing through the countryside offer an entirely different appeal, a quiet space to relax and enjoy a front-row seat to the stunning natural beauty the train gently trundles through as it transports riders to their destinations.
Miyagi is home to several rail lines, most of which are operated by JR East, Japan’s largest railway company. In the Sanriku Coast area, the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake tsunami damaged the JR train lines beyond repair, so JR trains in this area have been replaced by the JR BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) Line service. Miyagi rail lines operated by companies other than JR East are the Sendai Subway, the Sendai Airport Access Line, and the Abukuma Express Line (阿武隈急行線). Nearly all JR travel passes valid for rail travel are also valid on the BRT Line, and some are valid on the Sendai Airport Access Line as well.
Miyagi Travel Bargains
See a lot more for a lot less with a travel pass! All the passes introduced below are flexible, easy to use, and a good value. The Sendai Marugoto Pass is the best bet for most first-time visitors to Miyagi, as it covers all of Sendai City and as well as all major tourist destinations nearby. Those looking to travel far and wide on a budget should consider the Seishun 18 Kippu or the Hokkaido & East Japan Pass, both of which offer unlimited rail travel throughout Tohoku (including Miyagi) and beyond.
Local travel passes
Sendai Marugoto Pass: 2 consecutive days of unlimited rail and bus travel within the validity area. Valid railways include all regular JR lines, the Sendai Subway, the Abukuma Express, and the Sendai Airport Access Line. The validity area covers all of Sendai City as well as major tourist destinations near Sendai: as far north as Matsushima, south as Marumori, west as Yamadera, and east as the Sendai coast. Available to everyone regardless of residency or citizenship status.
Sendai Area Pass: The same as the Sendai Marugoto Pass, but good for 1 day instead of 2. Available only to foreign passport holders with a short-term visa.
One-day Pass for Loople Sendai or Loople Sendai & Subway: 1 day of unlimited travel on the Loople Sendai bus. For a few hundred yen extra, you can get an upgraded pass that includes unlimited travel on the Sendai Subway too. Available to everyone regardless of residency or citizenship status.
Chiisana Tabi Holiday Pass (小さな旅ホリデー・パス): 1 weekend (or public holiday) day of unlimited travel on all regular (no Shinkansen) JR lines within the validity area. Limited express trains can be used for an additional fee. The validity area covers all of Miyagi, plus eastern Yamagata, and western Fukushima. Available to everyone regardless of residency or citizenship status.
Wide-area travel passes
Seishun 18 Kippu: 5 days of unlimited travel on all regular (no Shinkansen, no limited express) JR lines nationwide. The 5 days of use do not have to be consecutive. The pass is offered seasonally in spring, summer, and winter rounds that coincide with school term breaks. Available to everyone regardless of residency or citizenship status.
Hokkaido & East Japan Pass (北海道＆東日本パス): 7 consecutive days of unlimited travel on all regular (no Shinkansen) rail lines operated by JR East and JR Hokkaido, plus select lines operated by smaller railway companies. For an additional fee, pass holders are also entitled to unlimited use of JR Hokkaido limited express trains. The pass is offered in spring, summer, and winter rounds. Exact dates vary by year, but the rounds usually run early March to late April, early July to late September, and early December to early January. Available to everyone regardless of residency or citizenship status.