Islands scattered like emeralds herald Miyagi's beautiful coastline
The coastal communities of Miyagi Prefecture rely on and respect the sea. After the devastation of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011, the resilient locals are rebuilding. Dine on the freshest seafood, enjoy unmatched views and be part of the coastal revitalization.
The coastline is a gateway to several world-famous islands including the Cat Island and the Pine Islands.
- Spectacular sea views that have inspired artists and poets for centuries
- Fresh seafood including all you can eat oysters in winter
- The famous 260 pine-covered islands, considered one of the most beautiful sights in Japan
How to Get There
The magical pine islands
The 260 pine-covered islands of Matsushima Bay have inspired poets and travelers for centuries. In autumn, the harvest moon over the bay offers breathtaking views of the islands, silhouetted against the silvery water.
Find the best view of the islands by taking a 45-minute ferry ride around the bay. Sit in the warm inside carriages or pay a little extra to sit on the unobstructed top deck to feel and taste the salty sea breeze.
A bridge to another world
Three of the islands can be accessed by footbridges from the mainland. Visit mysterious Oshima with caves carved out by ancient meditating monks; pray at Godaido, a tiny island next to the ferry port and considered to be the symbol of Matsushima ; then stretch your legs with a walk across the 252-meter-long red bridge to Fukuura Island for a view of both the bay and the Matsushima coastline.
Don't miss Zuiganji, the most important Zen temple in the Tohoku region. The grand but simple buildings enclosed by cedar trees evoke a sense of spiritual calm. Zuiganji and the smaller nearby temples were built by feudal warlord Date Masamune and his family, who ruled most of the Tohoku region in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The life of the sea
Miyagi Prefecture is part of the Sanriku Coastal Area, considered one of the most abundant fishing grounds in the world. At the fish markets in Kesennuma, you can see huge tuna, swordfish, and saury. Each of the major fishing ports along the coast has its own charm and character.
Shiogama: heaven for sushi lovers
The port of Shiogama is said to have the most sushi restaurants in Japan, a testament to the quality of the local catch. Shiogama is just a 15-minute train ride from Sendai, and the fish market is a great place to try a "My Donburi": get a bowl of rice, then meander through the market adding fresh fish toppings.
Shiogama Shrine is said to be over 1,000 years old and is one of the most important Shinto shrines in Tohoku. Climbing the 200 stairs to the entrance rewards climbers with spectacular views from the vermillion red buildings.
Ishinomaki: tragedy and triumph
The seaside town of Ishinomaki experienced the worst loss of life caused by the 2011 tsunami. However, visitors will see the pride and fighting spirit of the citizens, symbolized by the “Ganbaru Ishinomaki” sign put up shortly after the disaster. It is a reminder for all to “Never Give Up!”, no matter how hard things become.
Hiyoriyama is a hillside park famous for its springtime cherry blossoms and panoramic views. Compare pictures of the town pre-tsunami with the current flattened coastline which is being reconstructed.
Don't be surprised by the bizarre, UFO-shaped "Mangattan," or Ishinomori Manga Museum. This very striking structure houses characters and original artwork by the "King of Comics," Ishinomori Shotaro, known for Cyborg009 and Kamen Rider.
Just off the coast is Tashiro Island , better known as "Cat Island," home to more cats than people. Locate the cat shrine in the forest and cat architecture found at the nearby camping site.
For a quieter experience, visit Kinkasan Island for a spiritual journey. Hailed as one of the three holiest places in Tohoku, you'll find forest hiking, temple buildings with much statuary, and a tribe of semi-wild deer, respected as messengers for the gods.
Kesennuma: resilience by the bay
Kesennuma is another town that was hard-hit by the 2011 disaster but is fighting to recover. About two to three hours from Sendai by train, the town is famous for its super-fresh seafood. You can recharge at K-Port, built by the famous actor Ken Watanabe after the tsunami. Indulge in gourmet pizza, curry, pancakes and good coffee.
Nature fans can climb the central 239-meter-high Mt. Anba, or take a ferry to nearby Oshima Island and rent a bicycle to tour Mt. Kameyama.