Magical Matsushima Bay
Howdy fans! What a glorious day we had here today – 26°C, blue skies and just the gentlest of breezes. A great day to go cruising around Matsushima Bay! This horse-shoe shaped bay, just 25kms north of Sendai, is considered one of Japan’s top 3 scenic spots – alongside Miyajima Island (which we saw earlier this month), and Amano-hashidate near Kyoto (which we missed this time around). The small bay contains some 260 wooded islands of all shapes and sizes, and is easily accessible from Sendai by train. So we caught a local train up to Hon-Shiogama this morning and, 30 minutes later, were on our way to find the Marubun Matsushima Kisen Company pier to get ourselves 2 tickets on a cruise boat. Once again the perks of travelling off-peak were evident: we had the whole boat to ourselves!
The cruise only took about an hour, slowly weaving its way through the islands of Matsushima Bay. We saw plenty of local fishermen, seaweed farmers and oyster farms going about their business, and even had a few seagulls join us for part of the journey. This area has a long history as a fishing hub, with the local speciality being giant oysters, grown in the bay, served battered and fried as “oyster burgers”. We skipped the “oyster burgers”, feasting on the scenery instead. It was great to be on the ocean, with that salty tang in the air and the islands of Matsushima Bay all around us. Very relaxing.
We hopped off the cruising boat at Matsushima township, enjoyed a snack of mandarines (which, at a 100Yen a piece, is one expensive snack!), then headed north of the pier to Godai-do Island. This tiny island, just a few meters off the shore, is linked to the mainland by an arched bridge, and is home to the Godai-do temple. This picturesque pavilion was built some 400 years ago and houses statues of 5 Buddhist deities which can only be viewed every 33 years (last viewing year was 2006, so we missed out). The bridge connecting the island to the mainland had huge gaps between the planks. Apparently the gaps were designed to keep women off the island; in their awkward wooden geta and kimonos, it would have been impossible for Japanese women hundreds of years ago to get across the bridge safely, thus ensuring they didn’t sully the sacred ground with their presence. Luckily no such restrictions kept ME off the island today!
From Godai-do Island, we walked further north to Fukuru Island (Fukuru-jima) and across the 252m-long bridge onto this forested island. Once a retreat for Buddhist monks, Fukuru-jima is now a botanical garden, with paths criss-crossing the island and hundreds of species of plants providing us with a good excuse to amble our way around the island. We found a great spot for a picnic and celebrated our successful day trip to Matsushima Bay with a couple of Lawson’s (i.e. Japanese convenience store) sandwiches and a couple more mandarines (extravagant lunch, I know). An easy way to spend another day of our epic holiday…