One of Matsushima's many pine islands

Matsushima (; ) is a small town in Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan.


The town faces Matsushima Bay, famous for some 260 tiny islands (島 - shima) covered in pines (松 - matsu) hence the name -- and ranked as one of Japan's Three Great Views.

In 1689, Haiku poet Matsuo Basho visited Matsushima on the trip recorded in Narrow Road to the Deep North. A well-known poem often attributed to Basho claims to record his reaction, signifying that nothing more could be said:

Matsushima ah!
A-ah, Matsushima, ah!
Matsushima, ah!

Today's Matsushima is perhaps a little less inspiring, but still a worthwhile day trip if in the region.

The town did not suffer significant damage due to the Great East Japan Earthquake; the tsunami damage was minimal. The temples, shrines, and sight seeing destinations are still there and still worth the trip.

Get in

The town is only a short distance from prefectural capital Sendai.

By train

Most visitors arrive on the JR Senseki Line (仙石線) connecting Sendai and Ishinomaki. The most convenient station is Matsushima-Kaigan (松島海岸), which is 40 minutes from Sendai (¥410). Note that during daytime hours there are usually only two departures per hour to Matsushima-Kaigan. Another hourly service runs as far as Hon-Shiogama (see below). If you buy a ticket in Sendai, be sure to have the name written in characters: The machines do not have an English option.

The Matsushima station on the JR Tohoku Main Line is located further away from the seashore and requires a walk of at least 20 minutes, or a short taxi ride, to reach the ferry.

From Tokyo, the Shinkansen bullet train runs to Sendai for connection to the Senseki Line. The total one-way fare is ¥11,520 using the fastest, all-reserved Shinkansen service, and the journey to Matsushima-Kaigan lasts around 2 3/4 hours. There is no charge if you use the Japan Rail Pass.

By boat

Ferries tour around the islands every hour or so, and some of them do the trip to and from Hon-Shiogama on the JR Senseki line (don't mistake it with JR Tohoku line train to Shiogama station). The ferries are focussed on sightseeing, and you won't miss any of the islands in the bay by taking the ferry to Hon-Shiogama. If you are flexible, you can do this trip on your return leg, as it is much more pleasant to be waiting at the wharf in Matsushima than at Hon-Shiogama (although the latter does have an air-conditioned waiting room, and a cafe).

From Hon-Shiogama train station to the wharf is a 500m walk. You can see one from the other, or follow the signs.

Get around

Matsushima's seaside attractions are within walking distance of the train station and ferry pier, but the best views are from mountaintops not so easy to reach on foot. The most spectacular views are from Saigyo Modoshi no Matsu Park, a ¥660 cab ride up from the station. It is covered with cherry blossoms in the spring, but the food available there is nothing special. Other overlooks are Sōkanzan, a promontory that juts out into the bay, and Ōgitani, a hill across the coastal highway from Sokanzan.




View from Ōtakamori


Matsushima is famous for oysters grown in the bay. The oyster season starts on October. During the season, one can buy/eat oysters in all possible varieties (fresh, fried baked etc; take-out and eat-inside) along the main street starting from the railway station.



Go next

Routes through Matsushima

Morioka Ichinoseki  N  S  Sendai Tokyo

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, October 17, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.