Matsushima, translated as Pine Islands, is ranked as one of the Three Views of Japan. It is located a couple kilometers northeast of Sendai and is composed of a small town, a bay, and over 260 islands all covered in pines (hence, the name). A couple friends and I went there a few days ago and we were stunned by how beautiful Japan’s nature had to offer. The traditionally designed temples, shrines–even staircases–were something out of Avatar, it was almost as though I had stepped into a movie from how beautifully different everything was. It was everything I had imagined nature in Japan to be and more.
Conveniently arriving at Matsushima by local train, the first noticeable difference was the noise. Quiet. Tranquil. Clear. It was a breath of fresh air despite only being around 30 kilometers away from the city. The town was smaller than expected; almost all sidewalks were nonexistent and the whole area carried an old-timely vibe. That, however, just made the journey a lot more beautiful. Stopping by a local restaurant and fidgeting on Google Translate for a few minutes, we managed to order some gyutan, Sendai’s famously known beef tongue!
Some of the pine islands were connected to the main land by red wooden bridges. One of these islands contained a temple, known as Godaido Temple. My friends and I attempted traditional Japanese prayer by throwing some coins into the donation box, ringing a large bell, and clapping our hands together. Afterwards, we tried our luck on omikuji, Japanese fortunes that contained either good, bad, or neutral luck. Unfortunately for my friend Oussama, he got bad luck. He had to negate the bad luck by tying to fortune onto a piece of string located near the temple. I wish I had taken a picture of it.
Afterwards, we noticed a very long bridge in the distance leading to one of the islands. Curiosity took the best of us and we started heading over to where the bridge began. For 200 Yen, or around 2 U.S. Dollars, we were able to enter Fukuura Island, one of the larger islands available to visit. We weren’t the only ones who thought the island was a great picture-taking spot unfortunately; everyone else did, as well. I don’t think any of us cared anyway. The architecture built on the island was stunning enough to blow every other distraction away.
From the stone pavement to the bamboo fences, if someone were to visit Japan for only a day, this is where I would take them. Not a drop of Western culture was obvious within the island (except me, I suppose you could say). There was even a tiny ice-cream shop designed like a traditional tea room. Did I also mention all the spiders everywhere? Kumo as they are called in Japanese. Oussama, Greg, Tan, and I all took turns walking in front because none of us wanted to accidentally run into a spider web first.
Despite all the tourists, the whole island was surprisingly clean. The Japanese love to keep their natural sites natural I suppose you could say. Okay, so I lied a bit; we did find a single piece of boxers laying on the beach front. We decided to have a little fun and hang it on a long bamboo stick and held it up like a flag for a bit. To actually get to the beach, one had to hold onto a rope and scale a rock wall down a few meters. It almost felt like we were the Hardy Boys and we were in search of great treasure in a mysterious new world. I suppose, in a sense, we did find treasure–the laughs that we had and the bonds we had made over a simple journey are memories I don’t think I will ever forget.