Exploring Miyagi

We return this week to Tohoku in Exploring Japan with Miyagi Prefecture.

Miyagi Prefecture is on the Pacific coast of the northern Tohoku region of Honshu, and was one of the most severely damaged areas during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.  It has a population of 2,337,513.  The capital and largest city is Sendai.  The 5 largest cities are:

  1. Sendai (1,045,986)
  2. Ishinomaki (164,294)
  3. Osaki (135,129)
  4. Tome (84,070)
  5. Kurihara (74,932)

Due to the casualties suffered in coastal cities, there is no current population information.  Some of these may be outdated.  Both Sendai and Ishinomaki were hit by the tsunami.

Castles

Shiroishi Castle in Shiroishi is a recent reconstruction.  It was rebuilt using traditional methods, so should be quite faithful to the original.  It doesn’t appear to be very big.

Aoba Castle in Sendai consists of ruins and some reconstructed buildings.  There is currently some reconstruction or restoration going on. It’s also known as Sendai Castle.

Sports

In professional baseball, Sendai is host to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. In J-League soccer, Vegalta Sendai in Sendai city is in the top tier.

Things to see and do

Due to the tsunami in 2011, some of the following places may be unavailable due to reconstruction or lack of reconstruction.  However, most of the prefecture is business as usual, so I definitely recommend going there and supporting the local economy.  It’s very important to help them out.

Sendai is the largest city in the Tohoku region, so is the central hub for the area.  It’s a very green city that’s close to both the ocean and mountains. Osaki Hachiman Shrine is an important and attractive shrine in Sendai and holds the Donto-sai Festival.  Just outside the city is a large statue of Kannon. Rinnoji is a nice temple with a big garden. Zuihoden is the mausoleum of Date Masamune.  Miyagi Museum of Art is good for some modern art and a garden. Sendai Mediatheque has interesting architecture. SS 30 Observation Lounge is an observation deck on the 29th and 30th floors of an office building that’s free to the public. Sendai City Museum should be interesting. The Museum of the Forest of Depths of the Earth sounds quite interesting, featuring the stone age. Yagiyama Zoo is the local zoo. Benyland is a small amusement park that should be fun. You can take a tour at the Nikka Whisky Distillery and finish with free whisky. You can enjoy the Michinoku-Yosakoi Festival, as well.  Finally, Sendai hosts the largest Tanabata Festival in Japan during August. Sendai has some natural sites, too.  Akiu Great Falls is one of Japan’s top 3 waterfalls. There are also hot spring areas in Akiu and Sakunami.

Ishinomaki is a famous fishing city.  It hosts a few interesting things, but not a large amount.  There’s a full-sized replica of the Japanese galleon San Juan Bautista.  You can also visit the Ishinomori Manga Museum. There are some interesting islands, as well.  Tashirojima is known as Manga Island. Kinkasan is considered a very holy site, and it hosts a shrine, as well as many hiking trails.

Kesennuma is a city that was hit very hard by the tsunami.  It’s begun to recover, but there’s a lot of hard work ahead.  It has an attractive natural spot, though. Oreishii is a rock that attracts a lot of people.

Matsuhima is a town that was hit by the tsunami, but the main sights were not damaged. Matsushima Bay is one of Japan’s top 3 best views.  Zuiganji temple is a top Zen temple with a long history. Kanrantei Pavilion is a large teahouse with a great view of the coast. Fukuura Island is a good place to take a walk, and is accessible by a bridge. Otakamori is a great place to see the bay, and requires a 1 km walk up the hill.

Osaki has an area called the Naruko Hot Spring Villages.  Naruko Gorge is a great viewing spot in autumn. Taki no Yu is a traditional bathhouse that uses water from two separate springs and creates artificial waterfalls.

Zao Quasi-National Park is on the border of Miyagi and Yamagata.  It has the complex volcano Mount Zao, which is also host to a ski resort. This is the most volcanically active area in Tohoku.

Food

Miyagi, especially Sendai, is famous for gyu-tan, or grilled slices of cow tongue.  You can also get shark fin soup in Kesennuma.

Have you been to Miyagi?  What did I miss?  Do you have any recommendations?

3 Comments

Filed under Japan, Miyagi

3 responses to “Exploring Miyagi

  1. I wrote this once, then lost the comment when I posted. Anyway, I consider Sendai to be my Japanese hometown, so I could go on at length about Miyagi. I haven’t been since 2004 though, so I’m sure stuff is different.

    Sendai isn’t really a tourist destination, nor is there a lot to do in town, but it’s my second favorite city in Japan. The illuminated radio towers are the iconic view, though it’s just for looking. The site of Aoba-jo has a great view of the city. The best time to visit is probably during Tanabata, as it’s one of the largest celebrations of the holiday, even though residents get tired of walking through all the hanging destinations downtown.

    Ishinomaki smells awful and was mostly destroyed by the tsunami. I’m not sure that there’s anything to see there right now. I don’t really recommend it either, as the combination of paper factories and fish processing plants is unforgettable. The residents predict the weather based on the intensity of the smell, or at least they did when I lived there.

    Matsushima is worth the trip, especially as it more or less survived the tsunami. (Or so I hear.) There’s lots to see, much of it afflicted by the usual Japanese tourist industry, but enough off the beaten path to enjoy. I’ve probably been 20 times and I still like it.

    Kessenuma’s main claim to fame (that I knew of) may or may not have survived the tsunami – there was a bit of beach where the waves great a natural fountain. I don’t know that there’s much else to see out there. Shiogama has an interesting port area, though it may not be worth anything more than watching from the train. Actually, the whole train ride from Sendai to Ishinomaki is amazing, once they get it running again.

    That’s probably enough for now. :p

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