Planning a trip to Miyagi? Want to take in the simple beauty of one of the three most beautiful pieces of natural scenewry in all of Japan. Previously posts have explained how to get there by ferry and how to get to Godaido Shrine. What else is there?
The answer: Tons of stuff!
Let's start with kokeshi. The wooden dolls are well known as a handicraft throughout northern Japan, but the best place to go for them is Matsushima Naohide Kokeshi Shop, which I reviewed here. The place is small and run by a little old couple. If you come at the right time, you can catch the old man at the crafting table, carving a doll from a single piece of wood. There are some really beautiful pieces in the shop if you have the money to spend. If you're a bit more on the thrifty and crafty side, I recommend painting your own. Lots of fun for 800 yen and you get a souvenir that lasts a lifetime. I do not recommend having toddler assistance while painting, as your doll may require some inventive measures to look intentionally weird.
After you've finished painting, you can pick up lunch or a snack at any of the restaurants and shops on your way further into Matsushima, including a really weird ice-cream shop, located between Entsuiin Temple and Zuiganji Temple. The ice cream is delicious and the flavors are bizarre.
After you're refreshed, it is time to take the big red bridge. You can see it in the ferry post-- a very long red bridge connecting an outlying island to the mainland. It is a big of a walk from the station, but well worth it.
There is a little shop at the entrance to the bridge where you can buy a ticket for 200 yen. You can also get some refreshments there or make use of a coin locker. Be ready to come back quickly, though. The shop closes at 5 PM, and the coin lockers will be inaccessible after that time.
After you walk through the shop, exit the back and begin your journey across the bridge.
The bridge is stable and a nice, long walk over the water, sporting great views in any direction.
After you get to the other side, walk around! The main path takes you through some semi-paved walkways, up some hills and around to some beautiful vistas.
Wear good walking shoes and, in summer, don't forget your big spray.
Even on a paved path, the sounds of the forest and the ocean are all around.
There is also a small restaurant on the island, in addition to a small shrine and a bathroom facility. The restaurant is the first small building you'll come to, easily marked by a big ice cream cone in summer.
Walking around the restaurant, you'll see tiny daruma-shaped fortunes for sale for 200 yen each.
After the shop, continue along the path to see some great views of the sea and the forest, in addition to a small shrine, where a lot of the little daramu bodies wind up.
The path around the island is indicated by signs, but you can also go off path at your own risk. Bathrooms are also indicated on the map.
Before you head back to the bridge, don't forget to check out the gardens on the far side of the island. They are flat but lovely and offer an unfettered view of the sea.
From the gardens, it is a simple matter to walk back to the main path and trot all the way back to the red bridge, and from there, back to civilization.
I do not recommend coming with a stroller or wheelchair, as some of the areas are less wheel-accessible.
If you come early enough, you can do all of three of these cool things in one day and for pretty cheap. All in all, not a bad way to go for a fun day for less than 2,000 yen.