Jul 31, 2017
For anyone who has read much of my writing here, this post will come as no surprise.
My very favorite picnic spot for summer is the same as it is for fall and spring. The small field of cherry (and other) trees at Shiogama Shrine wins for me regardless of the season. It's also beautiful in winter, though you won't catch me eating outside then as the cold and I do not agree.
It's not just the trees, which provide ample shade, or the grass that keeps the mud at bay. There is so much more to this place that most locals only visit once a year for the cherry blossoms.
To start with, any way you walk it, this is a nice little workout. 202 stone steps or a long, gradual rise? There is also a third path, cutting through a bit of woodland wilderness as it snakes up to the main path just across from the maritime museum. For those who prefer a scenic drive to a lengthy walk, there is a large parking lot right next to the green space.
Then there's the crowd, or lack thereof. I have yet to visit on a day outside of hanami season and see the place packed, despite the fact that this is one of the nicer little green areas in the whole city. Even during peak sakura-viewing times, there is usually plenty of space available.
Public bathrooms do exist in the far corner of the parking lot in front of the green space and vending machines can be found a short walk away on the gradual path. In addition, a small shop overlooking the sakura viewing space sells delicious mochi plates as well as various snacks and drinks.
For me, the real draw for this place is always the view. If you take a short walk to the front of the shrine area, you can see all the way to Marine Gate and Shiogama Bay. That's not the only great photo opportunity available either. On the path up to the shrine, a massive red Tori stands in front of some beautiful trees. Beyond that grove, a section of the main path remains shrouded from the heat by a canopy of growth. A Japanese garden on the shrine grounds puts the Japanese gardens of my hometown (home to an annual Japanese festival and the venue of many weddings including my own) to absolute shame, despite being a fraction of the size.
A more exciting aspect for the summer, especially for those with smaller children, is the comfort and quiet of the miniature field itself, which is perfect for chasing butterflies in addition to letting your (inner or otherwise) kid run free in a little green space.
My three-year-old had a blast running after the little white butterflies we found pollinating the clover.
I later found two of the little guys taking a rest and doing their real jobs. They also visited us on out tiny picnic tarp a couple of times, but I never got a clear shot until...
Haha! Caught him! And about half a second before my kid scared him off!
Shiogama Shrine is a special place, and not just for the avid Shinto enthusiast. It can also be a great little excursion for a fair-weather picnic, even in the company of a rambunctious kid.
A working mom/writer/teacher, Jessica explores her surroundings in Miyagi-ken and Tohoku, enjoying the fun, quirky, and family friendly options the area has to offer.