Jul 11, 2017
These banners outside of HonShiogama Station on the Senseki line boast of the approaching festivities.
Next Monday is the Japanese national holiday known as Marine Day or Ocean Day and if you have the time and interest in Japanese festivals, a trip to Shiogama in Miyagi prefecture may be in order.
Posters like this have been up all over town for months.
The event begins Sunday with a massive fireworks display generally starting at dusk over Matsushima Bay. The best place to watch the display is from the roof of the Aeon TownMall known as The Big or across the street at Marine Gate, which does double duty as both a fun venue for this event as well as the launching point for a number of ferries and small boats carrying their hires to the middle of the bay to watch the display.
If you're interested in watching from an aquatic position, grab tickets from a number of retailers and bring your own beverages and snacks to enjoy while you watch. This is of course not recommended for those with motion sickness.
There is also a park near the water across from the opposite side of the Aeon. It's pretty small and will likely be filled with food and drink stalls. This part of the festival usually fills the oceanside with spectators and the display itself usually lasts upwards of 30 minutes if memory serves.
If standing in a group of strangers watching airborne explosions is not your thing, consider coming out on Monday instead, when a parade of different groups (some from elementary, middle and high schools in the area, some from other social groups and clubs) takes center stage, or rather street, as they dance their way from Ichibankan (the building housing the library across from 7-11 near HonShiogama Station) to the main entrance of Shiogama Shrine.
In years previous, I participated in this alongside friends and my daughter, who was usually asleep by the time the dancing began. Due to a recent foot injury (and my reluctance to carry a three-year-old that far in the heat), I will be attending today's event as a civilian instead of as a participant.
Handy tsunami evacuation maps around The Big assist in case of emergency. This one has been edited to indicate fireworks watching areas in pink and the parade route in yellow.
Even without the dancing, there's plenty to see. The omikoshi (portable shrine) will be making its way down the 202 stairs of the main entrance to Shiogama Shrine, then circling the town and heading to the colorful shrine boats which will take it out to bless the bay and outlying islands before its return. This is the only day the public gets to see the boats in action, so its pretty special for those of us who spend the year staring at the gorgeous dragon and phoenix, their rainbow lacquer shimmering in the daylight.
It's fun and free and only open once a year. Why not come on down?
HonShiogama Station is 30 minutes and 320 yen from Sendai Station on the Senseki line.
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.