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Beautiful Temple Grounds
One of the most beautiful sights in Matsushima has nothing to do with view of islands and ocean. Instead, along a path leading to Zuiganji temple, you'll find Entsuuin, an enclosed zen-garden and temple space.
For a fee, you can make a bracelet out of special stone beads, and after you finish, the meaning of each type of bead will be explained, but only in Japanese.
The enclosed garden is a gorgeous reminder that you're in one of the most interesting and beautiful countries in the world. It stretched back and opens into a small rose garden and a pathway that splits off through a small, cultivated forest.
A walk through the garden only costs 300 yen for adults. In Autumn, there is an illumination event in the evening which I recall as being slightly more expensive but well worth it. The autumn colors in the zen garden with live musical accompaniment is an experience not to be missed.
On a recent trip, we found the temple buildings (to the right within the gardens) even had a small TV showing a documentary about the place at low volume with a small seating section right off the walking path and complimentary barley tea. It was just right for a little something special.
The garden is gorgeous and the path is mostly paved in stones, but remember that this is still nature. Bugs of a small variety do wander the grounds with you, including some impressively creepy spiders if you're on the taller side and not paying attention. Watch out for webs, especially near the more tree-heavy portions of the garden.