Temples of Matsushima-kaigan (松島海岸)

May 23, 2012

I left the islands of Matsushima and turned inland to the town, Matsushima-kaigan (松島海岸; pine island shore), home of a Zen Buddhist temple.

Monks

With no guidebook and just a map, I decided to take a rambling route back to the train station in search of lunch.

A gate marked the entrance to a wooded area, with a small restaurant on the left, selling oysters and beef tongue, local specialties (郷土料理).

I ordered the local specialties: beef tongue with miso soup and a crab leg (which I used as a straw, unsure if that was rude or not).

And a giant oyster!  I grew up on Tomales Bay oysters, so I was excited to try another mollusk in its hometown.

I left the restaurant and passed through the gate, entering a serene wood of straight cedar trees surrounding Zuiganji (瑞巌寺), a regarded zen temple of the region. Built in the 800’s, the ubiquitous Date-san restored the structure in the 1600’s as a family temple.  Date-san is a recurring character in Miyagi-ken; we’ll return to him later.

Closed for a decade of planned renovations, the main hall and kitchen are Japanese national treasures.  I wandered the woods and looked at statues emerging from caves.

Leaving the woods I walked toward the train station.

Souvenirs in Matsushima were more serious and elegant than any other prefecture I’d visited.

Matsushima and Miyagi-ken were, in addition to beef tongue and oysters, famous for zunda, or ずんだ, sweetened soybeans.

Rather than cutesy cheap plastic ornaments, Matsushima-kaigan sold cloths, wooden mementos, and less flashy sweets.

Funori, also used as an adhesive.

Continuing on, I encountered another small temple.

White and black cats, cousins of Arecibo Observatory’s feline residents?

Back on the road to the train station a sign advertised local seafood, including ほや, hoya, or sea pineapple.

Back at the seashore, I continued toward the train station.

My favorite photo of the trip was about to happen.

Four monks walking on the sidewalk.

Signs for a marine park, with seals, fish, and penguins.

Is it larger on the inside than the outside?

This map detailed the area around Matsushima Bay, as well as local hotsprings, campgrounds, and shrines.  I’d love to come back here with a small boat.

Ferry tour map of the bay.

Welcome to Matsushima.

Back onboard the train, heading toward Sendai to meet Dan-chan.

As we passed boatyards and marinas, I wondered what this looked like in March of 2011, more than 14 months earlier.  Little, if any, evidence remained in Matsushima of the previous year’s disaster.

Off to Sendai…

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