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Published on 04.27.2016
Matsushima Bay is a magnificent archipelago comprising of around 260 islands in Miyagi Prefecture that has been immortalized in waka (Japanese poetry) since ancient times. It is considered as one of “Three Views of Japan,” (Nihon Sankei) and one of the most picturesque places in the country. Stippled with hundreds of islands clad with pine trees, it is also known as “Pine Tree Island.” The best way to enjoy the beauty of this bay is by hopping on board cruise boats enabling visitors to view the islands up - close. The natural beauty of Matsushima Bay can be appreciated ashore from the four panoramic views or Shitaikan, offering visitors a view of the bay from different angles.
Matsushima Bay is also home to historical and cultural sites such as temples, gardens, and mausoleum caves. The bay which is filled with sunken rocks made navigation of boats extremely difficult and Date Masamune realized this as a potential of making the bay a military port. He built up the infrastructure of the area, including rebuilding the Zuigan-ji temple. The temple, built in 1604 is considered as one of Japan’s national treasures and reflects the natural beauty of Matsushima.
On entering the temple grounds, the path leading to the main hall is flanked on both sides by beautiful cedar trees. Across the temple is the museum which exhibits some of the temple's treasures including beautifully gilded and painted sliding doors (fusuma) adorned with exquisite artworks and artefacts of the Date Clan, such as a life-sized wooden statue of the warlord clothed in his armour. The temple features series of caves carved into the rock and were used for memorial services and mausoleums to house the ashes of the deceased.