Today Matsushima is a small town of 15,000 known for tourism, farming, and fishing.
It is designated by the Japanese government as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty and hosts a Prefectural Natural Park.
Recently Matsushima has also been recognized internationally, earning 3 stars in France's prestigious Michelin Guide and becoming the first bay in Japan to be accepted into the "Most Beautiful Bays in the World" association in 2013.
Matsushima was affected by the earthquake and tsunami of 2011, but thanks to the many barrier islands damage was relatively light. Train service, sightseeing boats, and tourist facilities have been completely restored. Matsushima was also not affected by radiation.
The most famous product of Matsushima is a delicacy hidden beneath its ocean waves: oysters. They are available to savor from October to March. This season provides many opportunities to enjoy oysters including all you can eat oyster shacks, or kakigoya, with oysters grilled in the shell, lunchtime oyster cruises of Matsushima Bay featuring oyster stews, and oysters over rice, or kakidon, specials at many local restaurants.
seasonOctober - March
A relatively smaller eel, conger eel is cooked to perfection and has a glossy shine due to a special sauce. It is also considered to be incredibly savory, earning it high ratings at Tokyo's Tsukuji market.
seasonApril - October
It is said that the first Matsushima Koren (rice crackers) were produced by a widowed nun called Koren. One day she gazed upon the blossoms of a plum tree her late husband Kotaro had planted next to the Sanseido Hall of Zuiganji Temple. She turned rice that had been given as an offering to flour, and grilled rice crackers in honor of the temple. The secret behind the creation of this special treat has been handed down for 43 generations since 1327. This handmade cracker is made from locally-produced rice. Guests are encouraged to remember the kindness of Sister Koren and be sure to pay their respects at the plum tree and stone that memorialize Kotaro and Koren.
Because of this park's high location, guests can enjoy cherry blossoms and the view of Matsushima Bay at the same time. The park's name is from the story of famous poet Saigyo, who had returned home and was resting under a pine tree. It was there that he met a child and he was unable to solve the Zen riddle the boy made.
3rd Monday in July
This large scale sea festival features boats sailing with a portable shrine that has been carried down from Shiogama Shrine. In the evening there is a fireworks show. This festival was selected as one of the 100 Historical Maritime and Fishing Cultural Properties as a way of passing it on to future generations.
August 15th and 16th
The new festival open to citizens with respect of tradition and repose of souls. Activities rooted in the life of Matsushima are awarded as “Good Design Award” in 2012. Held on August 15th and 16th.
venueMatsushimakaigan Central Park
This festival has over 700 years of history and is held for the repose of suffering spirits. Thousands of memorial lanters are set out to sea and there is a fireworks show in the evening.
venueMatsushimakaigan Central Park
September to October
Kanrantei is a small tea house that used to belong to the Date family. It is also called the tsukimigoten, meaning "moon viewing pavilion."
venueKanrantei Tea House
4th Sunday in September
This tea party is held in the garden of the Kakomachiminka, a town-designated cultural property.
Night adds a new dimension to Matsushima’s beauty. During the month of November, guests can stroll by candlelight along the tree-lined path leading towards Zuiganji Temple. The gardens of Entsuin Temple are brought to life by lights which enhance the autumn leaves and reveal their reflections in a mirror-like pond. Coinciding with the illuminations are special evening cruises of the bay and evening hours for Kanrantei Tea House.
venueZuiganji Temple, Entsuin Temple, Kanrantei Tea House, and more
1st Saturday and Sunday in February
Over 30 shops offer tastings of over 20 different sake brands in this event.
venueShops throughout the town
1st Sunday in February
Matsushima’s famous oyster festival is held on the first Sunday in February. The festival includes oysters prepared in many ways, including grilled, fried, and stewed as well as fresh oysters to take and cook at home.
venueMatsushima Parking Lot 5