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The hundreds of tiny islands that make up the Matsushima Bay in Miyagi Prefecture have been celebrated for centuries as one of Japan’s Nihon Sankei, or “Three Views of Japan.” The Nihon Sankei, which also include Miyajima and Amanohashidate, lists what are said to be the three most beautiful sights in the country. With four main observation points and over 200 islands, there is more than one way to see and explore the Matsushima Bay. Take a look at the best options below.
From a distance, a panoramic view of the bay can be taken in from four different mountaintops, each providing a uniquely beautiful viewpoint of the islands. The views are known as sōkan (magnificent view), reikan (beautiful view), yūkan (enchanting view), and ikan (grand view). Located at the top of Mt. Otakamori, sōkan boasts a gorgeous 360° view with the islands up front and the mountains in the distance. Reikan, in addition to a picturesque view of the bay, features two historical structures: Tomiyama Kannon-do Hall and the Daigyo-ji temple. To the west is yūkan, which offers a V-shaped view of the bay said to resemble a giant Japanese fan opening slowly. Finally, of the four spots, ikan provides the closest view to the islands.
For travelers looking to explore the area and see the islands up close, there are multiple options for sightseeing cruises and boat tours. Most tours last around 25 to 50 minutes depending on the route and locations visited; the longer tours typically take passengers to more remote, undeveloped areas. Cruises depart frequently from the Matsushima Pier (walking distance from Matsushima Kaigan Station on the JR Senseki line) and Shiogama Pier (near Hon-Shiogama Station on the same line) and cost around US$10 to US$15. For more information on booking a cruise of the islands, check out these tours through Marubun Matsushima Kisen.