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SOLO JAPAN II 14.-28.3.2004.
introduction | departure day
day one | two | three | four | five | six | seven | eight | nine | ten | eleven | twelve | thirteen | fourteen | fifteen
conclusion of my trip | photo gallery II
Monday, 15th of March 2004
Tokyo -> Sendai <-> Matsushima

Day Two :
Going up North of Japan

No jetlag?

I woke up early in the morning, amazed how well I slept without any signs of jetlag (at least not yet). The weather looked fine and I took another dip in the public hot tub before packing my stuff as my next destination is Sendai, about 350 kilometers north from Tokyo.

Okay, why leave mighty Tokyo after just one night and go to a rather unknown city like Sendai? First reason is that I have a set agreement with one of my Japanese friends that we would meet in Tokyo the following weekend, so I have monday to friday time to wander around the northern part of Japan. Oh, why Sendai? Well, Sendai itself won't be serving me more than a place to sleep, but there are some pretty interesting places close by.

Leaving the ryokan

From the (excellent!) ryokan I walked to the nearby local train stop, got on the train and got off its destination stop, Kamata. There I decided to eat breakfast in a small ramen restaurant just beside the train stop. It had the same vending machine receipt system I encountered yesterday, so I picked something that looked tasty. While eating I watched how the busy restaurant workers were preparing noodles and other food right in front of me (there wasn't a separate kitchen).

After finishing breakfast, I switched to a JR line (JR Keihin-tohoku line) that took me to Tokyo station. There I went to a ticket office and made a seat reservation for the next shinkansen train to Sendai. After maybe ten minutes of waiting at the platform, the train arrived and I got on board.

Limited view on shinkansen

Now this shinkansen happened to to be a "yamabiko max" - a double decker. Since the ordinary seats my JR Pass only allowed me to use were on the lower deck, it quickly became clear that I won't be seeing much of the scenery, as it was so low that I could only see the tall concrete walls rushing past my eyes. Hmm, I'll have to make sure I won't be riding this type of shinkansen once I return to Tokyo.

It didn't take longer than two hours to reach Sendai. Once there I threw my backpack into a coin locker, located the tourist information center, picked up a few local brochure guides and went outside to read them. I decided to head for a place called Matsushima right away since it was only a mere half hour away from the station, so I hopped on a local train that took me there.

Matsushima beauty

Matsushima is an area in the Pacific coastline that is said to be one of the three most beautiful scenic places in Japan. Even the famous haiku poet Matsuo Basho (1644 - 1694) was unable to compose a single haiku of the place when he arrived there as he was so awed by the beauty of it.

Since Matsushima was a major tourist spot, it wasn't surprising there was another tourist information desk where they provided me a map of the place and some tips what route I should take. The weather was ever so slightly cool, but luckily the sky was almost cloudless.

The first small island next to the coastline was Ojima, which was used by Zen priests for religious training (they even lived inside caves they carved themselves). I was pleased to notice the hoards of tourists many tourist guide books warned about in Matsushima were totally absent during this time of year. Sure, there were other tourists too, but nothing like the crowds seen in Kyoto during autumn for instance.

Walking around the area

I took plenty of photographs of the ocean wave carved islands and continued to the Godaido Hall, also located on a small island close to the coastline, which basically could sum up the beauty of Matsushima by itself.

I decided to skip the biggest island that could be reached by foot, Fukuurajima, and headed towards the Zuiganji temple. On the way there I saw more caves and statues carved into a nearby cliff. The 400 year old Zen temple itself (original built 900 years ago) had some big slide door paintings inside which unfortunately were forbidden to photograph.

Japanese hotel Toyoko Inn

I decided it would be time to return to Sendai, so I took the local train back there. Then I fetched my backpack from the coin locker and searched for the Tohoku Inn where I would spend the next two nights.

I chose this hotel as it was recommended for having its own Japanese style as well as affordable. The truth is that the room cost me 6400 yen per night. I originally reserved a 5500 yen type A single room, but they were all reserved and offered the type B room instead, which I accepted in my laziness, making it easily the most expensive accommodation I used during this trip.

The hotel itself was quite normal as well as the room (disappointing in that sense). I took a walk around the evening streets of Sendai trying to get some kind of idea of the city, but I just ended up walking around a very long plaza street before deciding to go to sleep early and returned to the hotel.

Overall it was another successful day. The easiness of moving around Japan proved yet again to be extremely easy and convenient. It simply is a well working network and I'm sure most Japanese agree on this (although they probably might complain about the prices since they don't have the luxury of a JR Pass).

back to top | proceed to day three!

Photo copyright Ude
It's a happy gaijin in his room at ryokan Kangetsu.

Photo copyright Ude
This meal is called "oyakodon" with miso soup. Oyako means "parent and child" (I'm eating chicken with eggs).

Photo copyright Ude
The Japanese faithfully lining up for the train that is yet to come.

Photo copyright Ude
The view from the shinkansen. The lesson: avoid double-decker shinkansens.

Photo copyright Ude
The shores of Matsushima.

Photo copyright Ude
The Godaido Hall.

Sendai - The largest city in the Tohoku region north of the main island Honshu.
Miyagi Tourist databook - A nice database of places to see in the Miyagi prefecture in the Tohoku region.
Matsushima - The town of Matsushima webpage. Has some English pages.
Toyoko Inn - The accommodation I used while in Sendai. Pretty average from my experience.



Copyright 2003-2019 © , second edition. Latest minor update 4th of May 2010 (fixed and deleted broken links)
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