In May there is a series of 3 national holidays in a row. With the weekend added in, this results in 5 days off. Hence the week is called "Golden Week." Golden week is one of the busiest weeks in terms of travelling and prices sky rocket. With this in mind, we decided to go for a short 3 day trip to Sendai, the largest city in Northern Japan (Tohoku). Near Sendai is the famed Matsushima Bay, which is known for many interestingly shaped islands of rocks.
Our journey started by taking a short train ride to the town of Amarume where fellow JET, Erin, picked us up. She was also heading to Sendai so we split the cost of gas and tolls. Outside of Amarume station is this strange object. Peter conjectures it is a UFO and if we went under it, we would be transported to a new dimension. Well, yes, we were a bit bored at the station.
Once we got to our "cheap" business hotel in Sendai we were surprised to find the Buddhist equivalent of a Bible in the drawer. Religion is very hands-off here and no one really proselytizes. It was very interesting. We did some shopping and ate a few nice restaurant in Sendai with the help of Erin and Fukui sensei, a Japanese English teacher who works with Erin and knows Sendai really well. We also had the best sushi dinner of our lives here. We didn't order but just let the sushi master decide and he was brilliant. Kim even ate things like uni (sea urchin) and clam, which she usually doesn't like. Super delicious! However, we didn't take pictures of any of this stuff. The rest of the pictures show the one day we went to Matsushima Bay, one of the 3 most beautiful places in Japan.
We took a 1/2 hour train ride from Sendai to Sapporo. It was convenient and fast. People who tried to drive ended up getting stuck in nasty traffic jams for hours! Once we arrived in Matsushima, we wanted to see the beautiful islands. So, we signed up for a ferry tour. Here is Peter with our ferry, which turned out to be a bit crowded.
However, a rival company had this ferry and a dragon one. We wished we had explored a bit more and taken this cool ferry!
There are hundreds of rock formations in the bay. This one was really interesting.
This one looked like an alien, or maybe a duck head on a rock.
This one was very scenic. All of these formations had names but there were so many we had trouble keeping track, despite having an English map. There was a tour announcer but that was in Japanese.
This was a larger island on the boat ride.
Another interesting rock island.
This largish island was really white and had many interesting nooks and crannies.
After the hour boat ride, we walked around Matsushima. Several islands were connected by long red walkways. From this walkway you could see many oysters every where. Matsushima is famous for its oysters.
Once on the island, there was a nice path going around it including a stop for treats. Kim and Peter both enjoyed eating dango, or grilled rice balls with a teriyaki-like paste on them.
There was a garden on the island and some interesting trees.
Here is Kim in the garden. Does she look excited? Well, Matsushima Bay was a bit of a let down. Personally, we think Shonai has places which are as or more beautiful. So, we thought it was overrated. However, being in Sendai itself was really nice because it was a city with clothes that fit Peter, English books, and multiple styles of cuisine. Our ride was leaving one day later than us so we had to get back to Tsuruoka but found a really cheap bus option that only took 2 hours ! So, we can do a day/weekend trip to Sendai anytime we want! Yeah!