A-ah, Matsushima, ah!
This famous haiku sums up a poet’s feeling on viewing the islands of Matsushima, clustering thickly by Sendai, in Miyagi prefecture. Before the 2011 triple disaster, this was an incredibly popular destination, and thanks to the protective natural wall, the area sustained far less damage than the rest of the hard-hit Miyagi coastline. The World-Heritage listed shrine, Zuigan-ji, which lies metres from the shore, and Godaido hall, which was built actually out into the bay, escaped destruction from both the 9 magnitude earthquake and the subsequent tsunami.
Passenger ferries made frequent loops of the bay, along with private pleasure boats and working fishing vessels. Following all of them were clouds of seagulls encouraged by tourists flinging bags of prawn flavoured chips at them. This was fun, but the insatiable birds made it difficult to actually view the islands, and many a photo captured a sneaky wing-tip.
Apart from pleasure cruises, Matsushima bay was where fishermen cast their nets, and set up lines of logs to farm oysters and scallops. While I don’t know the damage done in Sendai, the tsunami wiped out fishing vessels and infrastructure all along the Tohoku coast. While Sendai, a large, historic city with the benefits of tourism, will recover, other communities in Miyagi are faced with a difficult rebuild from scratch.
Visiting in 2009, parts of Zuigan-ji were under reconstruction, and unfortunately I didn’t take much more than memories of that beautiful shrine.
Of Sendai as well, I neglected to focus my camera on anything but the famous islands, and its many resident seagulls.
It may be a long while, but I hope I can go back one day to the city and beautiful Matsushima.
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