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A Journey Through Miyagi Prefecture

A photo trip through Miyagi with a group of tourism professionals.

In the peak of winter The Hidden Japan took part in a trip alongside a group of guides, writers, and influencers to Miyagi Prefecture to tour the winter delights to be had in this region.  Highlights of this trip included its beautiful snowy mountains, local cuisine, coastlines and soothing onsen ryokan.  Though a monitor tour in nature, this was a trip that can easily be adapted into a tour itinerary for travelers interested in an excursion into Northern Japan.  Read on to see our trip through our photos and why Miyagi has always been one of our top recommendations for those looking to get off the beaten path. 

The Hot Spring Ryokan of Kamasaki Onsen

To start off our trip, members of our group traveled up to Miyagi Prefecture via the Tohoku Shinkansen to Shiroishizao Station, a short stop before Sendai City.  We then transferred to the nearby Kamasaki Onsen for a stay at the luxurious Yunushi Ichjijo. 

This traditional ryokan dating back well over a century puts on full display what a stay at these Japanese lodgings is all about.  Right from the beginning, we were greeted by a team of well trained staff who took our bags up to the lobby for check-in followed by a walk through the winding halls of this large ryokan.  The rooms were comfortable in traditional tatami mat style with futon beds and the onsen baths had soothing water to relax after our journey. 

However, what truly impressed us about this ryokan was the wonderful dinner course served that night.  Our group was served in private dining rooms for a dazzling variation of seafood from the Miyagi coast, fresh vegetables from its fields, and wagyu beef through the course that never seemed to end.  We were also served by a server who explained each dish individually who could explain things in simple English, a rarity and well appreciated addition to wonderful onsen ryokan experiences like this.   

Yunushi Ichijou is well accustomed to foreign travelers and easily found its way onto our list of recommended lodgings here in Northern Japan

Strawberries Whiskey and a Rare Mixed Onsen

After another excellent meal for breakfast, we drove to the open fields of Yamamoto Town along the coastline of Miyagi.  This area has a story worthy of its own article in itself as it has gone through great lengths to rebuild and rediscover itself after suffering damage from the tsunami of March 11th 2011.  With fields damaged by saltwater, Yamamoto Town started a massive new initiative to grow strawberries as they can be grown above the ground in houses on raised planters.  This was an effective way to tackle the immediate problem of its fields which could not grow many of the crops from before in the aftermath of the tsunami.

One of the largest of these operations is Ichigo World where we were able to pick strawberries inside their houses right from the vine.  There were even many variations of strawberries including beautiful white versions and a gift shop with many different products made with the strawberries they grow here.  

Japan is famous for its excellent quality of fruits and fruit picking is a great addition for those looking for an easy going activity.  We believe this would be especially good for families with children.

Following this, we made a trip up to the mountains of Miyagi to the world famous Nikka Whisky Sendai Factory.  First opened in 1969, this factory was the second distillery after its Hokkaido factory and takes advantage of the pure waters that flow in the pristine nature here to produce some of Japan’s finest whiskey.  

Nikka Whiskey offers visitors guided tours of their distillery here where we got to tour their pot stills and other rooms of their factory including the large storage rooms where thousands of caskets of whiskey age.  For everyone, the highlight of this tour was the tasting session they have at the end of the tour where we were able to try a flight of some of their whisky here with premium tasting options also available.  This is a tour we regularly recommend to our guests with an interest in Japanese whisky and their english audio guide makes this a very approachable tour to those even without Japanese language ability or guides. 

Following the same winning theme of yesterday, tonight’s lodging was also an onsen hotel, but this time one with what is one of the most famous outdoor baths in all of Northern Japan.  

Iwamatsu Ryokan located deep in the mountains of Miyagi not only offers traditional Japanese comfort and delicious Japanese buffet meals; its gem is a gorgeous and exceptionally uncommon outdoor mixed gender bath.  This natural hot spring bath has many different individual baths including one that is on the same level as the river that flows right next to it.  

Perfect for couples wishing to bath in a large outdoor bath together, it also has set times when only women are allowed into the bath for those wishing for more privacy.  

The bath of Iwamatsu is truly excellent and one that we can easily say is worthy of a trip for those with a passion for Japanese hot spring baths.  The winter weather was perfect for this bath as well as the hot water and cold mountain air balances perfectly, allowing you to stay in the bath for much longer without overheating.  

The Snow Monsters of Zao and Shiroishi Castle

After a relaxing soak in the baths of Iwamatsu, we made a visit to the nearby castle of Shiroishi Castle.  This former bastion of the Katakura Clan, a retainer clan of the mighty Date Clan that dates back to the Edo Period.  This castle has been accurately rebuilt in 1995 with traditional materials and accurate layouts offering a great look into great power of the Date Clan and the samurai heritage of Shiroishi. 

Following this we went up to the frozen landscape of Mt.Zao to see the highlight of this trip which was the snow monsters that rest high up on this towering mountain that overlooks Miyagi.  

Riding up with a caravan of heavy-duty snow vehicles, we traversed to a beautiful spot on the mountain where many of these snow and ice covered trees were gathered.  Here we had the chance to get out of the snow vehicles and take photos in this stunningly beautiful white landscape.  Especially for those who do not live in snow country, this environment felt like being on the moon. 

We were very fortunate to have clear blue skies on this day as well!

Matsushima Bay and Downtown Sendai

Finishing our journey across Miyagi, we ended with a relaxing stay at the famous Matsushima Bay, regarded as one of the 3 most beautiful sights of Japan for good reason.  Here we enjoyed a delicious seafood buffet and rooms with ocean views at Hotel Matsushima Taikanso before taking a cruise through the bay to see its beautiful islands up close. 

Before finishing our day at Matsushima we also made a visit to Zuiganji Temple a beautiful 400 year old temple which was commissioned by Masamune Date himself, the legendary samurai lord of Miyagi.  An easy and must see addition to anyone making a day trip or stay at the bay here.  

To finish off our stay in Miyagi we then spent the night in downtown Sendai by the station for some bar hopping and dinner enjoying Miyagi’s famous beef tongue cuisine. 

We would like to thank Miyagi Prefecture for the wonderful opportunity to travel around their region. 
Miyagi offers the perfect balance of natural beauty, onsen, cuisine, and more in a package that is away from the main tourists paths of Japan.  All of this with ease of access via the Tohoku Shinkansen, Miyagi is most certainly a region we highly recommend to guests looking to see more that Japan has to offer than simply the Golden Route. 

As always please feel free to contact us via our contact page if you are interested in visiting Miyagi and read more about Sendai City which can serve as your home base for day trips to see places like we introduced in this article. 

Derek Yamashita

Derek Yamashita

The Hidden Japan Creative Director. Following his passion to connect with his roots as a Japanese American, Derek started a life in Japan after college living in the deep countryside of Yamagata Prefecture. Falling in love with the trails, cycling courses, fishing and all that the countryside had to offer, Derek co-founded a travel company called The Hidden Japan in 2018. The Hidden Japan focuses on promoting the deeper sides of Japan beyond the big cities by working closely with rural communities to offer order-made boutique tours letting travelers experience Japan alongside the local people.


A Journey Through Miyagi Prefecture

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