The scenery of the three cities and three towns surrounding Matsushima Bay changes from season to season. The ever-changing beauty is simply spectacular.
Adding to the seasonal beauty in each place are various events, involving history, culture, seasonal delicacy, beautiful nature, and much more.
Why not visit these events filled with great appeal, and experience the four seasons of Matsushima Bay?
Shichigahama TownFrom April 1 to Golden Week holidays (early May)
In the Daigigakoi shell mound site park, guide boards are provided, cherry blossom maps are distributed, and cherry blossom viewing tours are held in the blooming season of the Edohigan cherry trees, wild cherry trees, Korean hill cherry trees and Oshima cherry trees. The Edohigan Daigi-zakura, an early blooming variety in the innermost area, is a must-see.
Shiogama CityFourth Sunday of April
It is called the Flower Festival since it is held in the season when the cherry blossoms in the shrines are in full bloom. A mikoshi (portable shrine) weighing approximately one ton is carried by people in white costumes called Hakucho, and is paraded around the city along with a children's procession.
Shichigahama TownGolden Week holidays (early May)
The event "International Days" is held during the Golden Week holidays in early May. Food, fashion and art from the theme country of the year are bound to fascinate visitors.
Shiogama CityFriday and Saturday (2 days) in mid-April
Tourists who come to see the Shiogama-sama Deities' Flower Illumination (and of course other visitors) can purchase a sake tasting ticket with a limited-version glass, and enjoy local sake tasting at three breweries in the city while strolling around. On the premises of Shiogama Shrine, visitors can appreciate cherry blossoms at night in a mystical atmosphere under the candle light. Gagaku (Japanese ancient court music) performance is also provided in a performing art hall of the shrine. The combination of flowers, light and sound is simply magnificent.
Shiogama CityFourth Sunday of April
This is an event to publicize Shiogama's local industries (especially those related to food). Local children perform dance and music, and many stalls line the street. Everyone – children, adults and the elderly alike – can enjoy interacting with each other.
Higashi-Matsushima CityEarly May
A special week to "experience" the Jomon Period. In addition to daily hands-on programs such as making magatama (stone beads) and making fire, visitors can enjoy a gallery talk co-held with the feature exhibition, as well as guided tours to Satohama shell mounds.
Shichigahama TownThe last Sunday in May
Fresh seafood and agricultural products are sold at the venue. You can also enjoy clam tasting. Held on the last Sunday in May every year.
Shichigahama TownMarch 17 by old calendar (Yoshidahama Shrine Festival)
The Yoshida Lion Dance is dedicated to Yoshida Shrine, a group shrine of Shiogama Shrine. This event has been passed down from the early Meiji Era (1868–1912). On the premises of Yoshida Shrine, eight dragons are enshrined in supplication for safety in the sea. On the day of the annual festival of Yoshida Shrine (the 17th day of the third month according to the old Japanese calendar), Ryujinko (a "dragon deity group") is formed and its members visit houses in the Yoshidahama district, praying for great catches of fish and the well-being of families, and exorcising evil spirits.
Tagajo CityLate June – early July
Visitors can spend a gorgeous moment surrounded by three million irises of 650 varieties blooming in the vast iris garden (21,000 m2) located within the site of Tagajo Castle, a Special Historic Site designated by the national government. On weekends during the festival, stage shows and various hands-on programs are offered (outdoor tea ceremony, pressed flower making, paper cutout making, etc.). Around the iris garden are historic sites including the site of Tagajo Provincial Government Office and the old monument of Tagajo, where volunteer guides offer explanations without charge during the festival.
[Eve] The day before Marine Day in July
[Main festival] Marine Day in July
This is one of the three greatest boat festivals in Japan, which received the Prime Minister's Award as part of the Furusato Event Award from the Japan Center for Regional Development. The highlight is the procession of mikoshi (portable shrines) on the sea. Ryuho-maru and Hoo-maru, two Gozasen ships that carry and dedicate portable shrines to Shiwahiko and Shiogama Shrines, cruise Matsushima Bay with some 100 colorful Gubusen ships. The beautiful scene resembles a picture scroll from the Heian Period. You will be also overwhelmed to see the mikoshi, weighing one ton, being carried up the 202 stairs to return to the shrine. During the parade on the land, the whole city will be caught up in a wave of enthusiasm.
On the eve, visitors can enjoy strolling around the event square and stalls, and also watch a fireworks display that heralds the beginning of summer in the Tohoku region.
Higashi-Matsushima CityAug. 16
A traditional fireworks display marking its 96th holding in 2017. Innumerable floating lanterns on the Naruse River, and large, beautiful fireworks coloring the night sky and the water surface – this combination is a must-see. The whole event is planned and organized by local residents. Visitors can enjoy the fireworks amid a nostalgic atmosphere and in a relaxed manner.
Higashi-Matsushima CityLate August
This is the event that represents Higashi-Matsushima City, offering various entertainment programs: a dynamic procession of Yatsutaka Mikoshi (portable shrines), parades, and various stage shows. Many stalls also line the street. Among all the attractions, the most spectacular is the demonstration flight by Blue Impulse. The acrobatic flight over the shopping streets, only available in the "town of the JASDF base" Higashi-Matsushima, is simply overwhelming.
Matsushima TownFrom June to the fourth Sunday in September (TBD)
A direct selling market of local specialty goods operated by the Town of Matsushima Local Consumption Promotion Committee. Fresh agricultural and fishery products harvested in the town, as well as processed foods, are sold at reasonable prices only available at the market.
Shiogama CityJuly 6
The event is held at Okama Shrine (a group shrine of Shiogama Shrine), and is designated by the prefecture as an intangible folk cultural property. An ancient salt making technique is reproduced as a shrine ritual.
Shiogama CityMid-July – mid-August
A 23-minute cruise on the municipal liner will take you to Katsurashima Island, which boasts many sightseeing spots. This is a best place to enjoy swimming on the broad beach, where time seems to pass slowly, away from everyday life.
Temporary restrooms, showers, dressing areas and beach houses are available. Fully enjoy the summer in a relaxing manner, surrounded by beautiful landscapes on the island.
An event that started in 2015, hosted by a civic group, to revitalize the Tagajo Station area. Visitors can enjoy beer under tents specially installed outdoors, while stage shows further enhance the festivity. The name "beer summit" represents the idea "everyone is a leading character of the town."
Tagajo CityAround August
The event started with a wish to promote regional revitalization, and now it is widely known as a seasonal event of Tagajo in summer. Various events take place, including the Bon dance, fair stalls, concerts, a YOSAKOI performance, and a fireworks display.
Matsushima is famous as a tourist site, but also boasts a long history as a holy ground. The Matsushima Bon Festival of the Sea is a nostalgic yet contemporary festival with a traditional atmosphere. The festival has both the elements of a memorial service and a summer festival. Events such as lantern floating, memorial fireworks, and the Bon festival are held during the period. On August 16, the great Segaki-e (hungry ghost feeding rites) is held at Zuiganji Temple, a National Treasure.
Rifu TownEarly October (TBD)
"We want to make Rifu Japanese Pear more widely known and allow more people to enjoy its taste." Supported by such passion of its organizers, the Rifu Japanese Pear Festival hosts a wide array of events enjoyed by children and adults alike: seed-spitting competitions, speed peeling competitions, and much more. Fresh pears and vegetables are also sold at the venue.
A festival organized by citizens to commemorate Otomo-no-Yakamochi, who is deeply associated with Tagajo and is known as an editor of Manyoshu ("Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves," the oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry). Dressed in costumes of ancient people, citizens march the one-kilometer road, disguising themselves as nobles and poets from the Nara Period (eighth century). It is as beautiful as an old picture stroll. The floating stage at the Tohoku History Museum will be the venue of the Manyo procession contest, traditional Japanese archery in the palace called jarai, and performances of Japanese old instruments (the koto, sho, and Japanese flute).
Matsushima TownFrom late October
The autumn leaves at Entsuin Temple, Kanrantei Tea House, Tenrin-in Temple, and the caves in Zuiganji Temple are beautifully illuminated.
Shiogama CityMid-September – late November
In the season of Sanriku Shiogama Higashimono, the brand tuna that is the pride of Shiogama, 12 sushi restaurants in the city (Miyagi Sushi Kaido member restaurants) proudly offer their own unique items prepared by masters. Don't miss the Higashimono, only available in this season, with its excellent freshness, color, gloss, and taste.
Shiogama CitySaturday and Sunday (2 days) in mid-October
Tourists who come to see the Shiogama-sama Deities' Moonlight (and of course other visitors) can purchase a sake tasting ticket with a limited-version glass, and enjoy local sake tasting at three breweries in the city while strolling around. On the premises of Shiogama Shrine, visitors can appreciate the mystical atmosphere under the candle light. Gagaku (Japanese ancient court music) performance is also provided in a performing art hall of the shrine. The combination of the moon, light and sound is simply magnificent.
Matsushima TownAround the harvest moon season
It is said that Kanrantei was originally a tea ceremony room in Fushimi Momoyama Castle and was bestowed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi to Date Masamune, then relocated to this place by Date Tadamune (Masamune's son) without change to any part of the room. It is dubbed as a moon-viewing palace and designated as a Prefectural Tangible Cultural Property. At this event, visitors can enjoy moon-viewing in Kanrantei, just like generations of feudal lords of the Date clan. "Kanran" means "to see rippling waves." As such, visitors can enjoy a beautiful night view at Matsushima Bay, with the moonlight reflecting on the rippling waves. Matcha tea and a snack are served, and a musical performance is also offered.
This year marks the 27th anniversary of the "Tofu-no-Sato Rifu" Festival, an event loved by many as a special autumn event. With stage events, stalls, flea markets and other features, both children and adults can fully enjoy the festival.
Higashi-Matsushima CityLate October
This annual autumn festival features many events, including experiencing Jomon people's life, Jomon cuisine service, one of Japan's largest shell mound walking rallies, flea markets, stalls, and oyster shelling competitions, allowing visitors to spend the whole day in the Jomon Village.
Shichigahama TownEarly November
In early November in the middle of the Bokke (sea raven) season, the Bokke and Harvest Festival is held. Bokke soup is served for free at the venue (subject to change).
Tagajo CityThe third Sunday in November
Packed with fun events such as stage shows and bingo games. Children can play in the kids' square. Local vegetables, marine products and many other featured products are on sale.
Matsushima TownNovember 23
The annual oyster festival is held on the "oyster day" (November 23). Oysters are sold at special prices, and grilled oysters and oyster soup are served for free.
Matsushima TownEarly November
Local specialty goods from the Town of Matsushima, as well as Miyagi's seafood and vegetables directly brought by producers are sold at the venue. There are also many promotional displays and events. Visitors can feel the appeal of the Town of Matsushima to the fullest.
Rifu TownMid-January (TBD)
Fresh wakame seaweed, kombu seaweed, raw laver and roasted laver from the sea of Rifu are on sale. At the "petit hot-pot festival" area, the free wakame soup area, and the local vegetable shop area, visitors can fully enjoy the seasonal delicacies of Rifu.
Matsushima TownEarly February
Visitors can fully enjoy Matsushima's winter delicacy, oysters. There are many stalls selling rice porridge with oysters, oysters with or without shells, and other blessings of the sea and the earth from Miyagi. Enjoy oysters here all day long!
Shiogama CityFebruary 3 and one more day
At Shiogama Shrine, the Setsubun-sai Tsuina-shiki Ceremony is held every February. Men and women of the year (according to the Chinese zodiac), gathered from various regions, wear matching traditional uniforms and scatter beans while chanting "Fuku-wa-uchi, oni-wa-soto" ("Fortune in, evils out") to drive out evils and pray for good luck for the year.
Two sake breweries in Shiogama offer newly brewed sake specially produced for this event. They are available at 12 sushi restaurants in the city (Miyagi Sushi Kaido member restaurants). Special sake cups will be presented to guests who ordered this limited-version sake. (The cups are limited in quantity.)
Shichigahama TownEnd of January
At this event, visitors can experience traditional Japanese culture and events of the New Year season: mochi pounding, tea ceremony, kakizome (the first Japanese calligraphy writing of the year), fukuwarai (a traditional game), and much more. Small Japanese treats are also sold. Children and adults alike can enjoy this event.