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Sunday, October 30, 2016

FABULOUS FALL FOOD and FOLIAGE FANTASY Day 8: Matsushima, the Town that Survived the Great Tohoku Earthquake


Well, it's Day 8 and I finally saw some fall colors, thus I can now use 5F for Fabulous Fall Food and Foliage Fantasy.  The concierge here at the Westin Sendai said the closest place he could recommend was Matsushima, said to be one of the three most scenic spots in Japan, about a 40 minute train ride north of Sendai. According to The Japan Times:

Matsuo Basho, arguably Japan’s most famous haiku poet, is said to have been at a loss for words when he first saw the hundreds of pine-clad islets scattered around Matsushima Bay during a 17th-century journey to the Tohoku region. (This a haikai drawing with one of his popular poems:  Furu ike ya / kawazu tobikomu / mizu no oto--An old pond / a frog jumps in  the sound of water)
The epicenter of the Great Tohoku Earthquake was just outside of Matsushima.  The devastation should have been catastrophic.  However, those 260 islands buffered the damage.  This is one of those towns where people had to quickly climb the hills to survive, but only 15 were killed because the tsunami height "only" reached 12.5 feet, compared to nearly 50 feet elsewhere.  The tourist part of the town was destroyed and remained closed for more than a year, but this was the only city in this entire area that was largely spared.

Interestingly enough, the primary temples and shrines all escaped damage, for they were built at an elevation that the tsunami lapped, but did not inundate.  They were mostly first built in the 9th century, and reconstructed by samurai ruler Date Masamune in the early 1600's. 

 The Entsuin Temple, in particular, is surrounded by maple trees, and lit up at night from later October into November.  Here are the day and night shots I took:


Walking around I saw this sign:


And a persimmon tree:


I took a cruise around the bay:


Those sticks in the water are what you see of the oyster fields.  While this is the specialty of Matsushima, I had a simple soba with some hot sake:


The noodles were perfectly al dente and the total cost of all the above...less than $10.  On the train, my bento with a cup of sake and a Grand Kirin (never had this before--very hoppy):


I caught the Japan Rail Senseki Line, which was destroyed by the tsunami.  I snuck a photo of four teenage girls.  Of course all of them are doing something with their smart phone.  They happen to be sitting where the pregnant, old and lame should be.  Actually, the train was not full.  Note how they're dressed and the footwear:


At Sendai Station, take the West Exit, where you can see the Westin:


Then the view back to the station from my room on the 36th floor:


My breakfast this morning at the Westin Sendai:


This is, after all, a Food and Foliage trip.  Tomorrow:  Nikko, which is supposed now to be at the absolute peak of Fall Colors.

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I should mention that for several days there has been no ocean storm anywhere in the world.  Very unusual.


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