Thanks to the popularity of its famous hot-springs and ski-resorts, the northern part of Japan (Hokkaido & Tohoku) is the go-to destination for winter travel. However, did you know that it’s also the perfect place to enjoy an authentic Japanese summer full of breezy fun, tasty flavors and samurai history?
Starting with the center of Tohoku, here are my Top 10 Summer Destinations in Miyagi for Peace & Relaxation!
Do you like cats? Do you enjoy ferry trips? This place is for you. A one-hour scenic ride from beautiful coastal town Ishinomaki takes you to Miyagi’s very own Cat Island. Tashirojima’s feline inhabitants are said to outnumber the locals six to one.
Bring your favorite people on a cozy easy hike followed by cuddly cats. There is even a Cat Shrine! Additionally, you can stay the night in one of these cat-shaped cute cabins at Manga Ai-Land. Prefer “real camping”? Rent a tent and relish the starry heavens.
Miyagi Olle are special hiking trails passing through various landscapes and tourist attractions of Miyagi Prefecture. The Osaki / Naruko Course is particularly easy and diverse, taking you through historical routes and spiritual monuments, then leading you to the perfect reward : Naruko Hot Spring Village. There, you can relax your sore feet at a traditional footbath (ashiyu) by the station, or even better, slowly heal your body spending the night in a Japanese onsen resort!
Not very far from Naruko, there is an acidic caldera lake named Katanuma, and similar to several others in Japan, it is said to be home to a dragon. Come here to enjoy a nice meal and coffee while taking in the scenic beauty of Katanuma. If you’re in for a more active leisure time, you can rent a paddle boat at that same onsite restaurant, or go for a little stroll around the lake. Another cool option is the two-hour SUP package – Stand Up Paddleboarding – offered by Naruko Earth Sports Project (reservation required).
Expert Tip :: Justin Velgus
As a word of warning, do keep in mind that you will be sharing the trail with the resident miniature swarms of black flying insects. They will not sting, bite, or follow you. Just mind where you are walking and try to avoid them if you don’t want them on your clothes.
Spend time reconnecting with nature even before you reach this hidden gem of Miyagi. Oshima Island is reachable by bike from the port city of Kesennuma and the coastal views on the way are breathtaking! Noteworthy tourist attractions on Oshima include Cape Tatsumaizaki, Mount Kameyama and the renowned Kodanohama Beach.
Make sure you also visit the friendly owners of Tairyomaru, a cozy seafood restaurant right by the ocean. Finally, I recommend that you take an extra day to explore Kesennuma and the Karakuwa Olle Course.
This place is perfect for a magical afternoon hike or picnic in most seasons. Peaceful woods, wildflower meadows, unique playground, educational attractions for kids, and most importantly: matcha soft serve! This place surely has it all, but my favorite part is boating at the Lakeside Area.
Famous for its waterfalls and natural springs, Akiu is the ultimate countryside escape. After a short hike from the bus stop, you’ll be standing in front of the beautiful Akiu Otaki Falls. If possible, take the trail down to the basin and breathe in the misty air amidst mossy rocks and falling waters . Once you’re done with this spontaneous meditation, why not chillax at the nearby tea-house?
If you’d rather have an adrenaline-fueled experience, I suggest that you try SUP, or sawanobori aka Stream Climbing!
Expert Tip :: Jess Hallams
Nature lovers are recommended to complement their trip with a stop at some of the many other scenic spots in the Akiu area, such as Rairaikyo Gorge, Futakuchi Canyon, and Banjiiwa Rock. Whilst the area is accessible by public transport, it is recommend to visit by car, allowing you to enjoy the countryside at your own pace and make new discoveries along the way.
This gorgeous minka (traditional Japanese house) is the perfect runaway for those who want a tranquil day and a homemade meal by the bay. Sitting on a hill overlooking the ocean view, Café Hamaguridō guarantees a lovely atmosphere especially for families and groups. The menu is limited but unique, and the food is excellent! While waiting for your meal, check out the local products and artworks featured in the corner. If the budget allows it, why not complement your summer trip with some marine activities (SUP) in Hamagurihama.
You may have heard about Matsushima and its iconic bay, but few know that you can set foot on its beautiful islets, the Urato Islands. The closest one (Katsurashima) is a popular beach destination, but if you’re in for a 1-day island hopping adventure, I recommend that you go on and explore all four!
Monderu Tip :: Urato Adventure
Before you embark on your Urato adventure, I recommend that you pack a picnic lunch and some drinks and snacks, since it’s gonna be only you and nature on most of these islands. Assuming your journey will start from Sendai Station, you’ll need to take the train to Hon-Shiogama Station (40 min) then walk to Marine Gate Shiogama (10 min). There, you can buy your ferry ticket and extra snacks. Buy a one-way ticket to Katsurashima 桂島, get that handy pamphlet, and hop on the boat! The recommended route after that is explained in the following image:
Lying in a protected cove at the tip of a beautiful island, “Moon Beach” is known for its gentle waves and soft sands, making it very well-suited for families and novice swimmers. Additionally and thanks to the Oku-Matsushima Experience Network, you can enjoy a plethora of guided marine activities such as fishing trips and sea kayaking. Also, see if you can add Mt. Otakamori to your schedule. It’s a short hike (about 20 minutes) and the bay views are amazing, especially during sunset and sunrise. You can learn more about this part of the Unknown Japan through Oku-Matsushima Olle Trail.
This is a personal favorite and an easy first-choice. It takes only 30 minutes by car from Tohoku’s main hub, Sendai, to reach the Seven Beaches City. Head first to Shobutahama, its main attraction and the the largest recreational beach in the prefecture. It hosts annual summer festivals, concerts, and PARAGLIDING!
For the foodies, don’t miss SEASAW, a top-notch cafe/restaurant with a view on the sea. We recommend that you make a reservation in advance.
My second suggestion would be Shichi No Cafe for delicious pizza and pancakes. When going there, take a beach stroll from Shobutahama through Azukihama to “Foreigners’ Beach”. Then, pass by the sacred Hanabushi Shrine on your way to the restaurant. That second treat will be even more rewarding!