Monday, July 5, 2010

Trip to Matsushima - part 2

As I wrote in the previous post, hubby and I had been to Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture on 15th May and enjoyed a wonderful sightseeing cruise in Matsushima Bay. After the cruise we visited Godaido Hall and Saigyo Modoshi No Matsu Park in Matsushima.

Godaido Hall
Godaido is a Buddhist wooden worship hall located on a small island named Godaidojima, which is just next to Matsushima Pier. The temple can be reached by crossing three red lacquered bridges. In the year 807 AD, the shogun Sakanoue no Tamuramaro built a small Buddhist temple called Bishamondo during his pilgrimage to the east. In 828, priest Ennin (also known as Jikaku Daishi) enshrined Godai Myoo (five wisdom kings of Buddhism) inside this temple, which led to the temple being called Godaido. The current structure was built by the feudal lord of Sendai Domain Date Masamune in 1604 and was constructed in accordance with Momoyama-style architecture. On the exterior of the wooden hall, carvings of the twelve animal signs of Chinese zodiac are arranged facing their corresponding direction. The interior of the hall and the statues are displayed to the public only once every 33 years, the last being in 2006. Godaido Hall is designated as an important cultural property of Japan.

After the sightseeing cruise of Matsushima Bay, our cruise vessel returned back to Matsushima Pier at about 2 pm. From the pier we could clearly see Godaido Hall that is located just adjacent to the pier. We walked towards Godaido Hall and it took us about five minutes to reach there. We had to cross three small red lacquered bridges to reach the worship hall on Godaidojima Island. Two of the bridges were normal looking but the last bridge named Sukashibashi was intentionally constructed in such a manner that it leaves large openings between the planks that enabled us to directly see the surface of the water underneath the bridge as we crossed. The aim of this type of construction is to get people centered before reaching the island so that they can worship with concentration at the worship hall. Hubby had absolutely no problem in crossing the bridge. But I was rather scared to cross such a bridge and momentarily completely forgot about my desire to pray to the gods enshrined in the worship hall. Somehow I made it to the other end of the bridge and reached the island. Godaido Hall is an elegant architectural structure. It is fully made up of wood and is known to be the oldest Momoyama-style construction in existence. Although we could not enter inside the worship hall, we could pray and ring the bell located outside the hall. We got a beautiful view of Matsushima Bay from Godaidojima Island. We prayed at the worship hall and enjoyed the beautiful views surrounding the island for about 30 minutes. Then we returned back to the pier area and walked towards Matsushima Kaigan railway station. Godaido Hall looked wonderful and lovely even from afar.
Me standing at the pier area with Godaido Hall in the background

Me walking towards Godaido Hall

Me standing on one of the red lacquered bridges that leads to Godaido Hall

Hubby standing in front of red lacquered Sukashibashi Bridge. Godaido Hall can be seen in the background.

A portion of Sukashibashi Bridge showing large openings between the planks

Wooden Godaido Hall

Momoyama-style architecture of Godaido Hall

Me ringing the bell of Godaido Hall

Hubby in front of Godaido Hall

Hubby took this photo of us in Godaidojima Island. Matsushima Bay with sightseeing cruise vessels can be seen in the background.

Godaido Hall from afar

Saigyo Modoshi No Matsu Park
Hubby and I wished to experience the splendid views of Matsushima Bay from a hill or a park overlooking the bay. Four hills in Matsushima were recommended for this purpose in our guidebook, namely Saigyo Modoshi No Matsu Park, Sokanzan, Ogitani, and Shintomiyama. We decided to go to Saigyo Modoshi No Matsu Park as it is nearest to Matsushima Kaigan railway station. We hired a taxi and reached the park within five minutes. In fact it is possible reach the park by walking up the slope behind Matsushima Kaigan station for about 20 minutes.

Although Saigyo Modoshi No Matsu Park is not amongst the top four well-known spots to view Matsushima Bay, it is nonetheless known to give splendid views of the bay. The name of the park, which means ‘the pine tree that caused Saigyo to go back home’ stems from a local legend in which the 12th century poet and priest Saigyo encountered a young intelligent monk under a large pine tree. Upon the encounter, Saigyo and the young monk had a lively religious debate about Zen principles, and Saigyo eventually conceded the debate. Feeling disgraced by the talented local, Saigyo decided not to visit Matsushima and made his way back home.

There are two viewing spots at the park. At one of the spots, there is a viewing platform from where we got unrivalled scenic views of the islands in Matsushima Bay. The perfect balance between the contrasts of colors created by the blue of the water, the green of the pine trees on small floating white islands, and the blue of the sky was remarkable. We took a few photos of Matsushima Bay as well as a few photos of us at the park.

Scenic views of Matsushima Bay as seen from one of the viewing spots of Saigyo Modoshi No Matsu Park

Me standing at the first viewing spot of the park

Many visitors enjoying the scenic views

I took photo of hubby while he was busy taking photos of Matsushima Bay

Hubby standing on a viewing platform at the park

Next, we walked up to the other viewing spot located in the park. Again we enjoyed spectacular panoramic views of Matsushima Bay. The views were really great and we took a few photos of the bay as well as the park. The park has over 260 cherry blossom trees. As we walked around the park, we saw that almost all the cherry blossom trees were well past the full bloom. However, many trees still had a lot of flowers blossoming along with fresh green leaves. The scenery of Matsushima Bay and the blossoms of the cherry trees formed an elegant portrait which was highly enjoyable. Afterwards, we had snacks and coffee at a restaurant named Cafe Loin located at the park.

Splendid views of Matsushima Bay as seen from the second viewing spot of Saigyo Modoshi No Matsu Park

Me standing at the second viewing spot of the park

Hubby and I at the park with Matsushima Bay in the background

Me and cherry blossoms

Hubby at the park about to climb the steps leading to Cafe Loin

Hubby and cherry blossoms

At about 5 pm, we walked back to the car parking area near Matsushima Kaigan railway station where we had park our car earlier in the day. It took us about 20 minutes to reach the parking area. We loved Matsushima Bay, boat cruise, Godaido Hall, and the splendid views of the bay from Saigyo Modoshi No Matsu Park. The day was very pleasant and enjoyable for us. Afterwards hubby drove up to Furukawa city in Miyagi prefecture, which is about 35 km north-west of Matsushima. It took us almost an hour to reach Furukawa by our car. We stayed for the night at Hotel Toyoko Inn near Furukawa railway station. We had light dinner at a nearby restaurant, and at about 7 pm we retired for the day. Next day we went to see Chusonji Temple in Hiraizumi city of Iwate Prefecture about which I will write in the next post.


Mita said...

it was a thrilling experince touring the unknown japan

Laya's Blog said...

Great description. I particularly liked the way you have described the bridge in detail. It shows your fine eye for detail and ofc, your ability not just to record details but also to re-produce them in words.I had heard a lot about cherry blossoms in Japan.Surprisingly they are white in colour. Lovely description and lovely pictures. A great experience reading your blog.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks for your comment Mita. Glad that you liked the virtual tour of Japan.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks for your comment Laya. Nice to know that you liked the post. Well, I was really afraid to cross the bridge with so much gap in between the planks. So I remember that detail very well.

Cherry Blossom is usually white in color but there are many other varieties also.
I had made a detailed post about Cherry Blossom in April 2009.
Do have a look at the photos whenever you have time.