Known as the “land of contrasts,” Miyagi Prefecture in northern Japan gets this name from its unique blend of urban areas and natural attractions. Throughout the region, there are a vast array of remote places that provide travelers with a serene escape from the crowded cities. Below are some attractions and destinations to dream about from afar, until travel restrictions are lifted.
Travelers looking for a quick escape from the cities can find one in Akiu, home to Rairaikyo Gorge. The one-kilometer nature trail is free and easy to access. The scenic gorge features a variety of rock formations and flowers, and offers access to Nozoki Bridge, also known as the Lover’s Sanctuary. The remote spot has a heart-shaped hole that naturally formed in the gorge wall. After it rains, the heart is filled with water and locals believe you can see your future lover’s reflection in the water.
Right near the gorge is Hotel Zuiho, an upscale and modern hot springs hotel with numerous baths at different temperatures. The city of Osaki also has a variety of natural attractions, such as Naruko-kyo Gorge. To experience these attractions from home, Osaki has its own Youtube channel featuring in-depth videos of many local attractions.
The sacred Oshima Island in Matsushima Bay was famous decades ago, regarded as a special place of spiritual power, and home to numerous natural attractions. In the 11th century, the island became home to poets and monks, including the famed pilgrim Kenbutsu Shonin, a monk who was said to have magical powers, including the ability to fly. In 1119, Emperor Toba heard of these legends and gifted the island 1,000 pine trees — which is believed to be the origin of the name of the bay of “Matsushima,” meaning “pine tree island.” Today, the island is shrouded in mystery and still contains historical landmarks and artifacts for visitors to explore.
A short trip from the island to the Onikobe Jigokudani Nature Trail in Northern Miyagi offers a very different view. This volcanic area, whose name translates to “demon neck,” is home to erupting geysers that momentarily disrupt the solitude and tranquility of the trail. Also nearby are natural hot springs, and travelers looking to spend the night can camp out at the Fukiage Kogen Campground.
Miyagi is also known for its variety of remote onsens, ideal for travelers looking for wellness options. The Sakunami Ichinobo is a ryokan that sits among the lush forestry in the valleys of the prefecture’s Sendai region. Reflecting the natural beauty of the surrounding nature, the Sakunami Ichinobo features an outdoor pool, sun deck and eight hot spring baths from three natural geothermal sources, including the nearby Hirosegawa River. Gaga Onsen of Mount Zao is also incredibly remote and has been a family operation since 1875. The ryokan boasts a rustic wooden private open-air bath overlooking the river that guests can reserve free of charge. For even more privacy, the Komakusa Suite includes its own in-room hot spring bath.
Sporty travelers looking to explore the land and see as many sites as possible can mountain bike through the Mount Zao Highlands. The Zao Echo Line is the best way to take in the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains and is considered the most scenic route around Mount Zao. The nearly 16-mile trail traverses through the mountainous border between Miyagi and Yamagata Prefecture. Bike riders and hikers can follow this trail up and over Mount Zao, eventually ending at the hot springs of Kaminoyama Onsen in Yamagata. Beautiful waterfalls, spiritual sites and Okama Crater, the crown jewel of Mount Zao, are waiting for those who choose this path.
Travelers who prefer the beach instead of mountains can hike the Michinoku Coastal Trail, a trekking route running from Fukushima to Aomori Prefecture that is over 500 miles long. Hikers who travel through Miyagi are bound to encounter some of the prefecture’s most iconic remote and scenic spots, such as Matsushima Bay and Sanriku Coast. Travelers at home can still experience the trail through this online guide that shows the trail in its entirety.
For more information on Miyagi, visit http://www.visitmiyagi.com.