A FRIENDLY WELCOME FROM THE MIYAGI PREFECTURE: KANRANTEI, LINE FRIENDS STORE AND MORE! | GRACE FILLED TRAVEL JUNKIE

A FRIENDLY WELCOME FROM THE MIYAGI PREFECTURE: KANRANTEI, LINE FRIENDS STORE AND MORE!

Greetings from Miyagi Prefecture!

After the first 2 days of fun in Fukushima, our group of travel writers quickly moved to Miyagi Prefecture, a home of around 2 millions of locals. I could be biased, but I feel that these locals are one of the friendliest in Japan! One of them is this staff I met at a cozy seafood restaurant during dinner. But, that's for later!
Meet Maki-chan!
The trip in Miyagi started out from a small city called Matsushima. As I wrote in my previous post, Matsushima is one of the loveliest city I've visited in Japan. Maybe it was the perfect weather, the sea or its friendly locals. It got me thinking to myself, 'what a nice place to retire and grow old'.

Matsushima is located facing the North Pacific Ocean. This gave the locals and visitors a beautiful view of the sea all day long. However, this beautiful ocean gave a striking blow to the city through a devastating tsunami in 2011. Even though the damage was massive, Matsushima remained strong and reopened most of its tourism facilities in just 2 months after the catastrophe.

Today, Matsushima is famous for a lot of tourism destination. One of it is Kanrantei, a restored traditional tea drinking house with a great view facing the ocean! What a relaxing place to visit after a long tiring day.

Inside the tea house.
Winter survival kit.
Keeping warm because the temperature was below 20 degree Celcius.
A tourism boat ready to take tourists around Matsushima.
Other than Kanrantei, we had a short historical visitation to Zuiganji Temple. Here, I saw the reflection of Matsushima's true beauty and zen. It was a very peaceful temple that offers a long walk under the cedar trees. Most of these trees were damaged by the tsunami, but some of it stood strong, believed to be reflecting the locals' spirit and hope for a restored Matsushima

Upon entering the temple, I was introduced to Omikuji. It is a traditional belief, passed down and practiced through ages. Omikuji are random fortune telling papers that locals take on temples' gates. If the paper reads out bad omen, the holder must tie the paper on the strings provided in order to turn his bad omen into good fortune. 
Omikuji dolls.
Several traditional beliefs practiced through times. Above: omikuji papers filled with bad omens, below: Wishes and prayers written down for god to see and fulfill.
Behind this carved stone are caves to keep ashes of the deceased monks.
Zuiganji, a Buddhist temple with a lot of historical values.
Did a short interview for the local Matsushima news TV at Zuiganji Temple.
Mesmerized by Matsushima, I thought that I was done for the day. It turned out, Matsushima had another surprise for me, which is the Matsushima Panorama House. This beautiful meeting place, event space and cafe, offers a great view of the Matsushima Bay. To add it up, cherry blossoms were all over this panorama house, making it even more beautiful in spring. 

Our group spent a few hours that felt more like a few minutes. You know what they say, time flies when you are having fun! 
Welcome to Matsushima Panorama House.
Casual after-work conversation.
Uphill road with sakura trees from left to right.
More sakura trees!
Viewing balcony.
This panorama house gave us a sweet good bye before we parted from the city of Matsushima. I was hoping we could stay for a few days, but other cities await. Soon enough, we found ourselves in Sendai, the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture.
 

Although we arrived at night, the city was very much alive. Compared to the small cities we visited in Fukushima, Sendai was similar to Tokyo, a city that never sleeps!
Sendai's crowded shopping center at night.
Clubs, bars, restaurants and many more night entertainments keep the city alive at night.
Kawaii obsession.
Japanese are uniquely obsessed with cute things. This obsession was even visible in the crowded streets of Sendai. Girls were buying cute make up and fake eyelashes, couples were collecting dolls from the toy machine.

I was enjoying the scene until I got caught up in the same exact obsession! I am blaming my tour guide for taking me to the famous LINE Friends Store!
Accidentally caught the kawaii fever.
Meet Brown, Cony, Leonard and friends!
Honestly, I am not much of a LINE fanboy, but the Japanese are. There are only 3 LINE stores located in Japan, the only one up in the north is this store located in Sendai. Since we don't have a LINE store in Indonesia, I was very much excited to look around.

If there is a term that could be cuter than kawaii, I would use it. This store has the word 'cute' displayed all over it. Even if you are not a LINE maniac, you would still find yourself falling in love, like me. The temptation to buy stuffs was bigger than I expected!

I wanted one as my coffee drinking mate!
Dolls, key chains, bobble heads and many more!
Since it was getting late, our tour guide kinda dragged us out from the store. There was one more thing to do before we ended the whole Miyagi experience, which was dinner. I thought it was going to be a normal dinner, but again, it turned out to be bigger than my expectation!
Bigger than expectation.
Definitely bigger than my expectation.

The restaurant's name is Ishinomaki Tsuda Fish. If you ever find yourself in Sendai,do not miss the chance to visit this restaurant (izakaya: informal Japanese gastropub). It has great sashimi, drinks, friendly staffs and a fun fish auction! In the middle of our dinner, one of the staffs stood on a chair and yelled something out in Japanese. They turned out to be auctioning a special kind of fish starting from 500 yen. It was finally sold at 3000 yen and the nice gentleman who bought it decided to share it with the other tables in the restaurant.

The auction is a nightly occassion, but this one was special. Since Kumamoto was struck by a sudden earthquake last April, the restaurant has been raising funds for the restoration of Kumamoto. Praying for the best!
Welcome to Ishinomaki!
Friendly and compact.
Time for fish auction!
Fish auction situation, which was won by the gentleman at the back.
Miyagi prefecture was a very friendly prefecture! I remember wanting to spend the night strolling around the sleeping city, but I had no energy to do so. After the dinner, I went for a short shopping and went back to the hotel feeling dead tired. Soon enough, I found myself in a lovely prefecture called Iwate.

Will be writing about my soba eating competition and snow experience next week!

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