Photo by Matsushima Rikyu
Photo by Roger Smith
Photo by Roger Smith
Writer & Inaugural editor
February 25, 2021
Visitors enjoying their first glimpse of Matsushima Bay from Matsushimakaigan Station will see a building sporting a ten-sided pagoda in the foreground. Newly opened in October 2020, Matsushima Rikyu is a sightseeing facility with so many attractions, it’s a destination it its own right. The complex offers rooftop views, family-friendly hands-on activities, restaurants serving local seafood, and shops selling high-quality Tohoku goods. It also serves as a starting point for excursions by land and sea around the Matsushima Bay area.
Rikyu pays homage to the former Matsushima Park Hotel, completed in 1913. Designed by Czech architect Jan Letzel, who later designed the Hiroshima A-Bomb Dome (back when it was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall), the hotel was a fusion of European and Japanese sensibilities built around a central pagoda. Sadly, it succumbed to fire in 1969. That design, and ambition to welcome visitors from abroad, lives on today in Matsushima Rikyu.
Rikyu offers family-friendly activities, food, and shopping all in one building. Rent a kimono with Ume Luv and take pictures on the roof with the bay as backdrop before setting out for a stroll around town. Kids can cool off in a heart-shaped wading pool in summer. Fill up on seafood (incuding local oysters) at one of the on-site restaurants, or rent a BBQ set and grill your own on the rooftop terrace or outside in the garden. Head to the experience area and watch a craftsman shape and paint a kokeshi doll by hand on weekends, or paint one yourself any day of the week. Other crafting experiences include chopstick making and sea-glass art. Browse high-quality goods made by Tohoku companies, including sturdy handbags from a company that once specialized in boat sails. A small museum explains how Matsushima Bay formed eons ago, and features a special exhibit about an ichthyosaur that once roamed the nearby seas.
Rikyu is also a starting point to help visitors explore all of Matsushima Bay. Summer activities include stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) and sea kayak rental. Bicycle rental is available year-round.
“Looking out at the glistening bay and feeling the sea breeze from the rooftop of Rikyu is more than worth the price of entry. Some of my favorite memories of Matsushima are of kayaking leisurely between the small, picturesque islands. Rikyu is making this experience accessible to everyone.”