Matsushima's glorious bay, studded with some 260 pine-covered islands, is one of Japan's Nihon Sankei (Three Great Sights). Over the centuries, the trees have been slowly twisted by the winds, while their rocky bases have been eroded by the lapping waves. The result is a spectacular monument to nature's dramatic powers.
The poet Matsuo Bashō, who filled his journal with apprehensions about the journey northward, frequently dreamed of moonlit nights over Matsushima. More recently, locals credit the islands – which served as a natural breakwater – with mostly sparing Matsushima from the devastation experienced elsewhere along the coast in the 2011 tsunami.
Matsushima is the most popular tourist destination on the northeast coast and can get very crowded, especially on summer weekends. Still, its charms are undeniable.