11 Best Things to Do in Miyagi

Miyagi Travel Guide: What to Do in Miyagi Now

Ah, Miyagi! A prefecture that’s a wee bit like that odd uncle at family gatherings – intriguing, full of surprises, and a certified charmer. Unlike its more well-known cousins, Tokyo and Osaka, Miyagi marches to its own vibrant drumbeat. Framed by breathtaking mountains, an expansive coastline, and peppered with tales as delicious as its famed gyutan (beef tongue), you’re in for an adventure. Plus, where else would you dare to face off with a gigantic snow monster on skis? We’re diving into the best things to do in Miyagi, where the extraordinary is, well… just another Tuesday.

With this Tohoku Region Bucket List, let’s also check out the surrounding tourist attractions: Best Things to Do in Tohoku

1. Contemplate One of Japan’s Most Beautiful Landscapes at Matsushima Bay

Matsushima BayMatsushima Bay (松島湾) isn’t just another pretty seascape. Rated as one of Japan’s three most scenic views, it comprises over 260 pine-clad islets scattered around the crystalline water. But beyond its cinematic charm, Matsushima Bay is a historical heavyweight, boasting multiple temples and shrines including the revered Zuiganji, Godaido, and Entsuin.

Imagine exploring these cultural masterpieces by day, then winding down with a tranquil sunset boat ride, soaking in the bay’s ethereal beauty. Pro tip: For an unrivaled panorama, head to the Otakamori or Tomiyama observatories. 

2. Fight the Urge to Pet Foxes at Miyagi Zao Fox Village

Zao Fox VillageYou could not be faulted for visiting Miyagi Zao Fox Village (宮城蔵王キツネ村) and deciding you don’t want to leave ever again. Those with a soft spot for these cute furballs have aptly named this sanctuary as the cutest place on Earth and for good reason. The Japanese have long cherished foxes as a staple of folk tales and spiritual beliefs and at the Fox Village, where over a hundred foxes live, visitors have the chance to have an up-close-and-personal encounter with these often elusive creatures.

They freely roam their natural habitat, snoozing, playing, or charming visitors with their candid cuteness. But remember, it’s their house, and we’re just guests, so maintain a respectful distance. Also, note that foxes are not “fluffy dogs”. They have unique behaviors which contribute to a fascinating visit but also call for caution and respect.

▶More information about Zao Fox Village: Zao Fox Village: Cutest Fox Heaven in Japan

3. Marvel at Mount Zao’s Picturesque Pot in Okama Crater

Okama Crater in Mount ZaoAs one of Tohoku’s tallest peaks, the active Mount Zao offers an impressive sight, but it’s the Okama Crater (御釜) what steals the show. Named for its likeness to a traditional cooking pot, Okama presents a beautiful crater lake that leaves a lasting impression. Accessible via a short walk from the parking lot, the sight of the crater on a clear day, viewed from the lookout on Kattadake Peak, is truly mesmerizing.

The area around Okama also offers diverse outdoor pursuits. Hiking trails abound, connecting the crater to the Zao and Gaga Onsen hot springs, with a 45-minute route showcasing alpine plants and offering close-up crater views. Cyclists find the steep mountain grades challenging yet rewarding. But remember, always check for weather warnings and possible restrictions due to volcanic activity before your visit.

4. Bid An Extravagant Farewell at Zuihoden Mausoleum

Zuihoden MausoleumFor a slice of architectural splendor, Zuihoden (瑞鳳殿) is your go-to. This flamboyantly ornate structure is the final resting place of Date Masamune, Daimyo of Sendai and one of Japan’s most legendary feudal lords. Its vibrant colors and intricate woodwork reflect the best of Edo-period artistry in all its glory, inspired by the aesthetic tendencies of the Momoyama- period. It’s a peaceful spot, nestled amid towering cedar trees.

The onsite museum gives valuable insights into the Date clan’s history, while the atmospheric graveyard presents a collection of other stately mausoleums.

5. Taste the Spirit of the North at Nikka Whisky Sendai Factory Miyagikyo Distillery

Nikka Whisky Sendai Factory Miyagikyo Distillery

Fancy a tipple? Step into the Nikka Whisky Sendai Factory Miyagikyo Distillery (ニッカウヰスキー株式会社 仙台工場 宮城峡蒸溜所), the northern counterpart to Nikka’s first distillery in Hokkaido. Its serene location, surrounded by mountains and bisected by the Nikkawa River, is ideal for producing Nikka’s distinct, high-quality whisky.

The guided tour offers a peek into the fascinating distillation process, ending with a tasting session. From the well-balanced single malt to the rich blends, the spirits here echo the character of Miyagi itself – sublime, resilient, and utterly captivating. Please drink responsibly – or you might start seeing foxes from the Zao Village!

6. Enjoy Nature’s Palette Colors at Naruko Valley

Naruko ValleyNaruko Valley (鳴子峡) is like nature’s art studio, painting a picture-perfect scene in every season. The verdant greens of summer give way to a riot of colors in autumn, turning the valley into a vast impressionist canvas.

The Ofukazawa Walking Bridge offers spectacular views of the valley, while the ‘Kokeshi Street’ nearby is a delightful detour to explore traditional Japanese dolls. But nature’s opus doesn’t stop at visuals. The echoing roar of the Oyagawa River, a stunning 100-meter-wide cascade, offers a symphony to complete the sensory experience.

7. Have a Purr-fect Getaway at Tashiro Island

Cats from Tashiro IslandWhen your island is ruled by furry, whiskered monarchs, you’ve got yourself a tourism gold mine. Or so it seems at Tashiro Island (田代島), lovingly dubbed “Cat Island” for its resident feline population that far outnumbers humans. These independent rulers, roaming freely, make the island a feline fan’s paradise. There’s even a cat shrine so you can pay your respects to our more than deserving feline overlords!

Like other cat islands, the tourist infrastructure is far from prevalent, as the local population mostly dedicates themselves to fishing, so don’t expect them to cater to you and enjoy the place as it is. Remember, though, as you walk the rustic paths, the cats are in charge. So bring your best manners and some cat-friendly treats!

8. Sendai Daikannon: A Behemoth Blessing

Sendai DaikannonThe towering figure of Sendai Daikannon (仙台大観音) is an awe-inspiring sight, standing as one of the tallest statue representations of a Buddhist deity in the world, built in 1991. The 100-meter-tall statue, visible from many parts of the city, represents the bodhisattva white-robbed Kannon and holds a jewel and a sutra, symbols of wisdom and teaching.

Within its massive structure, a winding staircase leads visitors through 12 levels, each displaying Buddhist teachings. The view from the top is equally enlightening, offering a panoramic sweep of Sendai city.

9. Contemplate Your Life Choices While Soaking up at Akiu or Naruko Onsen

Akiu Onsen

Hot springs, or onsens, can be more than a leisure activity – they’re a way of life for some. A good example of this is Akiu Onsen (秋保温泉), tucked away in a quiet mountain valley where rejuvenating baths in an idyllic setting may help you to reconsider your lifestyle priorities. The open-air bath, ensconced by lush greenery, is an unmissable experience. On the other hand, Naruko Onsen (鳴子温泉), nestled within Naruko Valley, impresses with its wide variety of springs. Their high sulfur content is known to benefit skin health, making for both a relaxing and therapeutic dip. In Miyagi, wellness truly is a hot topic!

10. Answer the Winter’s Wild Call at Mount Zao 

Mount Zao Snow MonstersWhen winter drapes its white blanket between Miyagi and Yamagata, thrill-seekers answer the call of the wild at Zao ski resorts (蔵王温泉スキー場) where adrenaline-infused downhill action is available at a variety of slopes for all skill levels. 

But it’s not just about speed. The resort’s ‘Snow Monsters’, trees caked with heavy snow and ice, create a surreal, otherworldly landscape that’s simply enchanting. Whether you’re carving your path down the mountainside or simply soaking in the ethereal beauty, Zao is a winter wonderland that leaves you with a frosty grin.

11. Regional food: A Gourmet Journey in Miyagi

Regional food in MiyagiMiyagi’s gastronomic scene is sure to hit all the right spots for foodie enthusiasts. Its star attraction? Gyutan (牛タン), or beef tongue, grilled to perfection and served with a side of barley rice and tail soup. This specialty is a testament to Miyagi’s ingenious culinary transformation of an underrated cut into a delicacy.

For a sweet twist, there’s Zunda (ずんだ), a creamy edamame-based dessert that’s both unusual and irresistible, with many derivatives like zunda mochi or zunda soft ice cream. And let’s not forget the Miyagi Sake (宮城日本酒)! With its clean, smooth flavors, a glass of local sake is the perfect endnote to your feast. Miyagi, indeed, is where the palate explores, and the heart follows.

▶ Miyagi Tourism website with information about zunda: https://visitmiyagi.com/feature/zunda/ gyutan recommendations: https://visitmiyagi.com/contents/yakisuke-sendai-station-gyutan-dori/ and Miyagi Sake: https://visitmiyagi.com/feature/miyagi-sake/

▽Here are the attractions you should experience across Japan with this Japan Bucket List!▽

▽Check more things to do in Tohoku Region!▽

▶︎10 Best Things to Do in Aomori
▶︎10 Best Things to Do in Iwate
▶︎10 Best Things to Do in Akita
▶︎10 Best Things to Do in Yamagata
▶︎10 Best Things to Do in Fukushima

Miyagi truly offers a bit of everything – natural beauty, cultural depth, and great food. It’s an understated yet delightful destination that welcomes all sorts of travelers, promising them a memorable, fun-filled journey within its quiet charm. Simply put, Miyagi just grows on you.

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Written by

Photographer, journalist, and avid urban cyclist, making sense of Japan since 2017. I was born in Caracas and lived for 14 years in Barcelona before moving to Tokyo. Currently working towards my goal of visiting every prefecture in Japan, I hope to share with readers the everlasting joy of discovery and the neverending urge to keep exploring.