Nihon Sankei: The Three Scenic Views of Japan

Matsushima Places to visit in Japan

From historic shrines to beautiful beaches in remote islands, there is no shortage of scenic sites that will make memories to last a lifetime as you travel around Japan. Among them, Nihon Sankei refers to the three specific scenic views most famed in Japan and are considered a must-visit for Japanese and foreign visitors alike.

Each offers impressive displays of natural beauty as well as deep histories that have engraved their way into the collective hearts of the Japanese people since ages long ago. Here is the list of the three scenic views of Japan and why you need to make your way to visit the Nihon Sankei.  

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1. Matsushima (Miyagi prefecture)

This island is one of the most famous sites of Matsushima and makes for a spectacular picture!

If you are planning a trip to the Tohoku region, Matsushima is definitely a must-visit and one of the most famed sites of this northern region. This beautiful spot is located about a 30-minute train ride from Sendai, the prefectural capital of Miyagi prefecture

Here, there are about 260 pine-covered islands in Matsushima Bay, which have even inspired people like Matsuo Basho (松尾芭蕉), one of the most famous Japanese poets who were active during the Edo period

Taking a boat cruise is perhaps the best way to appreciate the breathtaking views of Matsushima up close. Matsushima shima-meguri offers a great boat cruise that allows passengers to take a close look at the unique rock formations and iconic islands floating on the crystal-clear sea. 

The cruise is about 50-minute long and is ¥1,500 per adult, and they operate every hour from 9am to 4pm every day. You can also receive a special discount by making a reservation on their official website.      

One can also explore the  Matsushima area at your own pace on foot. Fukuura Island is one of the 260 islands and is connected to the mainland by a long red bridge. You can walk across the iconic bridge to reach the peaceful island which is home to impressive views and pristine nature that can be found along the lovely walking trails around the island. 

If you are interested in Japanese history, visit historic temples such as Zujiganji and Entsuin Temple, both of which are deeply associated with the Date family who controlled a large portion of the Tohoku region during the Edo period.     

How to get there

From JR Sendai Station, take Senseki Line and get off at Matsushima Kaigan station.(About 30 minutes/ ¥420 per person, one way)   

2. The Sandbar of Amanohashidate (Kyoto)

Based off of its idyllic appearance, its not hard to see how it got its name!

The Sandbar of Amanohashidate is found along the peaceful Miyazu Bay located in the northern part of Kyoto prefecture. This scenic spot is lesser-known among international travelers compared to some of the world-famous temples and shrines in central Kyoto. 

What makes it so special is the breathtaking scenery created by the pine-covered sandbar stretching approximately 3.2 kilometers from the north down to the south across the mouth of the Miyazu Bay. There are about 8,000 pine trees along the sandbar and it is officially designated as part of Tango Amanohashidate-Oeyama Quasi-National Park. 

The name Amanohashidate translates to “bridge to heaven” in English. This unique name describes the beautiful scenery which resembles a bridge connecting earth up to heaven. 

The best way to enjoy the great view of Amanohashidate is from the observation decks at Kasamatsu Park or Amanohashidate View Land. If you want to admire the view in a more traditional way, try what we call “matanozoki” (股覗き). While there is no equivalent to matanozoki in English, all you need to do is bend your body over and see the scenery upside down from between your legs. This funny method allows you to enjoy the unique shape of the upside-down sandbar which looks like a giant dragon flying up in heaven! 

You can also enjoy walking or cycling across the scenic sandbar along the well-maintained trails as well. It generally takes about an hour to walk across the entire sandbar on foot, so we highly recommend you rent a bike somewhere nearby. As you explore the scenic sandbar, you will find beautiful sandy beaches that are particularly popular among locals during the summer season.                     

How to get there

From JR Kyoto station, take the limited express “Hashidate” and get off at Amanohashidate station. (About 2 hours/ ¥4,010 per person, one way)   

3. Itsukushima Shrine Miyajima (Hiroshima prefecture)

MIyajima is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Hiroshima and cannot be missed!

Miyajima is often featured in guide books as one of the most famous tourist attractions in Hiroshima along with the Atomic Bomb Dome and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. This scenic island is accessible only by ferry and is home to Itsukushima Shrine, a sacred Shinto shrine that is best known for the giant Torii gate floating in the sea! 

The history of Itsukushima Shrine is believed to go back as far as the late 6th century, however, in 1996, the majestic shrine complex was officially designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site and is Hiroshima’s pride and joy today.

The iconic tori gate at Itsukushima Shrine is affectionately known as “O-torii” (大鳥居) by locals and it stands about 16.6 meters in height off the shore of Miyajima’s main island. You can walk up close to the red torii gate at low tide when the sea level is relatively low. During high tide, however, the torii gate appears to be floating in the sea, offering an incredible view which is definitely worth a visit.

Itsukushima Shrine isn’t the only reason why this beautiful island attracts tourists from every corner of the world. As you walk around the lovely island, you will be welcomed by adorable wild deer who freely roam around the island. You can also enjoy exploring a lively shopping street packed with shops and restaurants selling local specialties, souvenirs, refreshing drinks, and much more.

Momiji Manju is a traditional Japanese sweet that originated in Hiroshima and is a maple leaf-shaped cake with red bean paste filling in it. Try fresh seafood such as raw oysters or anago-meshi (broiled conger eel typically served on rice). Taking the Miyajima Ropeway allows you to enjoy the panoramic views of the entire island from the top of Mt. Misen!

How to get there

From JR Hiroshima Station, take the Sanyo Line and get off at Miyajima-guchi station. Ferry service is available there to Miyajima. (About 40 minutes/¥600 per person, one way)

While all three scenic spots are lovely no matter when you decide to go, summer is perhaps the best time to enjoy the vivid contrast between the sea and pine trees at Matsushima or Amanohashidate. On the other hand, summer is also the high season when lots of crowds are expected.

Miyajima is easy to visit even in fall or winter as the temperature in Hiroshima is relatively mild compared to the other two destinations. It is also a perfect spot for enjoying stunning autumn leaves from mid-November so keep that in mind as well!!

Don’t forget to check out our private tours!

Planning a trip to a foreign country alone is never easy! If you need some help organizing your trip to Japan and want to see Japan like a local, you should definitely check out our private tours complete with an English guide! We’re glad to help you make your trip to Japan a safe, comfortable, and unforgettable memory!

1. Sendai & Matsushima 1–Day Highlight Private Walking Tour (7 Hours)

Experience the best of the Sendai & Matsushima area which is home to amazing history, unique food culture, impressive scenic spots, and much more to explore!   

2. Kyoto Private Full-Day Walking Tour [Customizable]

Join our private walking tour and explore the beautiful ancient city of Kyoto full of exciting experiences! 

3. Hiroshima Private Tour [Customizable 7 Hours]

Visit the highlights in Hiroshima including Miyajima and the Atomic Bomb Dome with our friendly and knowledgeable guide! 

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Miho Shimizu is a Japanese freelance writer settled in Shizuoka with her husband and two rabbits. Fascinated with traveling at the age of 18, she has spent most of her long holidays exploring incredible spots around Japan. Also love to listen to music, draw, and read novels over a cup of green tea.

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