Miyagi Prefecture readies for arrival of Torch Relay ·

Miyagi Prefecture readies for arrival of Torch Relay

With Japan becoming the center of attention this summer with the arrival of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, interest in Japan’s off-the-beaten-path destinations is gaining momentum. The summer games’ Torch Relay, which will bring the Olympic torch all the way from Athens to Japan’s capital, will also give visitors a chance to cheer on the approximately 10,000 torchbearers who will be running across the country. The prefecture of Miyagi, Japan’s “Land of Contrasts,” will see the arrival of the Olympic torch at Kesennuma on June 20th with three days of celebrations at three different sites, before proceeding on to Shizuoka Prefecture.

Kicking off in Kesennuma’s Nishikimachinishi Park, the first day of the Olympic Torch Relay in Miyagi will consist of five separate races traversing four different cities: Kesennuma, Minamisanriku, Ishinomaki, and Onagawa. After cheering on the torchbearers, spectators can stay on to explore the incredible array of landmarks and sites around this area of Miyagi Prefecture. Mount Tokusenjo boasts extensive hiking trails, along with the Tohoku Treehouse Tourism Association’s first two treehouses — Tom’s House and Dekita House, which are free to explore and make ideal spots for picnic lunches. The region’s quirky Ice Aquarium is also a popular local destination, housing 450 specimens of marine life frozen in large columns of ice.

After the torch leaves Onagawa Station, Day 2 starts on June 21st in Higashimatsushima. Day 2 will consist of eight separate races traversing seven cities: Higashimatsushima, Matsushima, Shiogama, Shichigahama, Tagajo, Ohira and Rifu. This region, known as Matsushima Bay, is a seaside paradise inflected with classic Japanese charm. While the area is home to some of Miyagi’s most important religious centers, including the Zuiganji Temple and Godaido Temple, the area’s scenic spots are a sure-fire way to escape crowds after seeing the Olympic Torch. The bay’s pine-covered Fukuurajima Island is accessible via a 252-meter, red-painted bridge. The island itself is a natural botanical garden with peaceful walking trails and panoramic views of the bay.

The final day, June 22nd, will resume the relay in Yamamoto. Day 3 will consist of seven separate races traversing five cities: Yamamoto, Watari, Iwanuma, Natori and Miyagi’s capital, Sendai. Miyagi contrasts its bustling center with areas to hike, ski and camp without leaving the city. One of Sendai’s most notable attractions is the small community of Jogi. In 12th-century Japan, members of the Heike clan settled and founded Jogi as a place of retreat after losing to their rival clan, the Genji. The area remained relatively unknown to the outside for centuries. The most prominent feature of the community is the ornate Saihoji Temple. The temple was built when Sadayoshi Yaira became a Buddhist monk and prayed for the salvation of his fallen Heike clan until his death in 1198. He built the temple to house a sacred scroll that depicted the Amida Buddha and protect it from the clan wars. In 1706, when Genbei Hayasaka, a local leader, became a priest, he built a much grander temple to house the scroll.

Other local attractions in this area include the Yasuragi Teahouse, where visitors can drink frothy matcha brewed with water from a nearby spring, and biking across the Okura Dam. The dam is worth a stop for its views of the surrounding natural scenery. Even after the torch touches down in Sendai and moves on to the next prefecture, Miyagi will continue its preparations for the Olympics as some football games will be played in Rifu’s Miyagi Stadium.

For more information on Miyagi, please visit http://www.visitmiyagi.com.

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