Mid-April in Japan signifies the start of one of the most beautiful seasons, spring. Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) is very popular at this time of year. It is quite normal for most of the hanami viewing locations to be very crowded. However, this wasn’t the case when I went off the beaten track and visited Shiogama Shrine (Shiogama jinja).
You can take the Tohoku main line towards Kogota or the Sensiki line going to Higashishiogama from Sendai Station to visit the shrine. It will take you approximately 43-45 minutes. It costs between ￥240 or ￥320 depeding on the train line you take.From Shiogama Station to the shrine is an easy 17 minute walk through the charming town.
Shiogama Shrine is home to many varieties of sakura (cherry trees) which bloom at different times so even though I went late during the hanami season, some of the trees still had blossoms. The shrine sits atop a small hill overlooking the town. At the top of the mountain of stairs, at the main gate of the shrine you can see the town and the bay area. If you want a closer view, I recommend heading to the coastline to visit Marine Gate. Shiogama has many smaller attractions compared to famous landmarks. It is a very walk-able city, should you know where you are going. The shrine is the most popular destination.
During my walking tour of the shrine grounds I saw many wedding ceremonies and families and friends picnicking under the amazing trees. The picnicking area was a bit small compared to other famous hanami spots but it was definitely one of the most beautiful. The pink and white petals fluttering down to earth made a memorable scene. When the sea breeze blew, I could taste a faint saltiness in the air. If it makes you hungry, don't worry, there are some nearby restaurants to eat. Sushi is the town's specialty.
Shiogama town offers a lot of other fun and interesting things to do. It’s a small fishing city along the coast of Sendai and very close to Matsushima. In fact there are ferry tours available from Shiogama to Matsushima. I would definitely recommend adding Shiogama to your bucket list of places to visit if you stop through nearby Sendai.