From 2001-2003 Peter served a full-time mission for our church in Sendai, which is about 5 hours north of Tokyo. We couldn't live here and not take advantage of going back to visit his mission area, so we drove up there over Thanksgiving weekend. We decided to rent a home through Airbnb during our stay, and it was definitely an experience we won't forget! Not that it was necessarily that bad, but it was really, really COLD!!!! The home was older, did not have central heat, and apparently was not built with any insulation whatsoever! We got into the house and immediately put on all of our hats and scarves because it was colder inside that it had been outside! Ha! So, aside from freezing all weekend, it was a fun experience to stay in a Japanese home, sleep on futons (on the floor, aka where it's freezing!), and bathe in their super deep stainless steel tub.
Peter, Will, Clara, and I all slept on those two futons so that we could keep each other warm! And, poor Benny had a hard time sleeping as well, so he joined us for a couple of the nights as well! And check out that Winnie the Pooh floor! I love Japan.
The first thing we did after dropping our things off at the house was drive in to Sendai to the mission home and office where Peter spent several months of his mission. We stopped by and talked to the missionaries and took a few photos for nostalgia's sake.
The second thing we did after arriving in Sendai was find a restaurant that Peter has been talking about for 12 years since he came home from his mission. I don't know the name, but here's a not-so-great picture of the restaurant for documentation's sake!
Peter has talked about the ebi tempura (fried shrimp) from this restaurant for years. He'd love to tell people that the shrimp they serve is as big as your hand and an inch thick! And, guess what? He wasn't exaggerating! These things were enormous!!! And super delicious. It was fun to eat there, but even more fun watching Peter revel in being back and reliving his mission days.
After a cold night's sleep, we woke up (extremely early, thank you very much, children) and drove out to Matsushima. I hesitate to even try and articulate how beautiful this place is--and I'm afraid even our pictures won't do it justice! The area of Matsushima is located on a bay and the water just off the coast is littered with islands, and it is absolutely gorgeous.
We spent the morning walking around and exploring Godaido Hall and Fukuura Island. Right on an islet next to the pier is Godaido Hall, which is a very small, but picturesque temple.
Fukuura Island is quite large and can be reached by crossing a very long red bridge. It was SO windy on the bridge!!!
The island was quite lush with vegetation and had incredible views of the bay and surrounding islands. Our kids enjoyed running along the forest paths and getting sufficiently cold and hungry and ready to eat lunch before our cruise around the bay. For lunch we made sure to get the local specialties: fried oysters and cow's tongue! They weren't so bad, but I think can happily say that we've eaten them once and that's good enough for me!
After eating lunch, we went back to the pier to catch our Matsushima Bay Cruise. It was an hour long, and because there was enclosed seating, it was a nice break from the cold and walking around. This was a great way to see some of the 200+ islands around Matsushima. It was hard to capture their beauty with our cameras, but the islands scattered in the water were truly gorgeous. Peter and the kids had fun standing on the back deck taking pictures and getting completely wind-blown :)
The last thing we did in Matsushima was walk over to the Zuiganji Temple (which is currently under construction so we didn't go in), Entsuin Temple and the mausoleum of Date Masamune, a warrior who was known as the One Eyed Dragon because he wore a patch over one eye, and who founded the city of Sendai. He is recognized all over that area!
The walk up to the Zuiganji Temple is amazing, with large trees lining the street and tombs carved out of the cliff walls alongside the paths.
The Entsuin Temple and mausoleum grounds were incomparable to just about any other temple I've been to. Especially with the fall colors. There was a zen garden, more tombs in the stone walls surrounding the gardens, a western rose garden, and a heart shaped pond. It was really stunning, and I'm glad that we took the time to visit! Especially because as the weekend went on, we kept hearing more and more about Date Masamune, so it only seemed appropriate that we would visit his mausoleum since we were right there!
Stay tuned for the rest of our weekend's adventures in Sendai! This is already too much for just one post!