Budget Travel Tohoku: Matsushima is Priceless

Ever wondered why traveling Japan is so expensive?

Don’t worry, you are not alone!! I also shared this first impression and I guess a lot of foreign visitors find themselves wondering the same thing.

However, there are many clever ways to travel to some great destinations in Japan and still save money at the same time!

[1] If you’re living in Japan, travel to places close by using highway or overnight buses instead of flying or taking the Shinkansen. You can save a ton of money here with the right amount of research!

[2] Take advantage of special discounts available in tourist areas to get free entrance to famous tourist spots and discounts at local businesses.

[3] Go with your friends and share the cost among a group! Travelling in a group is always cheaper than travelling alone and brings extra enjoyment of having someone there to share the experience with you!

There is one perfect example of a place to travel in Tohoku that can satisfy your desire for natural beauty and culture as well as stick within the strictest of budgets –


I’m guessing many of you will have heard of Matsushima before and know how famous this place is. For those who haven’t, Matsushima is a coastal town to the North of Sendai, famous for its scenic views of hundreds of green islands floating in its picturesque bay. It has been named one of the  Nihonsankei (日本三景), which means one of three places of most scenic beauty in Japan; alongside Miyajima’s Itsukushima Shrine (near Hiroshima) and Amanohashidate (near Kyoto).

You can access Matsushima in a variety of ways. Here I will show you some of the cheapest and easiest options!

From Sendai Station
410 yen
per trip
  • Transport: Train – JR Senseki Line
  • From ⇒ to: Sendai Station to ‘Matsushima Kaigan’ Station (not to be confused with Matsushima Station)
  • Time: around 40 minutes (for a useful website to check train times and prices, click here)
From Sendai Airport
1000 yen
per trip
  • Transport: Direct Bus
  • From ⇒ to: Sendai Airport to Matsushima Kaigan
  • Time: around 1 hour (for time schedule and more info, click here)
From Tokyo
3000~4000 yen
per trip
  • Transport: Highway Bus + Train
  • From ⇒ to: Tokyo Station to Sendai Station (Bus) + Sendai Station to Matsushima Kaigan Station (Train – see above)
  • Time: between 5 ~ 6 hours, depending on bus service (for a useful site for looking up bus services, click here)


If you are traveling to multiple locations around Tohoku, it is also worth looking into the Tohoku Highway Bus Ticket . With four day (10,000 yen) and seven day (13,000) options available, this ticket will provide unlimited travel on selected highway bus and local bus services throughout all six prefectures of Tohoku.

From April 1 this year you can also make the most of your trip to Sendai and surrounds by purchasing a Sendai Area Pass. This will give you access to all of Sendai’s subway services and buses, tourist loop bus, as well as local train services to some nearby attractions such as Matsushima, Yamadera and Shiroishi.

The Matsushima Kaigan Station is within walking distance of various famous tourist attractions such as Entsuin Temple, Zuiganji Temple, Kanrantei tea house, the tourist boat pier… so you can get straight into sightseeing as soon as you step off the train/bus!

Now I will show you how to enjoy Matsushima economically just by simply signing up for a Matsushima Fan Club card!


Every year, Matsushima Town offers a number of membership cards for visitors to Matsushima, regardless of nationality. The 2017 Fan Club is now open for registration. The card will be valid from April 1 2017 to March 31 next year, and provides a whole host of benefits. The best part? It is free to register!

This year there is the additional benefit of registration for family members (you can add up to four people as a family) and they will send to you a card with the name and member number of each person. This is great for those living in the area – if your parents/family/friends have plans to visit you this year, register them onto your membership in advance and they can also enjoy a trip to Matsushima anytime within the validity period.

I signed up to the Fan Club last year and have registered again this year! There are heaps of benefits included such as FREE passage across Fukuura Bridge (normal fee: 200 yen), or only 1,000 yen for a unique and gorgeous sightseeing boat-cruise around the islands (normal price: 1,500 yen).

You can access further info and registration instructions from the Matsushima Town homepage (in English).

This is what the card looks like:

The registration process is also super easy. Just click the link above, register with your current address in Japan, and 1 or 2 weeks later the card will appear in your mail box!

To get the most out of your trip to Matsushima besides visiting its famous temples, I highly recommend you to include these two attractions to your itinerary:

One is the sightseeing boat-cruise around Matsushima Bay to enjoy one of the best scenic views of Japan (it only costs 1,000 yen if you show your Membership Card).

 These are some of the awesome views that I took from the ship:

The second is to cross over the beautiful Fukuura Bridge (FREE if using Member Card)

You can also enjoy a relaxed, quiet and private walk around the island once you cross over the bridge. The total area is up to 6 hectares and is covered with more than 250 kinds of trees and flowers. This is a great place for those who love to get out and walk in nature!

One day in Matsushima is a good amount of time to explore some of the best spots. If you have more time and want to explore more, you can also choose to stay overnight (there are many kinds of hotel in Matsushima with different prices. From my personal experience, Breeze Bay Seaside Resort Matsushima is a good choice! The service was great, we had a nice room and an even nicer price for a 3-star )

For more information about other highlights of the area, check out this page.

I hope you will discover some memorable moments in Matsushima!

Nhu Hoang (Vietnam)


Tohoku Ambassador Club

About Tohoku Ambassador Club