Dear reader, this time I would like to take you to Shiogama, a port city not so far from Sendai. Shiogama is mainly known for its historical Shiogama Shrine, and its famous Minato Festival in summer as I covered previously.
But obviously, there is more to Shiogama than meets the eye. If you are a someone with keen interest in street photography, or just looking to spend a day away from Sendai, Shiogama is the perfect choice.
So picture this. You just alighted the train at Hon-Shiogama Station, right smack in the middle of the city. Where to go first? Let’s see, here’s what I have in mind:
Around the Shrine
We start the walk with Shiogama Shrine as our first destination. This place is always bustling with people all year round, with New Year as the busiest period. It’s a beautiful shrine located a the top of a hill, commanding an awesome view of the harbor and the sea on a clear day.
You can visit the shrine via its main entrance Omotesando, or its back entrance Urazaka. Omotesendo is particularly daunting with its many steep steps so I prefer the leisurely back entrance.
But a slow pace is not the only thing you can find in the back entrance. Hidden behind a rather unremarkable gate, lies the Former Kamei Residence, a cool mansion that once belonged to a wealthy Shiogama merchant family and now is converted into a tiny museum.
I had fun visiting this place, it’s full of history and a hint of coziness. The entrance fee is so cheap and the place itself can be fully explored in under an hour. I highly recommend visiting the Former Kamei Residence if you like traditional Japanese architecture.
The Downtown Cafe Area
In recent years, Shiogama has seen some new developments that include a brand-new shopping enclave. But what I like the most is the emergence of cafes in Motomachi area near Okama Shrine downtown.
The neighborhood once felt a bit desolate a few years back, but now there are gelato shop, a chocolatier, an old ryokan converted into a cafe, and more, turning the area chic and attractive.
You can also go further to visit the Sugimura Jun Museum of Art, which I have visited several times and had the opportunity to do a photo shoot there as well. It’s a rather small art museum but has a very lovely architecture and atmosphere.
The Nightlife District
Go south from downtown via Hon-Shiogama Station, and you will find yourself in the vicinity of Ojimacho, the so-called nightlife district of Shiogama. Traditionally, here is where you can find drinking dens and snack bars, open to accommodate the working folks after a hard day’s work. On the way there, there is an interesting inari shrine on top of a small hill.
Depending on the time of day, this will be the perfect place for you to have a drink after walking around. Of course, you could also find delectable foods a-la port city, which means a lot of good and fresh seafood establishments.
But.. if you come rather early, fret not. Even when it’s daytime and a lot of the shops are not open yet, the nightlife district is surprisingly full of sights.
The Port Area
From the nightlife district, we now enter the port. The port area is where we end our walk. It might be the least interesting spot for most people, but this is where you can’t be more wrong. Because historically Shiogama was built for the salt trade and fishing industry, the port area holds significant value to the city. Thus, many interesting locations can be found there.
For instance, the Marine Gate, where you can board a boat to visit Shiogama’s islands. Or the industrial zone Teizandori, where there is a pretty cool park located on top of a small hill jutting above the port, commanding a pretty view across the sea.
I personally just like to hang around by the sea and watch people doing things in the port. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but sometimes, it’s just just to kick back and smell the sea.
And now as we go back to the station…
Shiogama? See you there!
Pardon the dreadful pun, but I hope by now you understand my praise about Shiogama. There’s plenty to see there, whether you like art, gourmet, or just watching people come and go, and I haven’t even mentioned all the sights, because dear reader, even I haven’t visited all of Shiogama’s nooks and crannies. It’s a special place — a treasure trove if I may say, so take your time to visit it.
Until another time, see you soon with yet another exciting tale from Japan.