From Tokyo, take the Tohoku Shinkansen train from Ueno or Tokyo Station to Sendai, which costs ¥10,080 for an unreserved seat and will take from 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 hours, depending on the number of stops. In Sendai (there's a tourist office in Sendai Station, open daily 8:30-8pm, where you can pick up a map of Matsushima and boat and train schedules), change to the JR Senseki Line -- it's well marked in English and trains depart approximately every half-hour. From Sendai, the trip to Matsushima Kaigan Station takes about 25 minutes by express train and costs ¥400.
A more picturesque way to get to Matsushima, however, is to take the Senseki Line from Sendai only as far as Hon-Shiogama (about 18 min. by express), where you can catch a sightseeing boat operated by the Marubun Matsushima Kisen Co. (tel. 022/365-3611; www.marubun-kisen.com/english) for a 50-minute trip to Matsushima Kaigan Pier; tickets cost ¥1,400 for adults, ¥1,260 for children. You'll pass the unsightly Tohoku power station, which, it is said, was built in such a way "as not to distract from Matsushima Bay's beauty, but rather harmonize with it." I don't even have to tell you my thoughts on this. Otherwise, it's a pleasant trip, despite the nonstop commentary in Japanese. Boats depart from both Hon-Shiogama and Matsushima Kaigan piers in both directions daily every half-hour from 9am to 3:30pm but only once an hour from 9am to 3pm December through March. From Hon-Shiogama Station, it's a 10-minute walk to the boat pier; take a right out of the station, cross the street, turn right at the first red light (crossing under the tracks), and continue straight on.
Upon your arrival in Matsushima, stop off at one of the two Matsushima Tourist Association offices, where you can pick up an English-language map with information on major sites and get directions to your hotel. One is located to the right after you exit Matsushima Kaigan Station (tel. 022/354-2263; weekdays 9:30am-4:30pm, weekends and holidays 9am-5pm). Adjoining the tourist office is a hotel-reservation counter where you can book rooms for free; you can also leave your luggage here (¥200-¥300 per bag), useful if you're making a quick stopover (there are also lockers in Sendai Station).
If you're arriving in Matsushima by boat, you'll find another information office in the modern building to the left of Matsushima Kaigan Pier (tel. 022/354-2618; daily 8:30am-5pm, to 4:30pm in winter).
Information is available also on the at www.matsushima-kanko.com.
Orientation & Getting Around
Matsushima Kaigan Station lies to the west of the boat pier and Matsushima's main attractions; the train station and pier are about a 6-minute walk apart. All of Matsushima's major attractions are within walking distance of both the station and the pier (though the pier is more centrally located); you can cover the entire area on foot in a half-day of sightseeing. Otherwise, a Loop Line Bus that passes many sights and most hotels runs daily twice an hour (7:44am-6:14pm from Matsushima Kaigan Station) and costs ¥100.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.