Visiting the Sacred Japanese Gardens of Matsushima’s Entsuin Temple

Visiting the Sacred Japanese Gardens of Matsushima’s Entsuin Temple

One of the three major scenic spots in Japan, Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture, is not limited to just Matsushima Bay and Zuiganji Temple! Entsuin, also known as the matchmaking temple, is also a popular spot with many tourists.

There are many fun things to do in addition to walking in its beautiful garden, making original prayer beads, and praying at the temple! The autumn leaves when illuminated are a sight you really must see!

The matchmaking Goddess of Mercy looks out on the beautiful garden

Many temples related to the Date Clan still remain in Matsushima-machi, Miyagi Prefecture. This place is not only famous for Zuiganji, a national treasure and temple that Date Masamune rebuilt, but also as a popular tourist spot attracting many to the nearby Entsuin, famous as a matchmaking temple.

Entsuin is about a 30-minute car ride on the expressway from Sendai. It is about a 5-minute walk from Matsushima Kaigan Station on the JR Sengoku Line if you go be train.

▲ Yakuimon (Sanmon) is a designated cultural asset of the town.

▲ Yakuimon (Sanmon) is a designated cultural asset of the town.

Entsuin was founded in 1647 as a mausoleum for Mitsumune, the grandson of Date Masamune. The Enmusubi Kannon [Matchmaking Goddess of Mercy] is located on the left just after you enter through the thatch-roofed Sanmon Gate. The Goddess of Mercy is said to bring together men and women or people who have not yet had a relationship and are seeking one.

▲ The matchmaking Goddess of Mercy is depicted as a Kannon Bodhisattva riding a dragon.

▲ The matchmaking Goddess of Mercy is depicted as a Kannon Bodhisattva riding a dragon.

Numerous small kokeshi dolls line the shelves on each side of her! Those seeking a match write what they wish for on an Enmusubi Kokeshi and offer it here. These give you a good idea of the sheer number of people who visit here to pray for a good relationship!

▲ The Enmusubi Kokeshi (500 yen) is about 5 cm tall.

▲ The Enmusubi Kokeshi (500 yen) is about 5 cm tall.

▲ Cute Kokeshi cookies (250 yen) are also available next to the Enmusubi Kokeshi!

▲ Cute Kokeshi cookies (250 yen) are also available next to the Enmusubi Kokeshi!

After leaving the Matchmaking Goddess of Mercy you will come upon two gardens. The Ama no Niwa [Garden of Heaven] rock garden represents Matsushima Bay and the Ji no Niwa [Garden of Earth] represents life. Here you can sit and leisurely admire the scene.

▲ The Garden of Heaven represents Matsushima Bay with white sand and moss.

▲ The Garden of Heaven represents Matsushima Bay with white sand and moss.

▲ The rustic and quaint Garden of Heaven and Garden of Earth.

▲ The rustic and quaint Garden of Heaven and Garden of Earth.

There is another beautiful garden in front of the main hall. This is called Enshu no Niwa [Garden of Enshu] and is said to have been created by Kobori Enshu, a famous gardener of the Edo period. The pond is in the shape of the Japanese character for “heart” and the garden is famous for its many maple trees. In autumn their beauty is increased many times over when their leaves turn bright red. The beauty of the gardens is transformed by each of the four seasons; in spring it is radiant with luxurious greens, in winter mantled with drifts of snow.

▲ The Garden of Enshu is said to have been moved from the Date Clan estate in Edo to here.

▲ The Garden of Enshu is said to have been moved from the Date Clan estate in Edo to here.

▲ The latter part of October to the latter part of November is the best time to see the autumn leaves which are illuminated at night.

▲ The latter part of October to the latter part of November is the best time to see the autumn leaves which are illuminated at night.

▲ The illuminated mountain path is also mystical.

▲ The illuminated mountain path is also mystical.

▲ The illuminated rock garden adorned in fallen autumn leaves is a sight you really must see.

▲ The illuminated rock garden adorned in fallen autumn leaves is a sight you really must see.

The mausoleum is a cultural asset having a hint of Western culture and is a must-see!

Beyond the Entsuin is the Sankeiden in which Date Mitsumune is enshrined. Mitsumune's father, Tadamune (the second-generation lord of Sendai), erected it to mourn his son's death. This is said to be the oldest mausoleum structure in Miyagi Prefecture and is designated as an important cultural asset of the country.

▲ This beautiful structure has a polygonal tiled roof.

▲ This beautiful structure has a polygonal tiled roof.

This small shrine is decorated with Western patterns of roses, narcissus, diamonds, clubs, hearts, and spades. According to temple legend, Hasekura Tsunenaga, a family retainer, brought back culture from Europe on which the designs were based and these are valuable resources that show the connection between Europe and Japan at that time.

▲ You can see inside the small shrine through the glass panel a figure of Mitsumune astride a white horse.

▲ You can see inside the small shrine through the glass panel a figure of Mitsumune astride a white horse.

▲ You can also see the rose pattern!

▲ You can also see the rose pattern!

Select your favorite colors and try making prayer beads!

Making a juzu, or prayer beads, is a popular activity at Entsuin. Visitors can select beads that they like and make juzu or their own original designs. There are three types of beads: natural stone, glass, and plastic. I opted for the most popular course which was the one using natural stones (small beads, 3,000 yen).

After receiving an explanation on how to make the juzu you can begin. Select a favorite color for each of the Oyadama [the largest bead], Shadama [main beads used for the 108 beads], and Niten [the two smallest beads]. There are so many to choose from I had trouble making up my mind. Normally this takes about 20 minutes, but some individuals take as much as two hours to make their selections.

▲ First you are given instructions and then your wrist is measured.

▲ First you are given instructions and then your wrist is measured.

▲ There are 16 types of Shadama and 18 types of Niten. Natural stones come in course sizes of extra large, large, medium, and small and are respectively priced at 8,000 yen, 6,000 yen, 4,000 yen, and 3,000 yen per course.

▲ There are 16 types of Shadama and 18 types of Niten. Natural stones come in course sizes of extra large, large, medium, and small and are respectively priced at 8,000 yen, 6,000 yen, 4,000 yen, and 3,000 yen per course.

After selecting the natural stones course, explanation of the each stone is provided after the juzu has been made. As each bead is explained, such as “This stone is for relieving anxiety and worry,” and so on, one seems to get a better understanding of one’s own mental state.

Making a juzu of one’s own original design is the perfect souvenir for oneself.

▲ If the string on which the beads are strung should become stretched it will be replaced at no charge.

▲ If the string on which the beads are strung should become stretched it will be replaced at no charge.

Viewing beautiful gardens and pleasant activities await you at the matchmaking temple. When sightseeing in Matsushima you definitely should visit here!

* This article is based on an article written in 2016 in which some parts were revised.

Entsuin
67 Chonai, Maatsushiima, Miyagi-gun, Miyagi Prefecture
022-354-3206
Visiting time: 8:30 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m. (Late October ~ November 8:30 a.m. ~ 4:30 p.m., December ~ March 9:00 a.m. ~ 4:00 p.m.)
Closed: always open
Admission: General 300 yen, high school students 150 yen, elementary and junior high school students 100 yen, up to elementary school age free
Making juzu hours: 9:00 a.m. ~ 4:00 p.m. (End of October ~ November until 3:30 p.m., December ~ March until 3:00 p.m.) *If you make a juzu admission is free (excluding times when the autumn leaves are illuminated)
Viewing the autumn leaves illumination fee: high school students and older 500 yen, elementary and junior high school student age 200 yen, elementary school age and younger no charge

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