Miyagi Prefecture is more than the economic capital of Tohoku: it’s a region of dramatic coastlines and deep culinary roots, where sea and city (especially Sendai, Tohoku’s largest city) conspire to give visitors a taste of Japan in all its splendor. We’re here, first and foremost, for the legendary oysters of Matsushima Bay and the grilled beef tongue of Sendai, one of Japan’s most dynamic surf-and-turf combinations. But beyond the bivalves and bovine, Miyagi reminds us of what we have come to love most about Tohoku: a blend of urban excitement, rural beauty, and boundless hospitality that makes you wonder why you haven’t made it here before.

The Magic of Matsushima

With more than 200 forested islands scattered across this fabled seascape, Matsushima Bay has long been a favorite destination for the Japanese— frequently trotted out by tour guides and magazines and spirited locals as one of Japan’s three most scenic destinations. Official ranking or not, it’s a pretty sweet place to spend a few days hopping between islands, wandering the ancient temples and manicured gardens that populate the area, and taking in the local culinary treasures (think: seafood, lots of it.)

This World Is Your Oyster

Oyster are serious stuff along the Miyagi coastline, where warm currents from Taiwan and the cold, nutrient-rich waters of the north converge, creating the ideal environment for these treasured bivalves to thrive. You’ll find them everywhere around Matsushima, but no place better than the Oyster Shack, a no-frills establishment a few steps from the water with a single mission: to feed the hungry masses with great mountains of oysters. For less than $20, visitors get 40 minutes to eat as many oysters as they can—which, if the friendly servers and cooks have anything to say about it, will be enough world-class ocean protein to tide you over for a day.

Beef Tongue And Bonhomie In Sendai

It’s not possible to talk about Sendai without talking about gyutan, or grilled beef tongue, the local specialty found sizzling over charcoal fires across the city. It’s a fitting symbol for Sendai, the largest city in Tohoku: humble but potent, affordable but intensely satisfying. You could (and should) come here for the gyutan alone, but don’t neglect the rest—its entertainment district is one of the largest in Japan, filled with enough delicious food and late-night revelry to satisfy any visitor’s appetite for good times.