“A battering of a thousand years” is a good description of the tsunami of March 2011 and it was nothing short of a miracle that Matsushima, which Basho had described as “the most beautiful spot in the whole of Japan” should have survived intact, although it was at the heart of the storm. Matsushima is a bay filled with tiny islands, each an outcrop of rock from which ancient pine trees seem to grow directly from the stone.
To a hotelier there’s nothing more painful than to see a hotel with no guests. This has been the sad fate of the Matsushima Century Hotel, which has a ringside seat for one of the best views in Japan. This photo shows the view from the balcony of my room at dawn. The guide books say that the serenity of the bay is undercut by the throng of the crowds which visit it. Today is the start of Golden Week, the holiday period when the crowds should be at their densest. But I’ve got the place to myself, which is eery and slightly disconcerting. I’m seeing Matsushima as Basho would have done more than three centuries ago, but my heart goes out to the people at the Matsushima Century Hotel