Sendai, the capital of Miyagi prefecture, is the largest city in the Tohoku region of Japan. Although it’s only about 1.5 hours by bullet train from Tokyo, this city has been under the radar for many foreign travelers. Impressions of Sendai’s name may come up because it suffered through a devastating earth quake in 2011 that made international news.
Visiting the mausoleum of the feudal lord Date Masamune is quite surreal. Known as Zuihōden, the dreamlike feeling of a visit could be from the giant cedar trees surrounding the walkways or the moss covered stone statues or the ornate buildings that depict the Momoyama cultural traditions. My favorite part of the buildings were the intricate woodwork and gold trimming.
Sendai Castle Ruins
The Sendai Castle Ruins were the inspiration for a famous Japanese poem called ‘The moon over the desolate castle’ and this tells you all you need to know about their condition now. The ruins also do include a model of the original gate to give you a feel of how Sendai Castle would have looked in the days of old. There is also a small museum here that takes you through the history of the castle although don’t expect anything too grand as Sendai is not one of the cities in Japan that is best known for a complete or particularly impressive castle.
Tanabata is one of the most important festivals that takes place in Sendai and begins on August 5 every year when there is an impressive firework display. The festival then continues from August 6 to August 8 and the whole of Sendai is decorated with opulent decorations which are called kusudama and consist of paper balls adored with decorative flowers. If you are in town then make sure not to miss this celebration which is an ode to two stars called Vega and Altair.
AER Building View
A quick stop in Sendai is the 140 meter skyscraper, the AER building. From the 31st floor you can reach the Panorama Terrace where you will get a million dollar view of both the east and west of the city. It’s the perfect place to get a perspective of the vast layout of the city.
Ride the Loople Sendai
The Loople Sendai is a convenient sightseeing bus departing from JR Sendai Station. An all-day pass option allows you to hop on and off at bus stops located near major tourist attractions around the city center. The bus eventually returns to Sendai Station after completing a 75 minute loop. It is also an excellent way to see the city streets, Hirose River, and daily life of citizens.