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Sendai Travel Guide: 12 Sightseeing Spots, Food, Access, And More

Sendai Travel Guide: 12 Sightseeing Spots, Food, Access, And More

Miyagi 2019.04.19 Bookmark

Sendai, located in Miyagi, is a city filled with famous places where you can experience history, culture, and enjoy nature. In this article, we’ll introduce shrines, local food, travel itineraries, and how to get to Sendai from Tokyo.

Translated by Sandy Lau

Written by MATCHA

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Sendai – The Gateway to the Tohoku Region

Sendai

Picture courtesy of Miyagi Prefectural Government Tourism Division

Sendai, in Miyagi prefecture, is the most populated city in the Tohoku region. It is the heart of the government, economy, and culture of this region.

In the outskirts of the city, you can go to the hot spring districts of Akiu Onsen and Sakunami Onsen, or travel 30 minutes by train to Matsushima, an area boasting one of Japan’s three most scenic views. The city is also convenient when sightseeing in the Tohoku region.

Sendai

Picture courtesy of Miyagi Prefectural Government Tourism Division

The city’s history begins from the construction of Sendai Castle in 1600 by Date Masamune (1567-1636), a daimyo (feudal lord) during the Sengoku period. He was a popular military commander and many people came to visit the area associated with him. Even now, Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines associated with Date Masamune remain in Sendai.

The area is also famous for gyutan (beef tongue) and zundamochi (mochi covered in mashed soybeans), making it an ideal gourmet destination. In this article, we’ll introduce a guide on things to do and spots to visit in Sendai so you can experience all this city has to offer.

Table of Contents

A Temple and Shrine Tour
┗1. Zuihoden
┗2. Osaki Hachimangu
┗3. Sendai Castle
Enjoy Gourmet Cuisine
┗4. Visit Kisuke for Gyutan
┗5. Ocha no Igeta Ichibancho – Zunda Sweets
Enjoy Shopping
┗6. Shopping Arcades
┗7. Sendai Kogensha
┗8. Jozenji-dori Avenue
┗9. Sendai Mediatheque
┗10. Sendai Asaichi
Travel to Hot Springs
┗11. Akiu Onsen
┗12. Sakunami Onsen
Sendai Model Trip Itinerary
Matsushima Sightseeing with a Two Day Trip
City Sightseeing and Onsen with Three Days
What to Wear in Sendai
Event Information
Accessing Sendai Station from Tokyo
Value Tickets Great for City Sightseeing

A Temple and Shrine Tour

1. Zuihoden

Zuihoden
Sendai

Zuihoden is the mausoleum where Date Masamune is enshrined. It was built in 1637, the year following Masamune’s death. Its brilliant, multicolored decorations have conserved the characteristics of the culture during that period.

The road to the mausoleum is surrounded by trees, creating a very spiritual, nature-filled ambiance. There are beautiful hydrangeas during the rainy season, red and yellow leaves during the fall, and a snowy landscape in the winter, making this a spot where you can enjoy views of each season.

Address: Miyagi, Sendai, Aoba, Otamayashita 23-2 Google Map
Official Website: https://www.zuihoden.com/en/

2. Osaki Hachimangu

Osaki Hachimangu

Osaki Hachimangu is a shrine that was built by Date Masamune in 1607. One of the shrine’s architectural styles feature the oldest existing gongen-zukuri. Gongen-zukuri is an architectural style that consists of three structures under one roof, connecting the main hall with the worship hall through a passageway called ishi-no-ma. It is a designated National Treasure.

Osaki Hachimangu

The shrine also sells unusual blue daruma called Matsukawa Daruma. Its blue color represents the sky and ocean, and the landscape of nature-rich Sendai is painted onto the daruma.

Address: Miyagi, Sendai, Aoba, Hachiman 4-6-1 Google Map
Official Website: http://www.oosaki-hachiman.or.jp/pop/index.html

3. Sendai Castle

Sendai Castle

Picture courtesy of Miyagi Prefectural Government Tourism Division

Sendai Castle is the castle of Date Masamune, also known as Aoba Castle. It is a natural stronghold surrounded by cliffs to the east and south. The castle was destroyed in a fire, leaving only its stone walls as a reminder of what it was in the past.

However, there is also a must-visit spot at the castle ruins with an entire view of the Sendai streets and the Pacific Ocean. A statue of Date Masamune also sits on the plateau, making it a staple place when sightseeing in Sendai.

Depending on the time, members of the Date Bushotai (Japanese), an entertainment troupe that wears the costumes of historical figures such as Date Masamune, will perform at the castle. Make sure to look for them when you visit!

Enjoy Gourmet Cuisine

Sendai Gourmet Cuisine

Sendai is famous for its food. This is where gyutan yaki, or grilled beef tongue, originated in Japan. There are restaurants serving gyutan all throughout the city.

The city also boasts delicious seafood dishes. Some examples include Harako Meshi (pictured top right), a regional Miyagi cuisine consisting of rice topped with salmon and salmon roe, and Sasa Kamaboko (pictured bottom left: *1), a great alcohol side dish.

You can also enjoy desserts like ice cream and wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) made with zunda, or mashed green soybeans, a local specialty of the Tohoku region.

*1 Sasa Kamaboko: a type of fish-paste product made with minced fish meat.

4. Visit Kisuke for Gyutan

Gyutan Kisuke

Picture from 4 Must-Try Gourmet Japanese Beef Dishes At Sendai’s Kisuke!

The Gyutan Teishoku Meal is a dish you can’t miss when visiting Sendai. The set meal consists of four dishes: grilled beef tongue, barley rice, tail soup, and oshinko (*2). The gyutan has the ideal combination of chewiness and softness and a delicious flavor.

Seasonings and doneness will vary depending on the restaurant, so be sure to visit more than one spot. At Kisuke, a restaurant with seven locations in Sendai, you can select from a number of flavors and seasonings. Menus in other languages are also available, so let the staff know if you need a menu in your language.

*2 Oshinko: vegetables pickled for long amounts of time. Oshinko is often used as a side dish with foods rich in flavor and main dishes due to its light taste.

5. Ocha no Igeta Ichibancho – Zunda Sweets

zunda sweets

Picture from Ocha No Igeta – Sip Green Tea And Indulge In Local Sendai Sweets!

Zunda sweets are another must-eat dish. Zunda is a light-green paste made from mashed green soybeans. It is used in the standard zunda mochi as well as a variety of other dishes such as zunda shakes, parfaits, and more.

Ocha no Igeta Ichibancho sell their Kikufuku, the shop’s original daifuku (rice cake stuffed with a sweet filling), in a zunda flavor. Zunda shakes are sold at Zunda Saryo (Japanese) in Sendai Station.

Enjoy Shopping

6. Shopping Arcades

sendai arcade street

There are six shopping arcades near Sendai Station. These arcades are convenient places as you can walk without worrying about cars or holding an umbrella on a rainy day. Visitors can find restaurants and cafes, as well as 100-yen shops and drugstore chains, ideal for souvenir hunting. Street markets are also held at times at the shopping arcades.

sendai arcade street

There is also a temple located between the shops on Clis Road. This is Mitakisan Fudoin Temple (Japanese) where visitors pray for flourishing business and the well-being of their family. Go through the temple gate to find four temple shops. It’ll feel as if you’ve entered different world.

This is a perfect area for exploring and walking around.

7. Sendai Kogensha

sendai kogensha

Picture from Handmade Japanese Crafts Made With Love At Sendai Kogensha

If you love handmade products, then how about visiting Sendai Kogensha? They sell numerous unique products including ceramics and dyed goods from various places in Japan, pouches made with koginzashi, an embroidery method developed in the Tohoku region.

8. Jozenji-dori Avenue

jozenji-dori avenue

Picture courtesy of Miyagi Prefectural Government Tourism Division

Jozenji-dori Avenue is a Japanese zelkova-lined avenue located right next to Kotodai Park, two stations away from Sendai Station. Rows of Japanese zelkova trees surround the central promenade, decorating the avenue with bright green leaves in spring, colorful foliage in fall, and sparkling illuminations in the winter, delighting those that visit.

Travelers can enjoy the art or a walk down the promenade after buying a drink, as you’ll find cafés and art galleries nearby.

Address: Sendai, Aoba Google Map

9. Sendai Mediatheque

sendai mediatheque

Sendai Mediatheque is a glass building that stands out on Jozenji-dori Avenue. It facilitates media-related activities with art galleries, a library, video center, and information services for persons with disabilities including the deaf and blind.

Sendai Mediatheque is a very open space. Here, you’ll find shops that carry traditional handicrafts and artwork. There are also cafés for you to enjoy serving omurice (omelet rice) and curry, or desserts like waffles and cakes.

Address: Miyagi, Sendai, Aoba, Kasugamachi 2-1 Google Map
Official Website: https://www.smt.jp/en/

10. Sendai Asaichi Market

sendai asaichi

Picture courtesy of Miyagi Prefectural Government Tourism Division

Sendai Asaichi is a market filled with stalls set up along the road a five-minute walk from Sendai Station. The market sells fresh seafood, vegetables, and fruits, making it known as “Sendai’s Kitchen.” It’s the perfect place for strolling and snacking on croquettes and other little dishes from the food stalls at the market.

The market has a nostalgic feeling of a traditional shotengai, or shopping district. Business hours are from 8:00 to around 18:00 and closes on Sundays and holidays.

Address: Miyagi, Sendai, Aoba, Chuo 3-8-5 Google Map (Sendai Asaichi Shopping Promotion Association)
Official Website: http://sendaiasaichi.com/ (Japanese)

Travel to Hot Springs

11. Akiu Onsen

akiu onsen

Picture courtesy of Miyagi Prefectural Government Tourism Division

Akiu Onsen is a hot spring with a long history. It is famous for a visit by the Emperor of Japan during the sixth century to help heal injuries, who then had a full recovery in a few days. The area is filled with things to do, like seeing Rairaikyo Gorge, a gorge with beautifully unique scenery, and Akiu Great Falls, a waterfall six meters in width with a 55-meter drop.

The hot spring district is about 30 minutes to an hour by bus or train from Sendai Station. There may be free shuttle buses from Sendai Station to your accommodations depending on your inn, so be sure to look that up beforehand.

12. Sakunami Onsen

sakunami onsen

Picture courtesy of Miyagi Prefectural Government Tourism Division

Sakunami Onsen is a hot spring district with spring waters gentle on the skin, with beautifying effects. The area is complete with nearby tourist spots like the Nikka Whisky Sendai Factory, which also offers a liquor tasting service, Houmei Shijuhachitaki Waterfalls, a beautiful layered waterfall, and more.

If you’ll be buying souvenirs, go to Hiraga Kokeshi, a workshop for Sakunami Kokeshi, a traditional handicraft. The workshop has a variety of kokeshi dolls, from ones with traditional appearances to unique dolls in modern style. Try finding your favorite of the many kokeshi dolls available at the shop.

Address: Miyagi, Sendai, Aoba, Sakunami Ainosawa Google Map (JR Sakunami Station)
Official Website: http://www.sakunami-spa.com/ (Japanese)

Sendai Model Trip Itinerary

Sightsee Matsushima with a Two Day Trip

matsushima

When in the Sendai area, travel further to the popular sightseeing spot Matsushima! Matsushima is famous for its beautiful island scenery sitting on the bay. Sightseeing boats also operate in the area, allowing you to enjoy a cruise around the islands.

The area has several sightseeing spots, like Zuiganji Temple, a National Treasure, Entsuin Temple (Japanese) with beautiful gardens, and Fukuura Island, which is great for a stroll. You’ll want a full day to see the area.

It’s about 30 minutes by train from Sendai Station, making it great for a day trip. However, the autumn leaves and beautiful moon rising above Matsushima Bay can be seen in fall, so it’d also be fun to add an additional night depending on the season.

Address: Miyagi, Miyagi, Matsushima Google Map (JR Matsushima-Kaigan Station)
Official Website: http://www.matsushima-kanko.com/en/

Three Days for City Sightseeing and Hot Springs

For shrine and temple visits or shopping in Sendai, you will normally be fine if you have at least a day. By using the Loople Sendai, a bus great for sightseeing, you can see major tourist spots efficiently.

If you are traveling to either Akiu Onsen or Sakunami Onsen, we recommend going to the district only after staying a night in Sendai, then staying another night at your hot spring inn. Take your time relaxing at the hot spring areas.

What to Wear in Sendai

The average temperature in Sendai is three to four degrees lower than Tokyo. It stays at around 1.4 degrees in January and February, 12.5 degrees once it becomes April, and about 25 degrees when it gets hot in July.

summer

Summer is pleasant due to the ocean breeze, and the highest temperature of the season often doesn’t reach 30 degrees. It is best to prepare clothes with short sleeves and are breathable. The sunlight is strong, so take measures to prevent sunburns.

The winter isn’t extremely cold due to the latitude, and snowfall is low. However, there have been cases where the lowest temperature in January and February have reached minus degrees, so preventative measures against the cold is crucial with boots, gloves, and scarves.

There will be some days in spring when it will feel chilly even once it’s May, so it would be reassuring to bring along a cardigan or stole. On average, you will need a coat or jacket starting from around November. Make the appropriate preparations for each season and enjoy your sightseeing in comfort.

* Information on climate is from Japan Meteorological Agency website 2018 data.

Event Information

May: Sendai Aoba Festival

aoba festival

Picture courtesy of Miyagi Prefectural Government Tourism Division

The Sendai Aoba Festival is held to welcome spring in Sendai, taking place annually on the third weekend of May. Sounds of traditional music will echo throughout the city accompanying a performance of the traditional Suzume Odori, the sparrow dance.

The Date Historical Procession is a procession of people dressed in Sengoku period costumes marching in a line and is a highlight of the festival.

Official Website: http://www.aoba-matsuri.com/ (Japanese)

August: Sendai Tanabata Festival

tanabata festival

Picture courtesy of Miyagi Prefectural Government Tourism Division

The Sendai Tanabata Festival is a summer tradition annually held from August 6 – 8. The festival has been held ever since the time of Date Masamune as the lord of Sendai Castle. The festivities decorate the city in gorgeous Tanabata decorations stretching from Sendai Station to Chuodori Avenue and Ichibancho Arcade.

Events are also held at the Kotodai Park Citizens’ Square near Jozenji-dori Avenue, so be sure to make your way to the square if you’ll be visiting during this time.

Official Website: https://www.sendaitanabata.com/en

December: SENDAI Pageant of Starlight

pageant of starlight

Picture courtesy of Miyagi Prefectural Government Tourism Division

Japanese zelkova trees on Jozenji-dori Avenue radiantly shine across one kilometer from mid- to late December in Sendai.

During the SENDAI Pageant of Starlight, the Japanese zelkova trees will be decorated with 600,000 lightbulbs that beautifully light up the winter night sky with a warm, gorgeous atmosphere.

Official Website: http://www.sendaihikape.jp/ (Japanese)

How to Get to Sendai Station from Tokyo

sendai station

The Shinkansen is the Fastest Way to Get to Sendai

When traveling from Tokyo Station to Sendai Station, there are two major Tohoku Shinkansen trains: the Hayabusa and the Yamabiko.

Tohoku Shinkansen Required Time Fare
Hayabusa (Komachi: *1) About 1 hour and 30 minutes 11,200 yen
Yamabiko About 2 hours to 2 hours and 30 minutes 10,370 yen

*1: Mainly operates in connection with the Hayabusa. The train will branch and split in different directions after a certain point along the route.

The next fastest Shinkansen train after the Hayabusa is the Hayate, but it is a special train that runs irregularly.

The JAPAN RAIL PASS covers the Tohoku Shinkansen, so it is a recommended travel method for pass holders.

Take the Bus to Save Money

Several day and night buses service Sendai such as the JR Bus Tohoku and Miyagi Kotsu (Japanese). The time needed for travel averages five hours and 30 minutes. Prices will fluctuate depending on the time and day, but will roughly range from 2,000 to 8,000 yen.

Value Tickets Great for City Sightseeing

Loople Sendai: Convenient for Sightseeing

loople sendai

The charming, retro Loople Sendai is a loop bus that connects you to sightseeing spots such as Zuihoden in central Sendai and the Sendai Castle Ruins.

On weekdays, the bus runs every 20 minutes while on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, it runs every fifteen minutes. The fare is 260 yen per ride. A One-Day Loople Sendai Pass that allows unlimited rides for a day is available at 620 yen. The One-Day Pass for Loople Sendai and Subway, which allows you to use both the Namboku Line and Tozai Line in addition to the Loople Sendai, is available for 900 yen.

One-Day Passes also come with discount offers, making it very beneficial for sightseeing. It can be purchased at the Sendai Station West Exit Bus Pool Information Booth, facilities along the route, and hotels.

Official Website: http://loople-sendai.jp/en/

Sendai Marugoto Pass: A Two Day Unlimited Ride Pass

This is a two-day unlimited ride pass for JR lines in designated areas, Sendai Subway, city buses, Sendai Airport Transit, Loople Sendai, and within established free areas on the Abukuma Express. It can be used starting from Sendai Airport and also comes with discount offers on top of being able to ride the Loople Sendai. It is priced at 2,670 yen.

Included within the free areas are Matsushima, Yamadera Temple (Risshakuji Temple) in Yamagata, Sakunami Onsen, and Akiu Onsen. The pass can be purchased at JR EAST Japan ticket offices in major train stations, View Plaza, ticket machines in Sendai Airport Station, and other similar places.

Travel in Sendai

If you want to enjoy Sendai as the main part of your trip, then we recommend sightseeing in Tohoku while staying in the city. Famous places to visit in the area include Hiraizumi, a World Heritage Site, Yamadera Temple in Yamagata, and Zao. You can explore a variety of places while you stay in Sendai.

Original Author: Nico

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