If you’re coming to visit Japan for the first time, most probably you will not includ a visit to Sendai. And it makes perfect sense, as the city itself doesn’t have as much to offer if you compare it to Tokyo or Kyoto. However, if you are willing to discover a more authentic part of Japan, where not many tourists come, give it a try.
Personally, I live in Japan. But, even in these conditions I didn’t precisely add Sendai on my list. So, how I ended up visiting this city? Well, I went to visit other places of interest in Tohoku region and I made an overnight stop in Sendai. And I did it well, as I was nicely surprised.
First of all, you should visit Sendai or at least stop by because it’s the biggest city you’ll find in the Tohoku region. And this gives you a lots of benefits. For example, you can travel almost everywhere in the region starting from here, you will find lots of opportunities for shopping, plenty of restaurants and night life. And, as any big city it has its own vibration which you should discover by yourself.
Sendai dates back to 1601 and it has been opened as a settlement by the warlord Date Masamune. This is one of the reasons you will hear his name everywhere around the city, from museums, statues, mausoleum and so on, as it is comemorated all around the area. Once you’ll start exploring the city, you will notice that many of the city’s attractions are related to him.
If you hear the name of “City of Trees” you should know this is Sendai, as this is its nickname. The reason behind is that Sendai is a green city even in its city center, where it has a long beautiful boulevard filled with sekoya trees.
Now, let me tell you what you can do in and around Sendai based on my experience and knowledge.
This place isn’t mentioned in none of the brochures or maps you will get from the city and this makes it a hidden spot! So, if you’re looking for a free viewpoint over the city, go to the Aeon building and take the elevator to the last floor. You will have a beautiful view with the suroundings and in clear nights you can also see the stars.
You won’t get the best pictures during the evening because of the reflexions, so you can pay a visit also during the day if this is what you’re looking for.
As I mentioned before, this is the city of trees, so you cannot visit Sendai without having a walk around Jozenji-dori avenue. This beautiful area lines with zelkova trees and it’s beautiful in any season. However, if you’re there during December, you will be able to enjoy more than 600.000 lights decorating the trees. It is absolutely magical and I think it is one of the best Christmas decorations streets I ever saw.
Once you continue your journey along the Jozenji-dori avenue, stop by and check the Sendai mediateque. This is a multi purpose facility which combines a library, some galleries and other venues. It has been designed by Toyo Ito and it won the World Architecture Awards in 2002, as the best building in East Asia. During December, you can get a beautiful view with the Christmas decorations from the 1st floor floor. And it’s absolutely free!
Sendai Shopping Arcades
If you like shopping remember this is the biggest city in Northen Japan. So you’re in the right place! There are kilometers of arcades filled with shops, restaurants, bars and attractions, so you won’t get bored. The good part is that you’re always covered no matther the weather outside, which is a big plus from my point of view.
As I spent only half a day in the city, I didn’t explored the city in depth. However, I collected a list of POIs you can add on your list.
So, some of the top places to see inside the city are Sendai city museum, Zuihoden mausoleum (the sacred burial site of the Date Clan including Lord Masamune), the site of Sendai castle (which offers a nice view), Osaki Hachimangu Shrine and Hitachisan Fudoin.
If you would like to explore the surroundings, then check the Miyagi Zao Fox Village (a place where you can see more than 100 foxes in freedom), Zao onsen with its snow monsters, the Yamadera Temple (the temple of the 1000 stairs) and Matsushima (which is one of Japan’s three most scenic spots with around 260 islands).
With all this in mind, you can keep yourself occupied for at least a week or so!
Eat & Drink
One of the things you should always consider while in Japan, is to always try to local products. Each region and city has something specific, so what you should’t miss in Sendai is the fresh sushi, oysters, beef tongue, Sedai beef, mapo yakisoba, seri hot pot, sasa-kamobobo, zunda, zunda shake, fresh strawberies and of course the local sake.
On my side, I tried some Chinese food just because many people were stopping by. Then, I stopped by Baked Magic to try some sweets that looked like the French “choux a la creme” but filled with more diverse filling than the clasic one. Try the marron one as it’s delicious!
If you’re looking for some local souvenirs, check the sendaihira , tamamushi lacquerware and matsukawa Daruma dolls (coloured in blue and not like the traditional red). If you like sweets buy some Sendai dagashi sweets, zunda sweets ot hagi no tsuki. Some cute small goods you can find are the kokeshi clips, Sendai shikiko and musubimaru goods. There are also some tranding items this days like cosmic candies, saishi’s ohagi sweets or the local soda (even flavoured with beef tongue)!
The city itself looks big, as it needs to host more than 1 million people – which makes sense! However, the cultureal center and the main attractions are not so far away one from each other, so you can visit Sendai by foot.
If you would like to conserve your energy you have two options. There is a day pass for bus only (called Loople Sendai bus) or one combining the bus with the metro. Both of them costs under 1000¥, so it’s worth in the money if you’re planning to move around all day long.
Well, that’s it from my side. Even if I won’t particularly recommend a visit to Sendai, at least you should know what to expect. If you’re looking for more travel inspirations around Japan and not only, check more articles here.