A Complete Travel Guide to Sendai, Japan

The capital of Miyagi Prefecture, Sendai, is a dynamic regional city and the pick of Tōhoku’s urban centers. The city’s complete, tree-lined lanes fill up in summer for sensational Tanabata Matsuri, one of Japan’s most popular festivals. At other times the nightlife neighborhood is remarkable for a relatively small city, and travelers enjoy making this casual entry into Tōhoku life en route to the wilder climes further north. Sendai is also a favorite base for visits to the southern section of Sanriku Kaigan and to Ginzan Onsen and Yamadera in neighboring Yamagata Prefecture.

Here are a few places I enjoyed visiting in Sendai:

Zuihō-den Mausoleum

The mausoleum of Date Masamune sits grandly on top of the peak of a tree-covered hill by the Hirose-gawa. Constructed in the mid-1600s but devastated by Allied bombing during World War II, the current building, finished in 1979, is a replica of the original, true to the bright and gorgeous Momoyama style.

Sendai Castle Ruins

Built on Aoba-Yama in 1602 by Date Masamune and damaged during Allied bombing, Sendai-jō still looms over the town. Giant moss-covered walls, as exacting as they are impressive, remain sound, and the grounds offer all-embracing views over the city.

Sendai City Museum

The city museum offers a complete account of samurai Masamune’s epic life and displays more than 13,000 artifacts on loan from the Date family, with plenty of English explanations.

Nightlife in Sendai

I visited Sendai for six days In January, and here are a few places I partied: 

Peter Pan

A music-loving father-and-son team operates this lounge-room-vibe ‘rock’ bar. Dad presents the soundtrack with his comprehensive, alternative-rock vinyl collection, while his son busies himself with the clientele. I enjoyed booze, coffee, conversation, cake, and well-dressed men :D.

Craftsman Sendai

When there’s a global flavor, like craft beer, the Japanese are never far behind. This Craftsman outlet mixes informal Italian dining (tapas plate ¥1450) with Japan’s beer scene. I enjoyed indie tunes while being dressed in Italian.

Mary’s Rum Bar

At this unique venue, hip Japanese bartenders serve rum in jars filled with crushed ice and fruits while hip-hop beats play to a crowd. Greasy food and Cigars are available.

Things to do in Sendai

  1. The biggest festival in Sendai is Tanabata. The festival is the most popular in Japan and begins with fireworks on the 5th of August, and then the festival proper is from the 6th of August to the 8th of August. The streets are adorned with colossal kazari (literally ‘decorations’) consisting of Kusudama (a large paper ball covered in flowers) and long streamers. Visit the festival if you are traveling to Sendai in August. It will blow your mind. 
  2. In December, there’s the Pageant of Starlight, which isn’t a festival as such. The trees in two of the town’s main avenues – Jōzenji-dōri and Aoba-dōri- are adorned in thousands of orange lights. The effect is charming, with the orange glow casting a glow over the otherwise cold and freezing streets. For people who love colors and cold, December is the time to explore Sendai. 
  3. The Donto-sai Festival is held at the Osaki Hachiman Shrine on the 14th of January every year, and it is a perfect visit for those who love tradition. .
  4. Benyland, Yagiyama: This is a happy little amusement park. It’s not precisely Disneyland, but you can have a fun few hours on the roller coasters, especially if you are traveling with kids. 

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