Sendai in the Miyagi Prefecture is the largest city in Tohoku. Sendai is dotted with interesting spots related to a shogun, Masamune Date (1567 – 1636). Sendai has been a popular destination in Tohoku for its history, unique food culture, and abundant nature. Despite being a large capital city with high-rise buildings and extensive commercial facilities, while there, you can enjoy the rich nature throughout the city.
Evidently, the Sendai city is called the 'forest capital.' It is located about 2 hours by 'Shinkansen' (bullet train) away from Tokyo. For a budget traveler, there is a bus option from Tokyo, which takes about 6 hours, and the cost is a quarter of the price of the Shinkansen ticket. It is possible to travel from Osaka by LCC, a budget airline, which only takes 1 hour. Due to this excellent accessibility, the number of oversea travelers visiting the forest capital of Tohoku has increased recently. Winter in Tohoku is known to be cold and snowy, but Sendai has relatively little snowfall, which makes it easy to visit throughout the year.
Because the sea and mountains surround Sendai, it is known as an area blessed with good quality ingredients. Sendai attracts many tourists from all over Japan to enjoy its unique gastronomical culture. For example. Sendai’s gyu-tan (beef tang) and zunda (sweet soybean paste) rice cakes are one of the nationally famous Sendai’s local foods. Many restaurants are specializing in local food in the JR Sendai station, which could be your starting point to explore Sendai and its surroundings. Why don't you try some local Sendai food to start with, and then check out this historical forest capital?
Osaki Hachimangu Shrine is a historical shrine that has long been popular with people as 'the guardian of the forest capital, Sendai.' The Shrine is designated as a national treasure, and its luxurious appearance reflects the art culture of the Azuchi Momoyama period. You can wish and ask for almost everything, such as luck with an evil remedy, a disaster elimination, a safe delivery, or even business prosperity. Additionally, you can pray for getting some luck in winning games, as Osaki Hachimangu is known as the guardian deity of the Date family, which boasted overwhelming strength as a Sengoku daimyo.
Zuiho-den is a grave where the founder of the Masamune Date sleeps. At the entrance of Zuiho-den, there is a dark and quiet path, surrounded by tall trees that are hundreds of years old. You might feel like calming down in the sacred air while you walk into this power spot. There is also the Sensen-den where Tadamune, Masamune’s son sleeps, and the Zeno-den of Masamune’s grandson. Tsunamune rests on the Zuiho-den premises.
If you are interested in Japanese history, especially around the Samurai period, you would enjoy these Masamune Date related power spots in Sendai. You can feel the history in a sacred atmosphere.
There are two famous seasonal events: the “Sendai Tanabata Festival” in summer and the “Sendai Hikari Pageant” in winter. Both festivals are very popular nationwide. During these events, the city gets decorated vividly, and the main streets of Sendai are filled up with thousands of locals and visitors.
Tanabata festival in Sendai is known to be the best Tanabata festival in Japan, and it is visited by over 2 million tourists every year. It takes place from the 6th of August to 8th, every year. This festival started on when the shogun, Masamune Date, was in charge. The center of the forest capital gets decorated with 3,000 massive, gorgeous Tanabata decorations. The decorations are five pieces of streamers that are made by bamboo and Japanese washi paper, which are about 10 meters in height. The best way to enjoy Sendai’s Tanabata festival is to explore around the Sendai station first and then depart towards the Kotodai Park, through the shopping arcades while watching the decorations. There is a Tanabata event happening at the Kotodai Park, where you can catch the subway back to Sendai station.
During the festival, do not miss the Tanabata fireworks. You can enjoy the spectacular fire show for a full two hours. Every year, people save their viewing spot in the park or on the Hirose-dori in the city. Be early if you want to get a good spot, as Sendai people are serious about their Tanabata festival firework viewing.
Sendai Hikari Pageant is a popular winter festival in Sendai. It is an illumination show that lights up hundreds of thousands of LEDs on the Jozenji-dori and Aoba-dori, in the city center of Sendai. This event started about 35 years ago by local volunteers and has become Sendai’s winter tradition. The event is on every year from early December to the 31st. More than 2.8 million visitors are coming to Sendai during this period to enjoy the illuminated streets and the festive vibes. The lighting time is from 17:30 to 22:00. Do not miss the dramatic effect of the “start-light wink” at Hikari pageant, when the lights are turned off for about 1 minute, and then turned back on all at once at 6 pm, 7 pm and 8 pm.
Compared to Tokyo, Osaka, and other capital cities, Sendai is not massive. However, its charm and unique gastronomical culture, continue attracting visitors from all over Japan. Recently, it is more popular among oversea travelers as it has convenient access and is a great starting point to explore the Tohoku region. Enjoy the forest capital, Sendai, with its rich historical elements.
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