Located in the northeast section of Japan’s main island Honshu, Sendai is the largest, most urban, and most populated city of the Tohoku Region. It is interesting for its nature, cuisine, culture, and samurai history. It has a good mix of everything to satisfy the curiosity of tourists – all within 90 minutes travel time by bullet train from Tokyo. To sample the best of what the city has to offer, check out this list of 10 best things to do, taste, and see in Sendai City.
Feast on Gyutan Teishoku
Sendai’s most famous dish is the Gyutan or charcoal-grilled beef tongue. There are numerous restaurants in the city to try this, but the most famous one is Rikyu. This Gyutan specialist has several outlets in Sendai, but the most accessible branch is located on the 3rd floor of Sendai Station. It is highly recommended that you order the Teishoku (set meal) option for your first try as it already comes with rice, soup, and vegetable side dish.
Rikyu Sendai Station Branch
Address: Chuo 1 Chome-1-1, Aoba-ku, Sendai-shi, Miyagi Prefecture
Price: ¥1,000 ~ ¥1,999
Website: http://www.rikyu-gyutan.co.jp/ (Japanese only)
Take a day trip to Matsushima
This town located 30 minutes away by train from Sendai is considered as one of Japan’s Three Most Scenic Spots. It is known for its 260 pine-covered tiny islands, which you can view up close via a boat cruise tour. Being surrounded by water, Matsushima is likewise famous for its seafood, in particular, oysters and anago (salt water eels). Culture-wise, the town is the site of Zuiganji Temple – a natural treasure and the family temple of Sendai’s founding feudal lord Date Masamune. Other places of interest include Entsuin Temple and Kanrantei Tea House.
Matsushima Boat Cruise
Address: Chonai-91 Matsushima, Matsushima-machi, Miyagi-gun, Miyagi Prefecture
Price: ¥700 (Adult), ¥400 (Child)
Address: Chonai-67 Matsushima, Matsushima-machi, Miyagi-gun, Miyagi Prefecture
Price: ¥300 (Adult), ¥150 (High School Students), ¥100 (Middle School and Elementary Students)
Website: http://www.entuuin.or.jp/ (Japanese only)
For More Information: 8 Best Attractions of Matsushima Bay in Miyagi
Kanrantei Tea House
Address: Chonai-56 Matsushima, Matsushima-machi, Miyagi-gun, Miyagi Prefecture
Price: ¥200 (Adult), ¥100 (Middle School and Elementary Students), Free (Children under 6), From ¥400 (Matcha tea and sweets set)
Website: http://www.town.miyagi-matsushima.lg.jp/index.cfm/8,3105,30,html (Japanese only)
For More Information: Best 5 Food in Matsushima Miyagi Prefecture
Try the Zunda (edamame) mochi
For the sweet tooth, Sendai’s representative dessert is the Zunda. It is made of sweetened and grounded edamame (immature soybean) paste and is usually served atop mochi (gelatinous rice snack). It is healthy as much as it is delicious. You can also enjoy its taste in a variety of other ways as there are Zunda-flavored shakes, pastries, pudding, and other desserts being sold all over the city.
Follow the footsteps of Date Masamune
Date Masamune is an important figure in the history of Sendai. He is the samurai lord who founded the city four hundred years ago, and the majority of the cultural sites in the region are with reference to him and his legacy. Of which, the most notable are the Sendai Castle, Osaki Hachimangu Shrine, and the Zuihoden Mausoleum. The recommended way to travel between sites is via the Loople Sendai Tourist Bus. Day passes are available for a convenient way to cover the city.
Address: 1 Kawauchi, Aoba-ku, Sendai-shi, Miyagi Prefecture
Osaki Hachimangu Shrine
Address: 4-6-1 Hachiman, Aoba-ku, Sendai-shi, Miyagi Prefecture
Address: 23-2 Otamayashita, Aoba-ku, Sendai-shi, Miyagi Prefecture
Price: ¥550 (Adult), ¥400 (Senior High School Students), ¥200 (Junior High and Elementary Students)
Watch the “Pageant of Starlight” at Jozenji Street
Winter illuminations are popular attractions in Japan come the colder months. In Sendai, the sparkling festivities happen along Jozenji Street where zelkova trees are lit up with 600,000 LED lights. During this time – from early December through the 31st, the street is transformed into a tunnel of lights and is just perfect for a magical stroll. There are also many shops and cafés within its vicinity in case the night becomes too chilly to handle.
Enjoy the nightlife of Kokubuncho
As Tohoku’s largest urban enclave, Sendai, of course, would have a designated nightlife district. Sandwiched in between Jozenji and Hirose Streets in downtown Sendai, Kokubuncho is chock-full of izakayas, restaurants, entertainment joints, and other establishments that will keep you company from dusk ‘til dawn.
Visit the Nikka Whisky Miyagikyo Distillery
Japanese whisky aficionados are in for a treat when visiting Sendai as the city is home to a Nikka Whisky Distillery. Nikka Whisky is one of the two legendary Japanese whisky brands along with Suntory, and in its Sendai facility, fans of the drink can enjoy a guided free tour and product sampling. Several tours are conducted daily, except on prescribed factory holidays as stated on their website. Do take note that there are no English tours, but there’s a digital guide accessible via smartphones.
Address: Nikka Aoba Ward, Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture
Visit the Kirin Beer Brewery Sendai Factory
Kirin Beer is another Japanese alcoholic drink with a strong following. It is one of the country’s leading beer brands. Thus, if you’re a fan of beer, Kirin Brewery Sendai is a must-visit destination. Same with Nikka Whisky Distillery, a trip to Kirin’s facility takes visitors around the plant to observe its manufacturing process, and is capped off by enjoying freshly brewed beer. The brewery tour is conducted in Japanese aided by an informative English pamphlet. Admission is free but has to be reserved in advance.
Address: 2-2-1 Minato, Miyagino-ku, Sendai-shi, Miyagi Prefecture
Website: http://www.kirin.co.jp/entertainment/factory/sendai/ (Japanese only)
Join the Sendai Tanabata Festival in summer
Sendai’s Tanabata Festival is one of Japan’s most famous summer festivals. From August 6 to 8, the entire city is decorated with huge paper lanterns and is made lively by numerous parades, concerts, Yatai food stalls, and other activities set-up in different parts of the city. It is kickstarted by a fireworks display on the eve of the festival proper, and for three days, crowds from all over the country enjoy the bright and jolly atmosphere that has taken over the city.
Enjoy a day’s excursion at Yamadera Temple in Yamagata
This destination is not part of Sendai per se, but it is easily accessible by train and takes about an hour to reach from Sendai Station via the JR Senzan Line. Also known as Risshakuji Temple, Yamadera Temple is a scenic mountain temple complex built more than 1,000 years ago. Perched on a hill that requires 1000+ steps to reach, it offers majestic nature views of the surrounding mountains and the riverside valley below it. A place of tranquility, it is likewise famous for inspiring several Haikus written by the great Japanese poet Matsuo Basho.
Address: 4456-1 Yamadera, Yamagata-shi, Yamagata Prefecture
Price: ¥300 (Adult), ¥200 (Junior High School Students), ¥100 (Children 4 years & up)
For More Information: Yamadera, Risshakuji Temple: The Best Temple in Yamagata
All price information in this article is as of June 2017.
Thumbnail image is from Flickr