#1. Sendai Tanabata Festival
Photo Credit: sendaitanabata.com
The Sendai Tanabata Matsuri, or Sendai Star Festival is a traditional festival which dates back to the reign of Date Masamune, the founder of the feudal domain of Date, early 17th century. Now the festival is well-known throughout Japan as the festival with both elegance of an old star festival and the gorgeousness of its ornaments. It is also one of three major Tohoku festival. You can see huge Tanabata ornaments hanging along the street in the shopping districts. Tanabata ornaments are called “nana kazari”, or seven ornaments consist of seven different parts, including “tanzaku”, or colorful strips of paper and “fukinagashi”, or streamer. Each part has each meaning, such as longevity, prosperity and good catch. Tanabata ornaments in Sendai are made from not plastic but mostly paper. The Sendai Tanabata Festival is usually held from August 6th to August 8. During the festival, the city is surrounded with a festive mood and more than two million people come to see it.
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Sendai Tanabata Festival
Date: August 6th – August 8th
10:00 AM – 10:00 PM (August 6th & 7th)
10:00 AM – 9:00 PM (August 8th)
Website: Sendai Tanabata Festival
There are many famous onsen spots near Sendai, including Akiu Onsen and Sakunami Onsen. The Akiu Onsen is located on the river terrace of the Natori River, Akiu Onsen is to the southwest of central Sendai, it is less than a 30 minute bus or car ride from the heart of downtown. Akiu Onsen has a long history that dates back to around the 6th century. Among 16 inns, one inn is said to have originated in the Heian Period, some others were founded in the Edo period. Akiu Onsen is one of the three Oshu onsens. Designated as one of three Imperial Onsens, Akiu Onsen is prestigious. Near Akiu Onsen, there are many sightseeing spots, such as Akiu Otaki and Rairai gorge where you can enjoy the seasonal beauty of nature. Sakunami Onsen is surrounded by mountains, inns at Sakunami Onsen are along the narrow river terrace of the Hirose River. Route 48 passes through Sakunami Onsen from central Sendai to Yamagata, it’s convenient to travel from Sendai. There is a day trip hot spring facility called “Miyako no Yu”, where you can enjoy bedrock bathing along with a full-body soak. Sakunami Onsen is said to have therapeutic effects on various ailments including chronic rheumatism and gastroenteric disorder. Near Sakunami Onsen, there are many spots to visit, such as the Nikka Wiskey Miyagikyo Distillery and Homei 48 falls.
Along the Ou Mountains running through the north to south of the center of the Tohoku Distct, there are many waterfalls, such as Homei 48 falls, Akiu waterfalls and Ane waterfalls. Homei 48 falls is 82 feet in height and 32 feet in width, a series of different sized waterfalls creates Homei 48 falls along the Hirose River on Route 48. In fact, the number of waterfalls is less than 48. However, many water falls roar in the mountain area. The Akiu waterfall and the Ane waterfall are both located along the Natori River. Since it is near the Aiku onsen, many tourist come here. The fall is 180 feet high and 19 feet wide, Akiu waterfall is in Zao National Park. The panoramic view of the Akiu waterfall between Kiyomidai and the left bank of the Natori River is a well-developed scenery. The Akiu waterfall sometimes freezes in severe winters. Ane waterfall is 52 feet high and the Imoto waterfall is 32 feet high. Ane means older sister, imoto means younger sister.
#4. Beef Tongue
Photo Credit: ひでわく@photozou
Gyutan, which means beef tongue, is a specialty in Sendai. There are many restaurants serving in beef tongue in Sendai. Many restaurants offer a set meal of grilled beef tongue with salt, barley rice, oxtail soup, pickles, and green pepper pickled with miso called Miso Namban. Gyutan is very delicious and healthy, so please try it.
#5. Cherry Blossoms
Photo Credit: Sendai Blog@flickr
There are many spots to view cherry blossoms in Sendai, such as Tsutsujigaoka Park and Ruin of Aoba Castle. Sendai is located in north-eastern Japan, so the peak for cherry blossoms is later than the southern part of Japan, from mid-April to late-April. Tsutsujigaoka Park is famous for its weeping cherry trees. There is the Sendai Museum of History and Folklore at this park. The museum building is said to be the oldest wooden western-style building in Miyagi Prefecture, and its worth to visit. The ruins of the Aoba Castle is higher than central Sendai, you can enjoy the panoramic view of Sendai and the beautiful night views. The cherry blossoms contrast with the stone walls of the castle and there is a watchtower near the Otemon gate. There are many spots to take photos of the cherry blossoms.
#6. Autumn Leaves
Although there are many spots to see autumn leaves in the Miyagi prefecture, it is recommend to visit the Futakuchi valley and the Akiu waterfall near Sendai. The peak for colorful autumn leaves starts in late-October to early-December. The contrast between the scarlet leaves and the surrounding mountains is breathtaking.
#7. Sendai Toshogu Shrine
Founded by feudal lord Date Tadamune in 1654, the Sendai Toshogu Shrine enshrines Ieyasu Tokugawa, founder of Tokugawa Shogunate. Sendai Toshogu Shrine was protected as a guardian deity of the Date Clan by the Sendai Domain. At the shrine there is the precinct, main hall, the karamon; the large gate with a karahafu gable and the stone Torii Gate etc, they are all designated as Important Cultural Properties. The main hall boasts the elaborate sculptures within the building. You can see the aoi-mon, the Tokugawa family crest everywhere in main hall.
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Sendai Toshogu Shrine
Address: 1-6-1 Toshogu, Aoba Ward, Sendai, Miyagi
Access: 7 minute walk from Toshogu Station
Website: Sendai Toshogu Shrine (Japanese)
#8. Sendai Morning Market Shopping District
Photo Credit: Neuropower@wikimedia
The Sendai Morning Market Shopping District is near Sendai Station. This market originated from the black market immediately after WW II. One week after the Great Kanto Earthquake, almost all the shops opened to help and invigorate residents in Sendai. Literally, this market has supported everyone in Sendai. There is a wide range of shops from fresh fish, vegetables, meat, grain, beans, flower, boiled fish-paste to delicatessen, ramen and dumpling. You can buy almost anything that the local people eat. The market is open from 8 AM to 6 PM everyday, except for Sundays and holidays.
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Sendai Morning Market Shopping District
Address: 4-3-28 Chuo, Aoba Ward, Sendai, Miyagi
Access: 5 minute walk from Sendai Station
Website: Sendai Asaichi (Japanese)
#9. Nikka Whisky Miyagikyo Distillery
Photo Credit: David Woo@flickr
Nikka Whisky is made at two separate and unique distilleries, Yoichi in Hokkaido and Miyagikyo in Miyagi Prefecture. The Nikka Wisky Miyagikyo Distillery is one of them. Surrounded by abundant nature, this distillery is located where the Hirose River joins the Nikkawa River. After touring through the factory, you can taste and buy the products. The red brick buildings at the distillery contrast the surrounding nature, especially during autumn. This distillery was awarded the “2016 Certificate of Excellence” by TripAdvisor.
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Nikka Wisky Miyagikyo Distillery
Address: 1 Nitsuka, Aoba Ward, Sendai, Miyagi
Access: 12 minute taking bus from Sakunami Station
Website: Nikka Whisky
#10. Rakuten Kobo Stadium Miyagi
Photo Credit: Eaglefire@wikimedia
The Rakuten Kobo Stadium Miyagi is a baseball stadium at Miyaginohara Park. It is the home stadium to Japan’s professional baseball team, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka was a pitcher for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. After the huge earthquake in 2011, baseball matches at the stadium invigorated people who suffered from the earthquake.
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Rakuten Kobo Stadium Miyagi
Address: 2-11-6 Miyagino, Miyagino Ward, Sendai, Miyagi
Access: 5 minute walk from Miyaginohara Station
Website: Rakuten Kobo Stadium