Sendai travel guide: Access and what to see

Sendai city

Sendai may not be as renowned at the neon metropolis of Tokyo, but it is ranked among Japan’s largest cities. It is also known as “the city of trees.” Why? Sendai features broad streets punctuated by parks and green public spaces. Even its covered shopping arcade has trees growing within it.

Sendai is also home to a rich and vigorous history. The city was founded by a powerful feudal lord around the year 1600. Many of the tourist attractions in Sendai reflect its history and that of its founding family.

From 6th to 8th of August  of each year, the streets of downtown Sendai blossom with a forest of brightly colored paper streamers. This is part of the festival known as the Sendai Tanabata Matsuri or Star Festival. There is always plenty to do in Sendai, as you will find as you explore the guide below.

Traveling around Japan is easy when you utilize the Japan Rail Pass. Consider the following routes to get to the city of Sendai from other popular destinations. 

Tokyo to Sendai

For many, the Japanese vacation begins in Tokyo. From Tokyo Station, take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen line to Sendai Station. When using the Komachi, Hayate, or Hayabusa trains, the trip takes just over an hour and a half. On the Yamabiko train, expect a journey of two hours. The entire trip is covered by the JR Pass. If you have extra time, you may enjoy side trips from the Ueno or Omiya Stations along the way.

Kyoto to Sendai

From Kyoto Station, take the Hikari train to Tokyo Station. This leg of the journey will last around 5 hours. You may wish to stay overnight in Tokyo, which will give you time to see the sights, such as the Koishikawa Korakuen, one of the oldest traditional gardens in Japan. From Tokyo Station, take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen line to Sendai Station.

Osaka to Sendai

Begin with a five-hour train ride from Osaka Station to Tokyo Station. There, transfer to the JR Tohuku Shinkansen line and continue to Sendai Station. 

Getting around Sendai 

One of the most convenient forms of visitor transportation within Sendai is the Loople Sendai, a loop bus that connects most of the city’s major attractions. The Loople runs each hour in a clockwise tour of the city, departing from Sendai Station every 20 to 30 minutes.

Some attractions are within walking distance of the Sendai Station. You may also use your JR Pass to traverse the city, as two train lines are available. The JR Senzan Line provides access to Rinnoji Temple, and the JR Senseki Line to nearby Matsushima. You may also choose to use the city bus network or the two non-JR subway lines, which have a north-south and east-west orientation. 

Things to do in Sendai

Sendai’s compact downtown area, located just outside Sendai Station, offers shopping and sightseeing. The AER Building features a free observation deck, and the Ichibancho Arcade connects several streets, complete with a covered shopping area, trees, and arcade malls.

History buffs will enjoy a visit to Aoba Castle, built in the year 1600 by the feudal lord Date Masamune. The site features the castle’s stone walls and a guard tower, a museum, a statue of Masamune, and a dazzling view of the city below. In walking distance of this attraction as the Gokoku Shrine and museum, as well as the Sendai City Museum, Sendai Yagiyama Zoo, and Yagiyama Benyland amusement park.

Another historic site is the Osaki Hachimangu Shrine dedicated to Hachiman, the Shinto god of war. The shrine was constructed in 1607 and displays a unique architectural style. Rinnoji Temple to the north offers a beautiful pagoda and Japanese garden within its walls. The temple was founded in 1441, and the structure was moved to its current location in the 1600s. Also worth noting is the Zuihoden Mausoleum, which entombs members of the founding Date family.

If you are looking to strike out into the great outdoors, consider a side trip to Matsushima. This town is located about an hour from Sendai, and it is ranked as one of Japan’s three most scenic views. 

While Sendai was near the epicenter of the 2011 earthquake that resulted in a devastating tsunami, damage to the city center was minimal. Tourism in Sendai resumed its normal pace within a few months of the disaster. Today, it is a thriving city, and you are certain to enjoy your vacation time there.

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