Nestled between the ocean to the east and hot springs villages and mountains to the west, the city of Sendai has so many things to do! As the capital of Miyagi Prefecture, Sendai is home to many points of interest; it is also very close to famous sightseeing areas such as Matsushima, a spot designated as one of the “Three Most Scenic Views of Japan.”
Also, despite being a northeast region known for its cold winters, Miyagi Prefecture receives a relatively small amount of snowfall, making it an easy-to-see location that you can visit throughout the year.
Here are some foods, events, and fun things to do in Sendai and Miyagi Prefecture!
What Kind of Places are Miyagi & Sendai?
Miyagi Prefecture is located on the Pacific side of the Tohoku Region of northern Japan. There are many great sightseeing spots in addition to the gourmet town of Sendai, including the beautiful scenery of Matsushima, Japan’s most popular hot springs resort, Naruko Onsen, and Zao, with its emerald green sparkling Crater Lake Okama.
Sendai is the Tohoku region’s largest city, with a population of over 1 million, and Miyagi Prefecture’s tourism gateway. Natural beauty is abundant throughout the metropolis, which, consequently, has been dubbed “The City of Trees.”
Additionally, there are popular tourist attractions and historical sites related to Date Masamune (the legendary Japanese military commander of the Warring States period who laid the foundations for Sendai City), such as Sendai Castle Ruins and Zuihoden. There are also two hot springs located about 30 minutes by car from the center of the city.
How to get to Sendai from Tokyo
It takes about 1 hour 30 minutes from Tokyo Station to Sendai Station via the Tohoku Shinkansen Hayabusa and Hayate.
To Sendai, it takes about 25 minutes from the Sendai Airport Station connected to the Terminal Building of Sendai International Airport via regular train service, and about 17 minutes via express.
Some of the main tourist attractions in Sendai are a bit of a distance away from Sendai Station, so it is recommended to use the subway, bus, or taxi from there. However there are also many restaurants around Sendai Station known for their famous gourmet dishes such as beef tongue and zunda-mochi, so you may want to go by foot and walk around.
To get to the various tourist attractions of Miyagi Prefecture from Sendai, such as Matsushima and Lake Okama, you may find it most convenient to use the railway. There are also buses and trains available that travel to the other areas, however, they may have limited availability so be sure to check the schedule ahead of time.
1. Check out Sendai Castle Ruins
Sendai Castle, one of the most famous attractions of Sendai, was built by the first feudal lord, Date Masamune, in 1602. Tenshudai, where the Equestrian Statue of Date Masamune is located, is a well-known scenic viewpoint that overlooks the city of Sendai.
The castle was destroyed in an air raid during World War II. Currently, Ishigaki and Wakiro, which were restored, are all that remains. Signboards installed around the area tell the history of each of these historic sites in both English and Japanese.
To learn more about this period in time, visit the Aoba Castle Museum, where you can watch a CG reproduction of the inside of Sendai Castle, as well as a VR tour where you can experience what as it was Sendai Castle during that time period.
2. Visit Zuihoden, where Date Masamune is enshrined
This tamaya, or mausoleum, was built in 1637, and dedicated to Date Masamune. Destroyed by the air raids, it was rebuilt in 1979, and restored in 2001 to its original, delicate and colorfully decorated state.
One of the highlights of this spot is its seasonally-changing scenery, surrounded by cherry blossoms groves in the spring, hydrangea during the rainy season, beautiful foliage in the fall, and a snowy landscape in the winter.
You can also see Kansenden, the mausoleum of second-generation feudal lord Date Tadamune, and Zennouden, the mausoleum of third-generation lord Date Tsunamune, on the majestic site that is Zuihoden. There is also an on-site tour offered by the museum where you can see valuable materials such as burial tools and accessories.
- Address 23-2, Otamayashita, Sendai Shi Aoba Ku, Miyagi Ken, 980-0814, Japan
- Phone Number 022-262-6250
Hours: December 1 - January 31, 9:00 - 16:20 (last entry16:00); February 1 - November 30, 9:00 to 16:50 (last entry 16:30)
Admission: Adults 570 yen, high school students 400 yen, junior high and elementary school students 200 yen
3. Enjoy the spectacular views of Matsushima Bay, one of Japan's three most scenic spots
About 40 minutes from Sendai on the JR Senseki Line, Matsushima is another of Miyagi's sightseeing opportunities you can't overlook.
Matsushima Bay, dotted with a staggering 260 islands, is one of Japan's three most scenic bays along with Miyajima in Hiroshima Prefecture and Amanohashidate in Kyoto Prefecture. Not limited to scenic walks along the shore, the surrounding areas also offer great views from overlooks like Otakamori and Tamonzan.
You can take in the scenery as you walk along the coast, or enjoy one of the many other view spots that overlook the beautiful landscape that dot the suburbs, such as Mount Otakamori and Mount Tamonzan. There is also a boat dock from which you can get a closer look at the islands, located only a seven-minute walk away from Matsushima-Kaigan Station.
There are many other attractions around the station as well, including the national treasure Zuiganji Temple and important cultural assets Entsu-in Temple and Godaido Temple. Along the coast lie various eateries that specialize in local seafood such as oysters, and are also popular with tourists.
4. See the mysterious Okama crater lake up close
For those seeking a different type of spectacular view, Okama in Zao-machi, is a top recommendation. The crater lake has a circumference of about 1 kilometer and a diameter close to 330 meters, and the contrast between the lake's mysterious emerald green surface and the rough crater walls is eye-catching. An up-close look will overwhelm you with nature's impressive power.
You can get there from Sendai Station by riding the Miyagi Transportation Express Bus for about an hour to the "Active Resorts Miyagi Zao" bus stop then switching to the Miyagi Transportation Bus bound for Karita Sancho for a 40-minute trip before a 5-minute walk from the last stop, "Zao Karita Sancho."
- Address Kuraisitakekokuyuchinai-kokuyurinnai, Togattaonsen, Zao-machi, Katta-gun, Miyagi-ken, 989-0916, Japan
Phone: 0224-34-2725 (Zao-machi Tourist Information Center)
Open: Late April to early November
5. Soak in Sendai's famous hot springs at Akiu Onsen
Miyagi boasts one of the largest numbers of hot spring resorts in Japan and a variety that includes examples like Naruko Onsenkyo, with eight types of hot spring, and Tokarida Onsen, with a 400-year history.
Among them, Akiu Onsen in Sendai is easily accessible, about 30 minutes from JR Sendai Station by car. It's an attractive area for tourists since there are other points of interest nearby like Akiu Otaki, ranked as one of the "100 Best Waterfalls in Japan," and Akiu Traditional Craft Village, where guests can try their hand at making traditional crafts, as well as a multitude of hot spring inns perfect for day trips so you can easily enjoy more than one popular bath.
6. Be awed by Shiroishigawa Tsutsumi Hitome Senbonzakura in spring
One of the greatest pleasures of traveling in Japan is experiencing the scenery unique to each season, such as the cherry blossoms in spring and the autumn leaves.
Sakura symbolize spring in Japan and if you want to enjoy the blossoms in Miyagi, locals recommend heading to the banks of the Shiroishi River from Ogawara to Shibata. From JR Sendai Station, take the Tohoku Main Line bound for Shiroishi. After about 34 minutes, get off at JR Ogawara Station and you're only a 3-minute walk from the riverbank.
Peak viewing is possible throughout April as 1,200 Yoshino cherry trees bloom along an 8-kilometer stretch while the still snow-topped Zao mountain range rises behind for an additional touch of artistic flavor.
Shiroishigawa Tsutsumi Hitome Senbonzakura白石川堤一目千本桜
- Address Ogawara-machi to Shibata-machi, Miyagi Prefecture
Phone: 0224-53-2659 (Ogawara-machi Commerce and Tourism Division)
Season: Early to late April
7. Participate in Sendai's summer Tanabata Festival
Taking advantage of seasonal events will offer a more fulfilling sightseeing experience and the Sendai Tanabata Festival, which brings added color to the shopping arcade extending from the west exit of JR Sendai Station, is a major summer event.
The traditional festival is said to have been commissioned by Sendai's daimyo, Date Masamune, hoping to bring prosperity to his castle. Held annually for three days from August 6th to 8th, gorgeous bamboo "fuki nagashi" windsocks are put on display in the arcade.
Approximately 3,000 bamboo decorations, all handmade by local shopkeepers, surprise and delight tourists with their vivid colors and delicate construction. A fireworks display is held on August 5th, the eve of the festival – just one more thing to look forward to.
* Please contact festival organizers in advance for further details.
8. Be moved by the autumn colors of Naruko Gorge
About 2.6 kilometers in length, Naruko Gorge is one of Miyagi's most famous spots for autumn leaves. Bracketed by 100-meter-deep cliffs, the entire valley is awash in color from late October to early November and places like the Naruko Gorge Rest House overlook and the Naruko Gorge promenade offer exquisite views of the vibrant autumn hues.
To get there, take the Tohoku Shinkansen from JR Sendai Station to JR Furukawa Station – a quick 13-minute ride. From there, transfer to the Rikuuto Line and you'll arrive at JR Naruko Onsen Station in about 45 minutes. A taxi ride from the station to Naruko Gorge takes about 10 minutes and the view along the way is spectacular too. The gorge is a bit of a trek from Sendai, but well worth it.
9. Take a winter walk through a beautiful tunnel of light
If you're planning a winter trip, be sure to check out the Sendai Pageant of Starlight, on display along the city's iconic Jozenji-dori. From mid-December to the end of the year, hundreds of thousands of LEDs light up the zelkova trees that line the street, creating a beautiful tunnel of light. During the festivities, concession stands and skating rinks are a common sight, but the event varies yearly, so check the official website for more information.
Sendai Pageant of StarlightSENDAI光のページェント
- Address Jozenji-dori, Sendai City
Phone: 022-261-6515 (Sendai Pageant of Starlight Executive Committee)
10. Sample the local delicacy: Sendai Gyutan (Beef Tongue)
Beef tongue is the main specialty of Sendai. Each shop offers thickly cut beef tongue seasoned with their own original flavors. Gyutan-yaki is a grilled beef tongue dish, soaked with flavoring before being fully cooked over a charcoal fire. Gyutan-yaki is well-known for its soft, tender texture and delicious flavor in each bite.
Sendai beef tongue is generally served as a set meal that includes pickled vegetables, oxtail soup, and rice. Two of the most famous spots are Umami Tasuke, the shop established by the “father of gyutan-yaki,” Keishiro Sano, as well the popular, nation-wide shop Gyutan Sumiyaki Rikyu.
11. Savor the finest Sendai beef
Beef tongue branded as "Sendai Beef" is a point of pride in Miyagi. Only beef produced in Miyagi with a quality rating of A5 or B5 may be called Sendai Beef. Having passed such a strict assessment, it's an exquisite balance of rich marbling and delicious lean meat.
Around JR Sendai Station, there are plenty of steak and yakiniku shops where you can dine on Sendai Beef. Steak House Iseya in the basement of the S-PAL Sendai complex connected to the station and nearby Yakiniku Gyujin Ichibancho are recommended.
12. Enjoy Zunda-mochi Sweets
Zunda is a local dish of Miyagi, made from boiled and crushed soybeans formed into a paste. You can try it at Murakamiya Mochiten, a long-standing shop in Sendai, or at specialty sweets shop, Hikoichi. Zunda Shake EXPRESS is a specialty zunda shop located in Sendai Station, well known for generating long lines.
They have a menu of popular arrangement dishes that combine zunda and Western sweets, and even Zunda Shakes! Zunda is also a popular souvenir, and can be purchased at Sendai Station, as well as at the S-PAL Sendai Shopping Center connected to the station.
13. Eat flavorful grilled Miyagi oysters in fall and winter
Part of the Sanriku region, Miyagi is also a great place for fresh seafood. You can enjoy a variety of sushi and seafood bowls, but the oysters in Matsushima, one of the three most scenic spots in Japan, are particularly exciting for foodies.
Harvesting begins in October, and the colder it gets, the more delicious they become. Along the main street in front of JR Matsushimakaigan Station, there are numerous restaurants offering oyster dishes ranging from raw or fried oysters to oyster bowls.
Matsushima's specialty, however, is grilled oysters. It's interesting to see restaurant staff carry oysters in a shovel and grill a huge pile of them all at once. At Matsushima Fish Market Yakigaki House, about a 10-minute walk from JR Matsushimakaigan Station, you can enjoy grilled oysters year-round, so be sure to visit.
14. Order Shiogama tuna from markets and shops
If you like fish, you have to try Miyagi tuna at least once. The tuna from Shiogama City, which boasts one of the largest catches in Japan, is some of the best in the country and is treasured by connoisseurs for its rich, melt-in-your-mouth flavor.
Shiogama City, about 30 minutes by train from Sendai and known as a sushi town, is highly recommended for anyone who wants to revel in high-quality tuna sushi. There are many shops in Sendai that purchase Shiogama tuna, and Tuna Yamamoto near Jozenji-dori is a good place to enjoy a bowl of Shiogama tuna.
15. Take out fried snacks
"Hyotanage" is perfect if you get hungry while sightseeing. This take-out snack is made of steamed kamaboko (pureed fish) wrapped in sweet, crispy fried batter. Long-loved as one of Sendai's signature foods, some shops will sell more than 4,000 in a single day.
At the long-established Abe Kamaboko Main Store, the crispy texture and full flavor are a product of years of practice and perfection. The shop is easily accessible, about a 10-minute walk from JR Sendai Station.
16. Taste High-Quality Whitefish Kamaboko
This kamaboko has a chewy texture and is lightly sweet, with the delicate taste of the sea. They are individually wrapped, and easy to eat. This item must be refrigerated.
17. Snack on Kasho Sanzen “Hagi no Tsuki”
Hagi no Tsuki is a signature souvenir of Sendai, a fluffy sponge cake dough filled with a mellow, custard cream. Its round shape is made to resemble the full moon in the sky. Can be stored at room temperature.
18. Savor Zunda Mochi from Zunda Saryo at home
You can not only taste the local Zunda Mochi sweets at the store, but also take them home with you! Zunda Mochi from Zunda Saryo is freshly made and then flash-frozen, so it remains delicious even after thawing at home. The fragrant and crushed texture of edamame bean paste and the chewy mochi will make a delicious memory for you.
19. Get seasonal kikufuku from Igeta Seicha Kikusuian
Fresh cream kikufuku is made by wrapping fresh cream in a layer of sweet red bean paste and then an outer layer of soft mochi (soft rice cake). In addition to standard bean paste flavors like matcha, zunda, and hojicha, seasonal varieties are also available. Fans of all ages enjoy its elegant taste, soft texture, and ample size that fits in the palm of your hand.
20. Find your favorite sake
Miyagi is also known for its sake breweries, so a bottle makes an excellent souvenir. Produced by Sendai's Izawa Family Katsuyama Sake Brewery, Katsuyama Junmai Ginjo Sake was the 2019 top prize winner in the International Wine Challenge's (IWC) sake category.
21. Pick up a souvenir "Hagoromo" from Sakurai Kokeshi
These kokeshi dolls were created by a kokeshi craftsman of Naruko Onsen, and said to be kokeshi to “suit the modern lifestyle.” These are more slender in comparison to traditional kokeshi, with the torso painted in pastel color gradations and in border prints. You can purchase them in the workshop at the hot springs area, as well as at the Sendai Parco 2 Shopping Center in front of Sendai Station.
22. Enjoy colorful Matsukawa Daruma
The Matsukawa Daruma is a traditional Sendai Hariko (papier-mâché) craft. A treasure ship and the god of good fortune are painted on the body, while bright ultramarine blue represents the sky and sea. Despite being handcrafted, these souvenirs can be purchased for the reasonable price of 1,000 yen each.
23. Browse the cute souvenirs at S-PAL Sendai Station!
For Miyagi Prefecture and Sendai souvenirs, it is recommended to do your shopping in Sendai. There are large-scale shopping centers around Sendai Station, as well as the arcade area that runs from the station West Exit to Jozenji-dori, another must-see shopping spot. S-PAL Sendai is a particularly popular shopping center connected to Sendai Station, and offers a wide variety of goods such as clothes, sundries, and of course, souvenirs.
- Address 1-1-1, Chuo, Aoba Ku, Sendai, Miyagi, 980-0021 Japan
- Phone Number 022-267-2111
Business Hours: 10:00AM~9:00PM (may vary by shop)
Regular Holidays: None
24. Shop for gadgets and more around the Sendai Station Area
Near the Sendai Station East Exit are Yodobashi Camera Multimedia Sendai and Yamada Denki LAVI Sendai, which offer a variety of goods. Additionally, the Sofmap Sendai Ekimae Branch near the West Exit has a number of used games and video software for sale, and is a great spot to find some rare items. Some shopping centers around the station also offer duty-free shopping, another great deal.
25. Stroll around the Sendai Asaichi Market
About 5 minutes on foot from Sendai Station lies Sendai Asaichi Market, a marketplace with a wide range of shops that sell locally grown vegetables and kinds of seafood. There are about 70 shops in total, including gourmet shops and restaurants where you can try seafood bowls, salads, and even order take-out at a reasonable price.
Sendai Asaichi Market仙台朝市
- Address 3-8-5 Chuo, Aoba-ku, Sendai-shi, Miyagi-ken
- Phone Number 022-262-7173
Text by: Shoepress
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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