Sendai is the largest city in northeast Japan's Tohoku region. Around 90 minutes via Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo and with excellent access to the rest of Tohoku, Sendai is a popular destination to visit.
Here we will introduce some useful tips when traveling to Sendai, including transportation access from Tokyo, the delicious local dishes to try, and the famous historical sites to visit!
Main photo by: PIXTA
- Table of Contents
- 1. Quick facts about Sendai
- 2. When is the best time to visit Sendai?
- 3. Getting to Sendai from Tokyo and transport within Sendai
- 4. Accommodations: Where to stay in Sendai
- 5. Must-try foods in Sendai
- 6. Cultural things to see in Sendai
- 7. Recommended activities and things to do in Sendai
- 8. Shopping in Sendai
- 9. Other sightseeing hotspots near Sendai
1. Quick facts about Sendai
Where is Sendai in Japan?
Sendai is the largest city in the northeastern area of Japan’s main island of Honshu, and is located in Miyagi Prefecture.
The history of Sendai began in 1601 when the famous warrior of Japan’s Sengoku Period, Date Masamune, built Sendai Castle as well as the town around it. This history is an important part of how Sendai became the city it is today.
One of the attractive features of sightseeing in Sendai is getting to try all of the delicious cuisines.
An example of a Sendai original dish is gyutan, charcoal-grilled beef tongue. Another dish to try is zunda, a sweetly seasoned soybean paste. What’s more, Sendai is close to the Sanriku Coast, home to some of the best fish markets in the world. Here you can delight in sushi and seafood bowls made from freshly caught fish.
Sendai has everything you want from a city. While it has many urban facilities, you can easily find yourself surrounded by oceans and mountains when driving about an hour from the central area.
There’s swimming to enjoy in the summer and winter sports to enjoy in the winter. Additionally, you can find lots of greenery in the city’s center. So much so that it has been lovingly named morinomiyako, "home of the forest." Just taking a walk here turns into a relaxing experience.
If you plan to visit during the colder seasons, stopping by the hot springs is highly recommended. There are also hot spring resort districts to enjoy, such as Akiu Onsen and Sakunami Onsen.
2. When is the best time to visit Sendai?
Weather in Sendai and How to Dress
Although Sendai has a fairly mild climate year-round, it’s a city that enables you to experience all four seasons. Dressing for each season is also important. Make sure you have a light jacket when visiting Sendai in the spring, a t-shirt in the summer, a slightly warmer jacket in the fall, and down jackets along with other cold-resistant gear in the winter.
Festivals & Events in Sendai
Sendai City also hosts large events in each season. There’s the Sendai Aoba Festival in May, the Sendai Tanabata Festival in August, the Jozenji Street Jazz Festival in September, and the Sendai Pageant of Starlight in December. All of these festivals are well-known and attract many visitors throughout the year.
Also, cherry blossoms in Sendai bloom from mid-April to late May every spring. People gather to enjoy the cherry blossom festival held in Tsutsujigaoka Park during this period.
As a way to stop the spread of Covid-19, some events are currently being canceled or minimized. Please check the official websites to check event details before attending.
3. Getting to Sendai from Tokyo and transport within Sendai
Getting to Sendai from Tokyo
To get to Sendai from Tokyo, you can take a plane, bullet train, highway bus, or rent a car.
The easiest way to travel is to take the Shinkansen bullet train. Two to three trains run every hour, and it takes from around 90 minutes to 2 hours when traveling from Tokyo Station to Sendai Station. One-way ticket prices start at about 10,000 yen.
For visitors with a non-Japanese passport, getting a Japan Rail Pass or JR East Tohoku Area Pass is also highly recommended.
For those who aren’t pressed for time and want to choose a more affordable option, the highway bus is a good choice. Though it takes somewhat longer than the bullet train (around 5 hours and 30 minutes), prices are very reasonable, starting at 3,000 yen for a one-way ticket. What’s more, buses leave from big stations such as Tokyo Station and Shinjuku Station.
How to Get Around Sendai
Once arriving in Sendai, transportation options while sightseeing include railways, subways, and buses.
The sightseeing loop bus, Loople Sendai, runs and offers tours every 15 to 20 minutes.
Those who want to see the city up close may consider renting a Date Bike, a point-to-point bicycle rental service. For first-time renters, you’ll need to sign up via credit card, so be sure to have one before traveling. There are many cars as well as pedestrians in central Sendai, so please enjoy this activity while being cautious of your surroundings.
4. Accommodations: Where to stay in Sendai
Where to stay in Sendai
According to data from Sendai City, the number of foreign guests who booked overnight stays were on the rise before the spread of Covid-19. In 2019, it hit its highest number of 334,767 guests in a year.* Many hotels are still very welcoming and have services for foreign guests.
If you’re planning to sightsee just around Sendai City or use Sendai as your base while touring the Tohoku region, we recommend staying somewhere close to Sendai Station. Sendai Station is the departure and arrival point for all types of transportation. There's even the Sendai Airport Access Line which takes you directly to Sendai Airport.
Types of hotels in Sendai
From luxury hotels to business hotels, you will find a range of options for places to stay around Sendai Station. The fact that you can choose your accommodation depending on your budget is very attractive.
On weekdays, you can even find overnight stays at 5,000 to 6,000 yen per night. Also, if you want to spend a night at a hot spring resort, we recommend staying at Akiho Onsen. It’s only a quick 30-minute drive from Sendai Station, and a stay of four nights should be more than enough to see everything that the city has to offer.
(*Source: Sendai City, “Sendai City Population and Business Revitalization Strategy”)
5. Must-try foods in Sendai
One thing you can’t miss out on during your trip to Sendai is the food. The representative dish of the area is gyutan. This is a Sendai specialty where salted beef tongue is charcoal-grilled. The explosive flavor and juiciness of the meat will leave you in utter awe!
Another famous Sendai cuisine is zunda. This dish uses crushed boiled edamame beans and mixed with sugar to make a paste. This paste is usually had with mochi, a soft and chewy rice cake.
Also, Miyagi Prefecture is known for having the Sanriuku Coast, one of the world's top three fishing spots. This area offers delicious seafood dishes. To add to this, everything is more affordable than Tokyo, allowing you to delight in high-quality selections of fish at very reasonable prices. A well-known delicacy using fish is Sasakamaboko. This is a tasty fish cake made from minced pieces of white fish that are then baked.
The nearby Matsushima Bay is known for its oysters. Kaki goya or oyster huts are a popular place to delight in extremely fresh oysters with the shell still on.
6. Cultural things to see in Sendai
The famous warrior of the Sengoku Period, Date Masamune, is known for being the founder of Sendai City. In addition to building Sendai Castle in 1601, he also had a hand in building the town that surrounds it. There are many spots to visit around Sendai where you can still feel his influence.
The Sendai Castle Ruins show what is left to be seen of Masamune’s home and Sendai Castle. There’s a viewing tower that allows you to enjoy a sweeping view of the entire city. At the top of the tower is a popular photo spot where you’ll find a statue of Date Masamune on horseback.
In the suburbs of Sendai, you’ll run into the Sendai Daikannon or Goddess of Mercy. This Kannon statue is very popular among foreign guests. Being around 100-meters tall, you can’t help but be in awe of its presence.
7. Recommended activities and things to do in Sendai
Located a 10-minute walk from Sendai Station, the Abekama Bokoten Main Shop offers the experience of grilling Sasakamaboko yourself. The staff will hand you Sasakamaboko on a bamboo stick, so all you have to do is grill it on the specially-made grill.
When made fresh, this dish surprises you with its fluffy texture and strong umami flavor that comes from the fish. To prevent the spread of Covid-19, the content of this event may be changed or canceled, so please make sure to check the official website in advance.
Additionally, the Tohoku area, where Sendai is located, has many delicious local beverages made from their exquisite rice. Taking part in one of the workshops offered by local sake sommeliers will enable you to expand your knowledge of this traditional Japanese spirit!
8. Shopping in Sendai
Many department stores and fashion outlets line Sendai’s shopping streets. Here you can find both domestic and international shopping brands as well as stores that sell daily commodities. It’s a highly recommended area for those looking to shop.
The two large shopping areas are in front of Sendai Station or the Ichibancho district. These two districts of Sendai are only a short 10-minute walk from each other, so you can easily stop by both in a day.
In front of Sendai Station, you'll find many stores selling a range of products, from electronics to fashion items. Some of these stores include the department store S-PAL Sendai, the shopping complex Sendai Parco, and the electronics shop Yodobashi Camera.
At Ichibancho, there are two department stores: Fujisaki and Sendai Mitsukoshi. Here you’ll find luxury retail stores in addition to confectionaries and delis available on the basement floor.
Sendai Station also contains several souvenir stores where you can buy Sendai specialties.
9. Other sightseeing hotspots near Sendai
Matsushima is a 40-minute train ride on JR’s Sendai Line from Sendai Station. Here you are greeted by the breathtaking view of the 260 islands that float on Matsushima Bay. Not surprisingly, it’s an extremely popular spot to visit among foreign guests. Here, large ferries take you around the bay, giving you tours of rare ruins designated as national treasures. This is a day trip you absolutely cannot miss!
In addition to this, the Sendai area is also famous for its hot springs. Akiu Onsen is a mere 30-minute drive from the city's center. There’s also Sakunami Onsen. This hot spring resort was originally made so people could book extended stays to heal any ailments or illnesses. Now, it’s another popular resort that many people enjoy going to.
Lastly, there’s Zao Onsen. Located a 40-minute drive from Sendai, this hot spring resort enables you to enjoy spectacular views of the abundant nature that surrounds it. There are many famous attractions such as Okama, a colored crater lake on top of the Zao mountain range, a ski resort, the Japan Kokeshi Museum, and Zao Fox Village.
Sendai is brimming with splendid attractions. Please enjoy everything this city has to offer including food, historical sites, and shopping!
Text by: SHOE PRESs
*The information found in this article is from October 2021. For updated information, please refer to the official websites.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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