Photo: Serena Kim

10 Things to Know About Sendai

A modern metropolis that cherishes its timeless beauty and traditions

Photo: Serena Kim
Serena Kim   - 13 min read

​​Sendai is a vibrant city located on the Pacific coast of Honshu, the largest of Japan's four major islands. It can be reached within 1 hour and 40 minutes by taking the Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo. Serving as the capital of Miyagi prefecture and pulsating heart of Japan’s northern Tohoku Region, Sendai seamlessly blends modernity with nature.

Despite its urban stature, the city proudly upholds its reputation as the "City of Trees," where lush zelkova trees grace the streets, and the picturesque Hirose River winds through the heart of central Sendai. This juxtaposition of urban sophistication and natural splendor has earned Sendai its distinct identity, captivating residents and visitors alike. As a city that treasures its rich history and culture, Sendai hosts a myriad of events, including music festivals.

In collaboration with Discover SENDAI, join us on an exploration of Sendai as we unveil 10 intriguing things that define this modern city, from its delectable cuisine to captivating festivals and iconic landmarks.

1. Sightseeing Around Sendai Using Loople Sendai

The retro Loople Sendai bus offers a delightful loop tour encompassing the city's popular tourist spots, presenting an opportunity to traverse central Sendai with utmost convenience. The fixed fare and short service intervals make it an attractive option for those eager to explore the city's vibrant attractions along its 15 stops. From the iconic Sendai Station to the historic Aobayama area, where the legacy of Date Masamune is preserved, Loople Sendai is an excellent way to experience the city's essence, from shopping districts to historical landmarks.

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2. Matsushima's Abundant Seafood Delights

The Matsushima Bay area is renowned as one of Japan's three most scenic locations, positioned at the confluence of the Oyashio and Kuroshio currents. The nutrient-rich waters of Matsushima Bay yield a bountiful harvest of fresh seafood each morning, adding to the allure of this coastal haven. The area around famed landmarks such as the national treasure Zuigan Temple, Entsuin Temple, and the sightseeing cruise terminal is adorned with an array of restaurants showcasing dishes crafted from the day's catch. Pensee, a beloved bakery with twelve stores in Sendai City and nearby areas, stands out among the local favorites. Their Oyster Curry Bread won the 2021 Curry Bread Grand Prize competition. For a hands-on experience, Matsushima Kamaboko Honpo offers a unique "sasa-kamaboko hand-grilling experience" at 300 yen per stick, allowing visitors to grill sasa-kamaboko, a local Miyagi specialty. Adding to the gastronomic adventure is M Pantry, a boutique offering Oyster Cracker with Oyster and Rice at 250 yen. Crafted by pressing and baking rice flour along with a whole Miyagi Prefecture oyster, this delectable treat provides a taste of the region's culinary excellence. With an abundance of seafood menus awaiting exploration, Matsushima offers a tasteful journey that is as memorable as its breathtaking scenery.

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3. An Anime Pilgrimage Around Haikyu!! Spots

Immerse yourself in the world of famed manga Haikyu!! with a trip to Sendai! Running from 2012 to 2020 in the Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, Haikyu!! remains an enduring masterpiece, capturing the hearts of fans even beyond its conclusion. The story follows the lives of passionate high school volleyball players against the backdrop of Sendai, with iconic scenes taking place at Kamei Arena Sendai. For enthusiasts on a pilgrimage, Jump Shop Sendai, an official store run Weekly Shonen Jump’s publisher, is also a must-visit destination. Offering a treasure trove of merchandise spanning countless manga series, the store features exclusive Haikyu!! items, including keyholders portraying Shoyo Hinata in the style of the legendary warrior Date Masamune and plastic file folders with illustrations. Beyond merchandise, the shop provides attractions such as a photo spot with various characters and a height comparison area with Shoyo Hinata. Catering to fans of all ages, Sendai invites you to experience the magic of Haikyu!! in a space filled with excitement.

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4. Music Events in Sendai, the City of Music

Sendai is a city that has the well-deserved title of the "City of Music" among residents and tourists alike. Music enthusiasts can revel in a diverse array of events that permeate the city, showcasing genres ranging from jazz and rock to classical music. Among the events is the Jozenji Street Jazz Festival, an outdoor music event that began in 1991, built on the concept that music should be played outdoors. This vibrant autumn festival transforms various locations in downtown Sendai into dynamic venues, featuring performances across genres like jazz, big band, pop, and acoustic, inviting people to explore the city while discovering music. For rock enthusiasts, the ARABAKI ROCK FEST stands tall as one of Tohoku's spring festivals. With its expanding scale, the festival invites renowned artists from Japan and abroad, delivering powerful stage performances. Moreover, the Sendai Classical Music Festival boasts around 70 performances over three days, the festival provides a comprehensive immersion into the world of classical music, from morning to night. Discover new melodies, and embrace the rich musical culture in Sendai.

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5. Cherry blossoms around Sendai

Cherry blossoms are a beloved seasonal tradition in Sendai, enchanting both locals and visitors from around the world. As the weather warms from late March to mid-April, numerous cherry blossom festivals grace the city, painting it with hues of pink and white. Among the five beloved cherry blossom spots frequented by locals, Funaoka Castle Park stands as an iconic destination, proudly selected as one of the "100 best cherry blossom viewing spots in Japan." The enchantment extends to other picturesque locations like Daiyama Park in Kakuda City, Masuoka Park in Shiroishi City, Zao Town, and Yakurai Garden. Each site offers a unique ambience, inviting everyone to revel in the breathtaking spectacle of cherry blossoms in full bloom. Partake in the joy of cherry blossom viewing and create cherished memories in Sendai!

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Embark on a culinary journey in Sendai, where sushi restaurants are revered for the freshness of their fish sourced from local fishing ports each morning. Nestled in a rice-producing region, these establishments devote meticulous care to perfecting their sushi rice, crafted from the finest local grains to harmonize seamlessly with the fish. The city offers sushi enthusiasts a spectrum of restaurants, ensuring an opportunity to savor exceptional sushi crafted from the freshest seasonal ingredients. Among the recommended spots, Senreizushi, with seven branches in Sendai, stands out for its commitment to freshness, operating as both a sushi restaurant and a fishmonger. Shiogama Shirahata, a beloved sushi haven with a main store in Shiogama, known among locals as one of the best places for sushi, is another noteworthy recommendation. Umaisushikan Sohonten, Yogoro Zushi Honten, and Kansen Zushi Shiogamakou further contribute to Sendai's rich sushi landscape. Sendai promises a delectable exploration of culinary delights.

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7. Michelin Guide-Recognized Ramen Restaurants

In the vibrant culinary landscape of Sendai, renowned for its fierce ramen battleground, there exists a realm of excellence recognized even by the Michelin Guide. Sendai City claims the third-highest annual ramen expenditure nationwide, showcasing its dedication to this beloved noodle dish. Among the Michelin Guide-recognized ramen restaurants, Ramen Kaichi stands out for its distinctive approach, utilizing only chicken to craft a unique and pure chicken soup. The restaurant's fame is evident in the perpetual lines of fans, drawn to savor the exceptional flavors. Not to be outdone, Ramen Honkamado elevates the ramen experience with a focus on health and natural ingredients. Their Prawn Wonton Shio Ramen, priced at 1130 yen, combines noodles made from Hokkaido flour for aroma and taste, with a meticulously prepared soup by the owner, a certified dashi broth sommelier. Joining the ranks of exceptional ramen establishments in Sendai are Dashiro, Aramachi Shoten Chuka Soba Fujiyama, and Ramen Genryu. Each contributes to the beloved ramen scene, cherished by many.

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8. Sendai’s Beer Culture

Discover three breweries in and around Sendai that go to show there is more to Japanese alcohol than traditional sake! Learn about Kirin Beer Sendai Brewery (dating back to 1923) as well as the more craft beer-oriented BATSUJI BREWING to name just a few.

From Japanese style lager by one of Japan’s household beer companies to locally produced IPA, European-style pilsner, weizen and lagers or Belgian-style fruit beers, there is surely something to cater to everyone’s taste. What’s more—several of the breweries have integrated or neighbouring restaurant facilities allowing you to enjoy a brew without going hungry.

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9. Street Foods of Sendai

With its tree-lined boulevards, the city of Sendai is a joy to explore by foot so it comes as no surprise that street food and eating on the go is big business too.

The Hyotan-age is a corn dog-style fried fish cake (kamaboko) which can be found at Abe Kamabokoten in the city center. Follow this up by trying the distinctive Zunda shake, which blends a familiar vanilla milkshake with Zunda Saryo’s sweet edamame paste, known as zunda. It’s a delicious and refreshing drink unique to Sendai.

Learn more about these foods and other options on the Discover SENDAI website.

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Learn about three popular activities, including working alongside a copper craftsman in a workshop that sees you use techniques preserved for over 400 years. Outside the city, enjoy a different perspective of the mountainous landscape—from a zip line! This family-friendly zip line experience is offered by the Spring Valley Izumi Kogen Ski Resort during its off-season and promises to be a great way to explore the region around Mt. Izumigatake — especially during the summer when it stays relatively cool.

Further afield and further above ground, you can also enjoy a hot air balloon experience in the Matsushima Bay region. Considering Matsushima is known for one of Japan’s top most scenic views, the view from the air—especially during sunset—may be one of the best ways to experience Matsushima’s famous view for yourself.

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As you can see, Sendai has plenty to offer visitors of all kinds — visit Discover SENDAI to learn more about each topic, or let us know in the comments which one is your favorite and why!

Serena Kim

Serena Kim @u65596