Award-winning scenery and dramatic history
Sendai, Tohoku’s largest city and home to the prestigious Tohoku University, is a vibrant, fast-growing but easy-going metropolis. Once an old castle town established by samurai benefactor Date Masamune, Sendai had to reinvent itself after the damage of the Second World War. Now it’s a city boasting wide, tree-lined boulevards (so much so that it’s sometimes called the City of Trees), beautiful parks, historic sites and happening nightlife. It’s a busy transport hub for northern Japan so it’s a great base for further travel in the region. Sendai’s got some major charms – its cooler climate offers welcome respite from Japan’s often stifling summers, and the city hosts some super-fun festivals like Japan’s biggest Tanabata Matsuri. You can explore great museums and a lot of grand tributes to Masamune here, as well as the nearby coastal town of Matsushima – its bay is dotted with 260 tiny, pine-covered islands.
Things to do
See the mausoleum of the One-Eyed Dragon
Built in 1637 to commemorate Sendai’s first feudal lord, Date Masamune, (known as the ‘One-eyed Dragon’), Zuihoden is a beautifully ornate mausoleum set in a pretty forest of cedar trees. This national treasure was reconstructed after being damaged during the war, so you can explore the mausoleum and the small museum. There are lots of stone stair walkways amid the forest, so it’s a pretty, contemplative walk as well.
Picnic under 300-year-old trees
Everyone knows how much Japan loves a cherry blossom, but Sendai’s Tsutsujigaoka Park is famed for its ancient cherry trees – over 1000 were planted over 300 years ago, including the especially gorgeous weeping cherry trees. Although it’s a lovely park all year round, time your visit for spring when you can pack a picnic and enjoy the peak cherry blossom season. Due to the variety of trees here, the blossom season lasts a relatively long time.
Go island hopping
Known as one of Japan’s three most scenic views and ranked as one of the world’s most beautiful bays, Matsushima Bay, just half an hour from Sendai, is a scenic inlet peppered with over 200 pine-covered little islands. Some of the larger ones are accessible by photogenic red bridges, but it’s also fun to hop on one of the many sightseeing cruises and weave your way between the islands.
Visit a street of trees and lights
Sendai is called the ‘City of Trees’ and you’ll see why when you stroll along the zelkova tree-lined Jozenji Street, a wide, leafy boulevard. The street is also peppered with outdoor sculptures and hosts a variety of festivals, including the Pageant of Light, when the street glows with trees wrapped in twinkling fairy lights in winter. In autumn, the Jozenji Street Jazz Festival takes place under the changing leaves.
Splash under one of Japan’s best waterfalls
Rated one of Japan’s top 100 waterfalls, the Akiu Falls are the perfect choice for a refreshing nature trip. You’ll hike through tall trees (they’re spectacular in autumn), cross bridges over gorges and then follow the path down to the waterfalls, where you can breathe in that fresh, splashing air. If it’s all a bit too much exertion, afterwards you can treat yourself to a nearby onsen experience or a warming visit to the Miyagikyo Nikka Whisky Distillery.
Distance to central Sendai 18kms
Train: The Sendai Airport Access Line runs directly from the airport to the JR Sendai Station and takes 17-25 minutes.
Taxi: A taxi into central Sendai will take around 35 minutes. There is a taxi rank at either end of the airport.
Bus: There are two bus stops at Sendai Airport. One is the local bus network and the other is a sightseeing bus.
Rental car: If you want to rent a car, head to the service counters at the Domestic Arrivals lobby.Back to top
When to go
Spring in Sendai is busy from a tourism point of view but the weather is quite variable – it can go from chilly at the start of the season to very pleasant by the end. Summer is enjoyable but does get rainier towards the season’s end. Autumn is relatively mild but it can be very rainy, and winter is just plain cold, wet and snowy.
The Sendai Tanabata Festival, Japan’s largest, happens in August, while the Pageant of Starlight runs through December. The Aoba Festival happens on the third weekend of May, with floats, parades and taiko music.Back to top
The best way for tourists to travel around Sendai is on the Loople tourist trolley. It runs every 20 minutes from 9am and 4pm, looping clockwise around the city. There is a subway that runs north to south, but it doesn’t stretch to any tourist sites.Back to top