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Travel Guide Asia Japan Honshu Tohoku Sendai

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Introduction

Sendai is the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, the largest city in the Tōhoku region, and the second largest city north of Tokyo. In 2010, the city had a population of one million, and is one of Japan's 20 designated cities. The city was founded in 1600 by the daimyō Date Masamune, and is nicknamed the City of Trees; there are about 60 zelkova trees on Jōzenji Street and Aoba Street. In the summer, the Sendai Tanabata Festival, the largest Tanabata festival in Japan, is held. In winter, the trees are decorated with thousands of lights for the Pageant of Starlight, lasting through most of December. On March 11, 2011, coastal areas of the city suffered catastrophic damage from a magnitude 9.0 offshore earthquake, which triggered a destructive tsunami.

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Neighbourhoods

Sendai is divided into five districts: Aoba-ku, Izumi-ku, Miyagino-ku, Taihaku-ku and Wakabayashi-ku.

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Sights and Activities

  • Miyagi Museum of Art (宮城県美術館), 34-1 Kawauchi-Motohasekura, Aoba-ku. A reasonable collection of modern art. Special room for Juryo Sato, a local (but nationally famous) sculptor. Beautiful garden and a nice view of the river.
  • Ōsaki Hachiman Shrine (大崎八幡宮). Completed in 1607, and is designated a national treasure. The metal ornaments and colorful designs displayed against the black lacquer woodwork is an especially attractive feature.
  • Statue of Kannon (仙台大観音, sendai daikannon), Izumi-ku. There is a huge statue of Kannon (the Buddhist deity of compassion) outside the city that is worth seeing. However, don't expect to find it mentioned in any guides. Ask locals for directions.
  • Sendai Mediatheque (せんだいメディアテーク), Aoba-ku. This building was designed by Toyo Ito and is an important piece of contemporary architecture. Take a look at the outstanding structure while enjoying the cafeteria and design shop on the ground level. On the 5th and 6th floor there are free art galleries with temporary exhibitions.
  • Rinno-ji (輪王寺), 1-14-1 Kitayama, Aoba-ku (By bus, take the Kitayama-Shiheimachi line and get off at Rinno-ji mae.), ☎ +81 22 234-5327. An historic temple with ponds and a large traditional garden, which is especially attractive when the azaleas are in bloom.
  • SS30 Building Observation Lounge, Aoba-ku, Chūō, 4 Chome (At the intersection of Higashi Nibancho Street and Kitamenmachi Street.). This office tower has an observation deck on the 29 and 30th floors, which is open and free to the public.
  • Sendai City Museum (仙台市博物館), Kawauchi 26 (Get off the train at JR Sendai station. Take city bus for Dobutsukoen-junkan, Aobadai, Miyakyodai (Miyagi university of education), Naritasan, (via Aoba-dori Ave.) at 9 depot of the Sendai bus terminal. It takes about 10 minutes to Museum/International center's stop. The museum is 3 minutes walk from the stop.).
  • Yagiyama Zoo (木山動物公園). Elephants, lions, bears, tigers! Mingle with the rabbits. Coin lockers available. 400¥, 100¥ for kids.
  • Sendai Castle Ruins (仙台城跡), ☎ +81 22-225-3074, fax: +81 22-225-2558. Often recommended by locals. There's a replica of a gate and a statue of the founder of the city, Date Masumune. However, the ruins of Sendai Castle is the theme of a famous poem written by Doi Bansui called 'Kojo no Tsuki' - 'The Moon over the desolate castle'. In the poem, the author touchingly invites us to reflect on the impermanence of all life, which is represented by the ruins of the once great castle caught in the light of the full moon. The poem has been put to music and is famous throughout Japan.
  • The Museum of the Forest of Depths of the Earth (地底の森ミュージアム), 4-2-1 Nagamachi-Minami, Taihaku-ku, ☎ +81 22-246-9153. The museum of the stone age. In the museum, restoration exhibition of that time is carried out based on the data discovered from public presentation and there of the ruins 20,000-year Saki's Old Stone Age unearthed from Tomizawa ruins (富沢遺跡). 400¥, 200¥ for students, 100¥ for kids.

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Events and Festivals

Traditional Festivals

Japan has countless traditional festivals and holidays. Then when you add the local festivals that number just grows and grows. Here is a list of the few major national traditional festivals.

  • Japanese New Year (January 1) - the most important holiday in Japan. Although there are lots of customs and traditions most of them are done in the private. This is mainly a family holiday and Japan can feel very empty as almost everyone goes home. Travelling in Japan in during this time is difficult because everything is shut down.
  • Seijin No Hi (2nd Monday of January) - the coming of age holiday for Japanese women which 20. Traditionally families will buy any young woman how turned 20 in the last year a kimono. On this day almost all Japanese women will ear a kimono.
  • Hin Festival (March 3) - Also known as doll festival the Hin Matsuri festival is meant for young women. In early february families with daughters put dolls in order to make the women happy and healthy later in life. On Girls Day, on March 3, the dolls are put away until next year.
  • Shichi Go San Festival (Novermber 5) - Boys who are 3 and 5, and girls 3 and 7 are taken to a shinto shrine in traditional Japanese dress. The children are brought there to pray for good luck, good health and wealth.

National Holidays

  • Golden Week - Is quite often referred to as the "Japanese Spring Break." It is a combination of many state holidays, including Showa Day, Greenery Day, Children's Day, and Constitution Memorial Day in order to give a full week off. It takes place during the first full week of May. Everyone gets this week off in Japan so it is very bad time to travel because everything is crowded, expensive and most hotels will be full. There is also a major festival in the southern city of Fukuoka this week, it is called Hakata Dontaku.

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Weather

Sendai has a warm oceanic climate Cfb, close to a humid subtropical, climate, with neither the very hot summers of Tokyo nor the snowbound winters of Sapporo, but retains significant seasonal differences. Winters are cool and relatively dry, with January temperatures averaging 1.5 °C. Summers are very warm and much of the year's precipitation is delivered at this time, with an August average of 24.1 °C. The city is rarely hit by typhoons, and experiences only 6 days with more than 10 centimetres (4 in) of rainfall on average. Sendai's rainy season usually begins in late June to early July, which is later than in most cities in Japan. During this season, cold winds from the Okhotsk air mass, called "Yamase", blow in and depress daytime highs. Extremes range from −11.7 to +37.2 °C.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max5.3 °C5.9 °C9.2 °C15 °C19.4 °C22.3 °C25.7 °C27.9 °C24.4 °C19.4 °C13.7 °C8.4 °C
Avg Min-1.7 °C-1.5 °C0.9 °C6.1 °C11.1 °C15.5 °C19.5 °C21.4 °C17.6 °C11.2 °C5.2 °C0.9 °C
Rainfall37 mm38.4 mm68.2 mm97.6 mm109.9 mm145.6 mm179.4 mm166.9 mm187.5 mm122 mm65.1 mm36.6 mm
Rain Days5.357.28910.713.510.611.27.86.24.7

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Getting There

By Plane

Sendai Airport (SDJ) mainly functions as a domestic airport with regular flights to Sapporo, Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Okinawa and Kanazawa. However, there are also a few international flights to neighboring countries, such as South Korea, Taiwan and China.

The airport is linked to the city with the Sendai Airport Access railway, which takes 17-25 minutes to JR Sendai Station and costs ¥650.

In 2016 Sendai Airport was the first airport in Japan to be privatized. Thus, the number of low cost carrier (LCC) flights and number of destinations are expected to increase in the near future.

By Train

Sendai is a major station on the Tohoku Shinkansen (bullet train) line, some two hours from Tokyo. The line continues north to Morioka and Aomori.

The most frequent ride from Tokyo is on the all-reserved Hayabusa (はやぶさ), which makes only a few stops and runs to Sendai in 1 1/2 hours (¥11,200). The Komachi (こまち) service bound for Akita is coupled to the Hayabusa train, but bear in mind that Komachi cars are slightly narrower, and therefore, so is seating.

If you have a little more time on your hands, or if any of the above trains are sold out, the more frequent Yamabiko (やまびこ) services are a good alternative. The fare is slightly cheaper for reserved seating (¥10,890), but the Yamabiko trains also offer a few cars of unreserved seating which are cheaper still (¥10,370). The Yamabiko serves more stations - and in some cases, ALL stations - so the expected travel time will be about 30-40 minutes longer than the Hayabusa and Komachi.

A few all-reserved Hayate (はやて) services remain on the route, and these are another alternative. The Hayate trains are only slightly slower than the Hayabusa and Komachi, but cost the same as the Yamabiko.

The Japan Rail Pass and JR East Rail Pass is valid for Ordinary and Green Cars on the all of the bullet trains mentioned above. On the other hand, rail passes will only cover the basic fare if you are willing to try out the premium first class seating on the Hayabusa called "GranClass". To use "GranClass" the limited express and GranClass fare has to be paid (¥13,990 from Tokyo). Without a rail pass, "GranClass" costs ¥19,930 between Tokyo and Sendai.

The Joban Line runs between Sendai and Tokyo. However, this is no longer a viable option as portions of the line were either closed due to nuclear contamination, or completely washed away by the 2011 tsunami.

By Bus

Many highway buses run to Sendai from various locations in the Tohoku region.

JR Bus Tohoku and Tohoku Kyuko bus operate highway bus service to Sendai from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. There are five daytime trips and one overnight trip. Each run takes 5 1/2 hours at a cost of ¥6,210.

Same companies also run a line to Niigata across the mountains. There are five or six daytime buses that run for 4 hours and cost ¥4,500.

An overnight bus service also runs directly from Yokohama and Shinagawa, costing ¥6,500 from Yokohama (6 1/2 hours) and ¥6,200 from Shinagawa (5 3/4 hours).

Kintetsu runs an overnight bus service, the Forest, from Osaka and Kyoto to Sendai. The one-way ride costs approximately ¥12,000 and takes 12 1/4 hours from Osaka and 10 3/4 hours from Kyoto.

Willer Express is a company with nightly bus services to Sendai from Tokyo. With English online booking service.

Meitetsu runs an over night bus service from Sendai to Nagoya. Departure time is 9:30pm and arrival in Nagoya is 7:00am.

By Boat

Taiheiyo Ferry (太平洋フェリー) [2] (Japanese) +81-22-259-0211 offers overnight car ferries to Nagoya (21 hrs 40 mins) and Tomakomai (in southern Hokkaido) (15 hrs 20 mins) on the SS Ishikari and SS Kitakami.

The ferry terminal is located a ten minute taxi ride away from Nakanosakae Station (中野栄駅) on the JR Senseki line (仙石線). The terminal is also located not far from the Sendai-ko kita (仙台港北) interchange on the Sendai Tobu Highway (仙台東部道路).

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Getting Around

By Public Transport

Sendai has two subway lines. Traveling on a north-south axis, the Namboku Line connects major shopping districts with the train station. Key stations include Sendai for the train station and the AER building, Nagamachi-minami for the Mall (large American-style shopping mall including multi-screen cinema), Hirose-dori and Kotodai-koen for access to Ichibancho (covered shopping arcade), and Izumi-chuo for the soccer stadium. The second line, the Tozai Line, travels on an east-west axis and opened in December 2015.

Adventurous types can try the bus system to reach those areas not covered by the subway. There are a few resources that help English speakers navigate, but it helps if you know the city (or at least some Japanese, as most stops has route maps). In this case it might become very convenient and far-reaching service, as many points in the city are reachable only by bus or car. However, in some places buses are infrequent, with waiting times up to half an hour, and they tend to get very crowded in the rush hour.

Fortunately for tourists there is a "Loople Sendai" bus that makes a wide loop around to various Sendai attractions for ¥620 for a whole day, or ¥260 for one ride. Normal route buses have fares based on the distance travelled and usually cost from ¥170 (the basic fare) to ¥300 for some longest journeys.

Travelcards (commony called "bus cards" both in English and Japanese, although they could be also used on subway) are available, offering slight discount - ¥5,000 card has ¥5,850-worth of fare on it. There are two major bus companies, but for all practical intents and purposes they are indistinguishable.

By Foot

The city center is compact and can easily be traversed on foot, especially by using the covered shopping arcades. There are many shops and arcades around Sendai station and therefore people could walk around on their own. Other parts of the city are quite hilly (even the center has some significant slopes) and while they still could be traversed on foot, this might be physically demanding. Residential parts are also very spread-out, and walking such large distances becomes impractical.

By Bike

Bicycles can be rented for ¥1,000 a day or ¥500 from 2:00pm, they are called DATE BIKE, you will need Internet access to rent one.

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Eat

Sendai's specialties include gyūtan (牛タン), grilled beef tongue; sasakamaboko (笹かまぼこ), a type of fish sausage; and zundamochi (ずんだ餅), sweet green soybean paste eaten with soft glutinous rice balls. Sendai-Miso (仙台味噌)has a long history. Hiyashi-Chuka(冷やし中華)is made in Sendai.

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Drink

Due to the numerous universities located near the city center, the nightlife in Sendai is excellent for a city of its size. Several small dance clubs on or around Chuo-dori fill with incredibly energetic young people most nights of the week. Kokubunchō (国分町) is the main entertainment district. Full of restaurants, izakaya, bars, hostess bars and strip clubs.

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Sleep

View our map of accommodation in Sendai or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

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Keep Connected

Internet

Manga cafes are dotted along the streets of almost every city in Japan. For a very reasonable price (about ¥100 per 15 minutes), you receive a private cubicle with a PC with internet access at blistering Japanese internet speeds. The chairs are incredibly comfortable (making them an excellent place to sleep for the cash-deprived), and you can even order snacks and drinks from the staff.

A number of business hotels have Internet access available if you have your own device, sometimes for free. It is also possible to find Wi-Fi "hot spots" around many large cities in Japan, especially near tech-related businesses and large corporate buildings with unsecured wireless networks. 3G Wireless Data and Pocket Wifi are other options.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

Payphones (公衆電話 kōshū denwa) are easily found, particularly near train stations, although with the popularity of mobile phones, public pay phones are not quite as numerous as they once were. Gray and green pay phones accept ¥10 and ¥100 coins and prepaid cards. Be aware that not all places with public telephones have phones that accept coins, so it may be worthwhile to buy a phone card for emergency use. Some of the gray phones, as indicated on the display, can make international calls. Pre-paid cards can be purchased at convenience stores, train station kiosk stores and sometimes in vending machines next to the phone.

Modern Japanese mobile phones (携帯電話 keitai denwa or just keitai) tend to operate on unique cellular standards not always compatible with the rest of the world. 3G phones using the UMTS/WCDMA2100 standard and equipped with a 3G SIM card will most likely work. If your phone is up to spec, double-check with your carrier if they have a roaming agreement with either SoftBank or NTT DoCoMo. Coverage is generally excellent, unless you are heading to some remote mountainous areas. If you have no 3G phone but still have a 3G-compatible SIM card, you can rent a 3G phone in Japan and slot in your card, allowing you to keep your home phone number in Japan. For a longer trip, you can also purchase a phone, but doing this legally requires an Alien Registration Card (or an obliging Japanese friend willing to front for you).

The easier way is to get a prepaid phone. Prepaid phones are sold in most SoftBank and AU stores. If you already have a 3G phone, go with Softbank as it can sell SIMs as opposed to au whose prepaid service is phone-based like most CDMA carriers. Prepaid phones use a "card" with a pass key to "charge" a phone with minutes. These prepaid calling cards, unlike the phone itself, can be found in most convenience stores. A prepaid cell phone is available for as little as ¥5000 plus ¥3000 for a 60-90 day call time package, which will get drained at a rate of ¥100 per minute (¥10 per 6 seconds for AU's prepaid service). Both SoftBank and AU offer prepaid phones.

Post

The Japanese postal service is excellent! Domestic and international mail service is very quick and reliable. The prices for sending letters, postcards and parcels vary depending on where you send if from and to which country you send it too, and of course depends on weight as well, so check this calculation page of Japan Post for more details. Post offices generally are open from 9:00am to 5:00pm on weekdays, closing at weekends and also on national holidays, though a few open on Saturdays from 9:00am to 3:00pm. Central post offices are sometimes open until 7:00pm, open on Saturdays from 9:00am to 5:00pm and on Sundays and holidays from 9:00am to 12:30pm. There are post offices in every major city and minor town. Another thing to remember is that the post office is one of the few places in Japan that is guaranteed to have ATMs that take international cards.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 38.268215
  • Longitude: 140.8693558

Accommodation in Sendai

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This is version 12. Last edited at 12:21 on Aug 18, 17 by Utrecht. 4 articles link to this page.

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