20 Things To Do In Sendai

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Sendai is the largest city in the Tohoku Region of Honshu Island. With around one million inhabitants, Sendai is one of the country’s 15 largest cities so there’s plenty of things to see and do in the area. Sendai is a modern city, but it was founded in 1600 by one of Japan’s feudal lords, Date Masamune. There is a plethora of historical, cultural, and interesting activities to do in Sendai. From mausoleums to castle ruins, to Onsen, waterfalls and markets. Check out this list of 20 things to do in Sendai before planning your final Japan itinerary.

Sendai, Japan

Planning Your Trip To Sendai

20 Things To Do In Sendai

Sendai City City Of City And Evening View
Best 20 things to do in Sendai, Japan.

1- Check Out the Zuihoden Mausoleum

The Zuihoden Mausoleum is that of Date Masamune, one of the most powerful lords during the Edo Period (1603-1863).

Masamune ruled Sendai from Aoba Castle.

While he is entombed at Zuihoden his son and grandson are entombed at nearby mausoleums.

The mausoleum is vibrant, with elaborate and rich colours.

Large and imposing cedar trees surround the paths and temple.


There is also a museum next to Zuihoden which displays some of the Date family’s artifacts and even specimens of their bones and hair.

Zuihoden Mausoleum is at 23 Otamayashita, Aoba Ward, Sendai, Miyagi 980-0814.

2- View The Aoba Castle Ruins

Aoba Castle, also known as Sendai Castle, was built by Dune Masamune in 1602.

If you head up to the castle tower, then you can enjoy wonderful and expansive views of the city.

Around 400 years ago during the Meiji Period a large fire (1882) destroyed much of the castle and a carpet bombing in 1945 ensured that most of the castle was just remnants.

As well as visiting the ruins you can also check out the museum that displays information about the castle during the Edo Period.

Aoba Castle is at 1 Kawauchi, Aoba Ward, Sendai, Miyagi 980-0862. To see the castle and other sites, you may like this private Sendai Tour.

3- Enjoy The Beautiful Views At Matsushima Bay

Matsushima Bay
Enjoying the views at Matsushima Bay is one of the things to do in Sendai Japan.

Just around 40 minutes via the JR Senseki Line from Sendai you will find Matsushima Bay filled with islands, a whopping 260 in fact and one of the most scenic bays in Japan.

You can take a peaceful and long walk along the shoreline as well as heading to Otakamori and Tamonzan overlooks.

You can also head out on a boat trip to explore some of the smaller islands.

Seeing as you can take the train from Sendai it’s a very easy, convenient day trip destination.

Matsushima Kaigan Station is at Namiuchihama Matsushima, Miyagi District, Miyagi 981-0213.

4- Visit Okama Crater

If you are visiting Sendai and have a particular fondness for geology, then it’s highly recommended to visit Okama Crater.

The Zao Echo Line is a mountain pass that crosses the Zao Mountain Range.

The Okama crater has a lake inside it and a circumference of around 1 km (0.62 mi).

The crater was at the overlapping summit of Mt. Zao-Karita, Mt. Kumano, and Mt. Goshiki.

You can’t access the crater between early November and late April because of the heavy snow.

Okama Crater is at 〒989-0916 Miyagi, Katta District, Zaō, Togattaonsen. Find out more here.

5- Relax At Akiu Onsen

Akiu Onsen is a traditional hot spring that was discovered 1,500 years ago.

It is one of the most famous hot springs in Japan and is commonly known as one of the “three royal hot springs” in the country.

Akiu Onsen is built along the river and visitors to the onsen can marvel at the spectacular valley views as they dip their bodies into the warm waters.

While in the area you can visit a day onsen or also stay at a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn) that is complete with its own onsen.

Akiu Onsen is at Taihaku Ward, Sendai, Miyagi.

6-Marvel At The Tanabata Festival

Origami Decorations
Enjoying the festivities of the Tanabata Festival is one of the best things to do in Sendai.

Japan’s Tanabata festival is also known as the “star festival”, taking place on the seventh day of the seventh month.

This festival takes place according to Chinese legend where two stars Altair and Vega meet (they are usually separated by the milky way).

When visiting Sendai during Tanabata Festival you will find the main shopping arcades and streets are decorated in beautiful vibrant colourful streamers.

These 3 to 5 metre streamers are often handcrafted by local shops, community groups and school students.

The decorations are made from washi paper and bamboo.

You will find decorations hanging along Ichibancho and Chuo shopping arcades which are just a few minutes’ walk from JR Sendai Station.

7- Hike Around Naruko Gorge

Naruko Gorge Miyagi Tohoku, Japan
Hike Around Naruko Gorge things to do in Sendai in April 2018.

Naruko Gorge is one of the most scenic gorges in Tohoku and it’s around 70km from Sendai.

If you are visiting Sendai during autumn, you should consider visiting Naruko as the entire area bursts into colour.

For the best spot for autumnal viewing head to Narukokyo rest house at the western end of the gorge.

Next to the rest house there is an observation deck where you can view Ofukazawa Bridge.

Along the main road that leads into the valley gorge there are places to park and take in the view.

There are also some excellent hiking trails.

Head out along the Naruko Gorge Walking Trails for excellent views or take the Ofukazawa Walking Trail for a great loop trail.

At the eastern end of the gorge there is also the Japan Kokeshi Museum which has an array of Kokeshi dolls from across the Tohoku Region.

At the museum you can watch these traditional dolls being made.

8- Feel Festive At The Sendai Pageant Of Starlight

Sendai Light Pageant Image
Feeling festive at the Sendai Pageant of Starlight is one of the things to do in Sendai at night.

The Sendai Pageant of Starlight is the largest winter illuminations in the Tohoku region.

Each winter if you head to Jozenji-dori Avenue you will find 600,000 lights creating the most magical atmosphere.

While you gaze at the sparkling lights you can check out the food stalls that sell some delicious and traditional foods and drinks.

They also have a live concert and ice skating to really get visitors in the festive winter mood.

Jozenji-dori Avenue is at Aoba Ward, Sendai, Miyagi.

9- Try Sendai’s Delicacy Gyutan-Yaki

If you are traveling to Japan with culinary experiences at the forefront of your mind, then you should definitely head to Sendai.

“Gyu” in Japanese means beef and “tan” means tongue.

So, you can guess what Gyutan-Yaki is! If you dare, try it you will find that it has a savoury taste but it’s super juicy.

This delicacy originated in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture.

One of the best places to eat this specialty is at Umami Tasuke, a restaurant that has been open since 1948.

Umami Tasuke is at Japan, 〒980-0803 Miyagi, Sendai, Aoba Ward, Kokubuncho, 2 Chome−11−11 千松島ビル 1F.

10- Taste Local Zunda-Mochi Sweets

Tasting zunda-mochi sweets is one of the best things to do in Sendai Japan.

Another excellent sweet that you must try when visiting Sendai is zunda-mochi, a Japanese confectionery.

Directly translated, it’s called green soybean rice cake.

One of the reasons that zunda-mochi became so famous was that it was the favourite dessert of Date Masamune, a famous regional ruler in the Edo Period.

Today you can eat zunda-mochi in many forms like pancakes, reverse zunda-mochi where the sticky rice is on the outside and the bean paste is in the center.

11- Go Skiing Or Snowboarding At Spring Valley Sendai Izumi Ski Resort

Hitting the slopes of Spring Valley Sendai Izumi Ski Resort is one of the fun things to do in Sendai.

The Spring Valley Sendai Izumi Ski Resort is on the northern slopes of Mt Izumigatae close to Sendai City.

This ski resort has a 906 m (2972 ft) quad lift as well as three pair lifts and is a popular resort for evening ski or snowboarding sessions.

The other ski area that is close to Sendai City is Izumigatake which is around 4km (2.4 mi) away from Izumigatee on the same mountain.

There are 12 courses at the resort, the longest of which is 1,400 metres (4593 ft).

Around 40% of the runs are intermediate, 40% advanced and 20% for beginners.

Spring Valley Sendai Izumi Ski Resort is at Dakeyama-14-2 Fukuoka, Izumi Ward, Sendai, Miyagi 981-3225.

12- Tuck Into Fresh Seafood At Sendai Morning Market

Sendia Asaichi market, also known as the morning market, is an excellent place to get a feel for local Japanese life.

This market is close to JR Sendai Station and its always bustling with activity.

The market is where many people go to spot fresh fruit, vegetables, and seafood.

From super fresh oysters to Miyagi Prefecture local delicacies there’s so much to see even if you decide not to purchase anything.

Surrounding the market there are also a wide selection of dining establishments selling fresh fish and vegetable dishes.

Sendai Morning Market is at 〒980-0021 Miyagi, Sendai, Aoba Ward, Central, 3 Chome−8−5 3F318号室 新仙台駅前ビル.

13- Write A Message On An Ema At Osaki Hachimangu Shrine

The construction of Osaki Hachimangu Shrine was ordered by the famous Date Masamune in 1607.

The shrine’s deity is the Shinto god of war, Hachiman, the guardian and protector of Sendai.

The shrine is built in the style of many of Date Masamune’s contracted pieces.

The architecture is striking with its black lacquer, gold leaf and accents of vibrant colours.

While visiting this beautiful temple you should write a wish or a prayer on an ema.

An ema is a small wooden plaque that is common to find at Shinto or Buddhist temples.

Osaki Hachimangu Shrine is at 4 Chome-6-1 Hachiman, Aoba Ward, Sendai, Miyagi 980-0871.

14- Spend Some Time In The Shade At Jozenji-Dori Street

The Sendai Pageant of Starlight can be viewed on Josenji-Dori Street, but this is also a lovely urban space to visit throughout the year.

The street is lined with trees and runs from east to west right through the center of Sendai.

The promenade is around 700 metres long.

Zelkova trees (Japanese elms) run along the promenade creating the perfect amount of shade for a sunny day and there are plenty of benches to rest at as well.

In autumn, the trees change into a rich golden colour and the area surrounding Jozenji-Dori Street has a wonderful local vibe.

Live music can be enjoyed on the street in September as part of the Jozenji Street Jazz Festival.

Jozenji-Dori Street is at Aoba Ward, Sendai, Miyagi, Japan.

15- Check Out Akiu Great Falls

Akiu Great Falls is a 55 metre (180 ft) cascading waterfall in Taihaku Ward of Sendai.

This stunning waterfall is just 30 minutes from central Sendai.

You will first walk through the forest down to the platform that overlooks the Akiu Otaki Falls or take a short hike down to the base of the waterfall (but tread carefully; it’s slippery).

Having taken in the waterfall in all its glory you can head to the onsite tea house where there are traditional teas, coffees and Japanese snacks and desserts.

Autumn is one of the most scenic times of year to visit Akiu Great Falls because the waterfall is surrounded by vibrant colours.

Akiu Great Falls is at Otaki Akiumachi Baba, Taihaku Ward, Sendai, Miyagi 982-0244.

16- Eat Sasakama (Fish Cake)

White Raw Rectangular Fish Cake At Plate
Eating Sasakama (fish cake) is one of the top things to do in Sendai.

Sasakama or sasa kamaboko, a fish cake, is another of Sendai’s famous culinary delights.

When you visit Sendai, you will soon see that there are a myriad of shops selling this fish cake on a stick.

Sasakama is believed to date back more than 150 years.

It’s plump and fluffy with a bouncy texture, literally made by grinding fish meat into a paste.

They are tasty to eat while bar hopping around the back alleyways of Sendai.

17- Take A Trip To The Akiu Traditional Craft Village

The Akiu Traditional Craft Village is home to local artists and artisans showcasing their unique and traditional craft skills.

When visiting the village, you get a real feel for the collective rural community.

You can learn more about the history, nature, traditions and crafts when visiting the village.

There are many traditional crafts (called kogei) on display at the village and you can also buy many of the crafts you see.

From wooden crafts to kokeshi dolls, handwoven fabrics and umoregi creations (a traditional carving craft).

Akiu Traditional Craft Village is at Uehara-54-20 Akiumachi Yumoto, Taihaku Ward, Sendai, Miyagi 982-0241.

18- View The Sendai Dai Kannon Statue

The Dai Kannon Statue is a large statue of the goddess Kannon (goddess of mercy).

When it was built in 1991 it was the world’s tallest statue, today it’s the eighth tallest statue in the world at 100 metres (330 ft).

The statue stands proudly on a hill looking out over the city and across the nearby golf course.

This isn’t just a statue to admire from the exterior you can even go inside.

This particular goddess has 33 shapes or forms which are represented on the ground floor by 33 sculptures.

It’s a fascinating place to visit and also an active place of worship.

The Sendai Dai Kannon Statue is at Nakayamaminami-31-36 Sanezawa, Izumi Ward, Sendai, Miyagi 981-3217.

19- Watch The Sendai Aoba Festival Celebrations

The Sendai Aoba Festival is usually held on the third Sunday of May.

This festival originated during the Edo period and celebrates the aesthetic of the Date Clan, a Japanese clan founded in 1189 by Date Tomomune.

This is one of Sendai’s three major festivals and it’s well worth planning your trip to Sendai to coincide with this event.

The celebration began after the completion of Toshogu Shrine.

Aoba Shrine was built to honour the founder of Sendai, Date Masamune and a celebration emerged referred to as Aoba Festival.

On day one, which is known as Yoi-Matsuri, there’s a special Sparrow Dance competition and performance.

This is almost like the warmup to the main event, Hon Matsuri, the following day.

On Sunday, samurai come out and play.

There are reenactments and a huge parade that travels through the city.

It’s a festival that turns heads and there is certainly never a dull moment.

20- Take A Trip To Sendai Umino-Mori Aquarium

If you are visiting Sendai with children, then you should certainly make a trip to Sendai Umino-Mori Aquarium.

This aquarium has almost 100 water tanks of animals and fish from around the world.

The aquarium is also known for its dolphin and sea lion performances and sea lion and penguin encounters.

Many people love the therapeutic interaction area where you can actually interact, feed and play with some of the sea creatures.

Sendai Umino-Mori Aquarium is at Japan, 〒983-0013 Miyagi, Sendai, Miyagino Ward, Nakano, 4 Chome−6.

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Harriet Comley
Harriet Comley is a travel enthusiast, freelance travel writer and a lover of safaris. Since 2017 she has been travelling the globe living in the UK, Canada, Vietnam, China and now Zambia, where she is completing her PhD in Sustainable Tourism. For 3 1/2 years she taught English in Vietnam and China. Now she has turned her attention to writing, having contributed to a number of travel blogs and websites always focusing on what she loves most…exploring!