Ahead of this trip I asked a number of students what to do in Sendai and true to form they all said to eat gyutan (beef tongue). Food in Japan really is an obsession and whichever part of Japan I mention the response is usually food-based. It had already been one hell of a long day by the time we arrived in Sendai on the back of visits to Zao Fox Village and Funaoka. After a short rest break at our hotel we popped out to get some gyutan and it was only by chance that we stumbled upon this popular restaurant (below) where you are limited to one hour.
Across the road from there was The Hub (below) which is a popular chain of “British-style” pubs dotted around Japan. It is perhaps a little ironic that the only similarity between real British pubs and the Japanese version is that they sell alcohol! It may be different to usual Japanese izakaya but it’s feeling and atmosphere is still quintessentially Japanese. Normally I wouldn’t bother to go near such a place (and I can’t really believe I’m writing about such stuff in a blog about Sendai!!) but with a couple of friends who have frequented most, if not all 80 or so Hubs in Japan, I thought I’d join their elite club and step in the Sendai version for a quick drink.
There was a lot of wall props relating to local J-League team Vegalta Sendai; a team I saw in action last May when they were visitors the Edion Stadium in Hiroshima. The mascot is a golden eagle inspired by Greek mythology. He’s called Vegatta and is believed to be a favourable omen for victory.
Sadly they weren’t playing at home whilst I was in town but that didn’t stop me from popping along to their home stadium for a quick look early one morning. It’s just six minutes walk from Izumicho on the Namboku Line.
Having been to Sendai Daikannon by myself, I later met up with my wife (who preferred to do some shopping) for lunch and I ate some ten ita soba with tempura (below) which was a little on the expensive side but if you can’t splash out when you’re on holiday when can you?!
After that I thought it was time to actually see a proper sight within the confounds of the city centre. Aoba Castle was the result of that decision. It’s a 25 min walk from Kokusai Center station on the Tozai Line and is very well sign-posted. First up was a place of sporting significance. In the mid-Meiji era, foreigners began figure-skating on this pond (below) and in 1909 a German teacher at a local high school taught students how to skate and from there the sport spread nationwide and so this pond is considered the birthplace of figure skating in Japan.
It’s an uphill walk to Aoba Castle which is located on a plateau overlooking the city of Sendai with the statue of the legendary warrior and leader Date Masamune on a horse taking pride of place. He was responsible for the castle being built in 1600 and it was his decision to locate the fortifications on Mount Aoba, 100 meters above the town below.
The views across the opposing bank of the Hirose River are lovely and in the distance you can even see the 100 metres tall white buddha standing (below) in the foreground of the mountains.
Oh, did I forget to mention that there isn’t actually a castle! That was destroyed by a rival feudal lord and now there is only really remnants (above) of where the outer stone walls once stood. Gokoku Shrine (below) can also be found in the vicinity and it includes a museum focusing on Japan’s modern military history.
My idea for this trip was to just visit Zao Fox Village on a day-trip but my wife wanted to stay overnight somewhere and so we decided that it was better to stay in Sendai rather than Zao. It might have been a rather limited trip but was one that I was very glad to have done as it would have been a shame to be up in the Tohoku region for just the one day.