The City of Trees: A visit to Sendai and the Aoba Castle - Vikingess Voyages

Monday, October 12, 2015

The City of Trees: A visit to Sendai and the Aoba Castle

The Hirose (広瀬) River
Sendai is Northern Japan's largest city, and it is situated in the Miyagi prefecture approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes away from Tokyo by the bullet train (Shinkansen).

As many costal areas in Miyagi, parts of Sendai were also affected by the tsunami that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake that struck Japan in March 2011. Some places you can still see the effect of the disaster, and if you visit areas close to the coast you might notice the many new buildings and building projects as you pass by. Still, life in Sendai seems to be back to normal, and tourists are finally starting to come back to visit the area as well. With its history and beauty it is well worth a trip if you're looking for a short getaway from Tokyo.

A building on the way up to Aoba Castle
I went on a short weekend trip to Miyagi with my friend Amee during Silver Week, and beside our main destination, the Zaō Fox Village, we had decided to spend one day in Sendai.

Sendai might be a good option if you want to experience Japanese city life but at the same time prefer places that are less crowded and closer to nature. The city is actually known as the city of trees (杜の都), and has even been considered one of the greenest cities in Japan. Just a short walk away from the station you'll find a number of tree-lined streets and beautiful parks. In fact, many of the places you would want to visit are situated in the outskirts of the city, so if you don't mind walking it is a great place to see by foot.
Sendai Castle's great wall
We found that it was very easy to get around as well, as the city is neither big nor difficult to navigate. In our case we had decided to take things chill and just walk to the places we wanted to visit, but it is also recommendable to buy a day pass for the bus that you can use to get easily around the city to the places you'd like to see as the main sights are located a bit far apart from each other. 
Date Masamune
The main place we visited in Sendai was the remains of the Aoba Castle (青葉城), which is also known as Sendai Castle. The structure was originally built back in 1601, but throughout history the castle has been destroyed a number of times by earthquakes, fires and not to mention American attacks during the WW2, so there aren't many remaining structures to see. There have however been taken initiatives to make the place more interesting for tourists, and if you are heading over to the castle site you might also want to check out for instance the Sendai City Museum.

Amee and me in front of the statue of Date Masamune
Although the original castle structures are gone you can still enjoy a couple of other sights at the Sendai Castle Site, such as a statue of the famous Dante Masamune (伊達政宗). Masamune was the seventeenth head of the Date clan, and the founder of Sendai. He was also the one who originally ordered Sendai's castle to be built on the Aoba Hill.

In addition to the statue you can also enjoy the great view of the city, which in itself was worth the long walk up the hill.
The view from Sendai Castle
There is also some other buildings of interest at the top of the temple walls. We stopped by a small shrine called Miyagiken Gokoku Jinja (宮城縣護國神社), which I have some pictures from below.

Miyagiken Gokoku Jinja
A lot of Japanese shrines offer visitors the chance to buy an "ema" (絵馬), which is a small wooden plaque where you can write your own wishes on the backside. After having written down a wish many people hang the ema on a designated fence inside the shrine area. The different shrines have their own particular themes and designs for the ema, and Miyagiken Gokoku Jinjahad among others some ema with the motif of Dante Masamune on his horse.

An ema with Dante Masamune
Miyagiken Gokoku Jinja

The visit to the Sendai Castle Site was very interesting, and well worth our time. If you have the chance I would also recommend stopping by the Zuihoden Mausoleum, which is situated not more than 10 minutes or so away from the castle site by bus. Here you can find the final resting place of Date Masamune, which is supposed to be a gorgeous and picturesque structure. Unfortunately we didn't have the time to stop by this time, so instead I've totally randomly added this picture of a Sendai police box (交番) that we passed by simply because I liked the architecture..

A police box koban (交番)

The location of the Aoba/Sendai Castle:

Recommended Hotels in Sendai

Sendai Washington Hotel
Sendai Washington Hotel
The Westin Sendai Hotel
The Westin Sendai Hotel
Mitsui Garden Hotel Sendai
Mitsui Garden Hotel Sendai
Sendai Royal Park Hotel
Sendai Royal Park Hotel

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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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