Shana and I decided that a day of doing something other than exploring our little town of Iwanuma was in order so we caught the train up to Sendai (about 25 min) and met another teacher friend of ours (Chris) at the train station to do a little tour of Sendai. Outside of Sendai station there was a little cultural demonstration going on of Japanese drumming, fan dancing and a large cartoon bird. Sendai is also known as, ‘The City of Trees” and if the landscape were a little less rugged it would look a lot like Sacramento translated in Japanese.
Unfortunately the weather was not particularly good but at least it didn’t rain until we were ready to leave.
We started out at the Sendai station and grabbed lunch at Dateno Gyutan. Sendai is famous for grilled beef tongue. Let me tell you. It was fantastic. Dateno specializes on this particular dish, in fact its pretty much all they make. We also had some beef tongue sausages that were really, really good. After lunch we caught the “Loople Sendai,” which is a trolley car that goes in a loop around central Sendai. For about $6.50 you can hop on and off all day at the different tourist attractions. Our first stop was the tomb of Date Masumune: Zuihoden Mausoleum.
The Zuihoden Mausoleum is up a steep hill so they have bamboo walking sticks for people to borrow during their hike. Date Masumune is basically the founder of Sendai and much of the Miyagi prefecture’s development is owed to him in some respect. Much of the original tomb was burned down but the recreation was done expertly down to the last detail. Also the pylons outside of the town were Date’s twenty closest followers and when he died, they all went with him voluntarily.
Next we stopped at Castle Sendai. This is a smidge misleading as there is not actually a castle there at all, just what used to be a castle much like the ruins of ancient Greece or Rome. However the site of Castle Sendai is on a large hill overlooking the city so it is a great vista point to check out panoramic view of Sendai. As I mentioned before the weather wasn’t the greatest so visibility was a little low. One thing I noticed was some of the sheared cliff walls around the river which were most likely a result of the earthquake that stuck in 2011. Also on the castle grounds was a troop of actors pretending to Date Masumune and his court. The “jester” or what passes for a samurai version of one saw us (being the only white people) as said a hearty, “Bon Journo!” in a convincing Italian accent. We responded in English and he asked where we are from. We said California and this other Japanese guy standing near us exclaimed, “OOOOOOOHH. California, very good!” and if it wasn’t totally impolite to hi-five strangers I’m sure he would have.
After that we stopped at the main shrine of Sendai: Osaki Hachamangu and climbed exactly 100 steps to the top. The shrine was very serene and surrounded by very tall Japanese pines. Also the shrine offered special prayer tablets for the local baseball team the Rakuten Eagles.
Back on the Loople we got off in the shopping district in downtown Sendai on Jozenji-Dori. This is a large pedestrian mall that resembles the Downtown Plaza in Sacramento or the covered streets of Old Town Las Vegas except about 3 times larger. We stopped in some stores to check things out including a place called Mr. Donuts which sells an dessert called, ‘The Lion Ring.” We stopped in a large electronics store were girls wearing tunics and high heels walk around advertising different cell phone companies. Finally we stopped for dinner at a Mo’s Burger which is closest thing I’ve had to a real hamburger since I have been here.
On our way through the station to catch our train home we found a foreign goods store in Sendai station that sells things like Belgian beer, cheeses from all over the world, real maple syrup, KRAFT macaroni & cheese and instant oatmeal. After buying a couple “essentials” we caught a train back to Iwanuma and called it a night.