The second half of our Loople Bus tour was no less exciting than what we had already seen. At the end of part 1 I was making my way up the winding path to the site of Sendai Castle. The walk was strenuous as viewers can attest, talking was getting difficult. At the end of the path was an extremely imposing wall on top of which are the remains of Sendai castle.
Episode 13.2: https://youtu.be/m176lVKO9wM
I stood there staring up the wall imaging what it must have been like to be an enemy soldier being tasked with attacking the castle. Likelihood of success seemed rather low. I couldn’t imagine charging the hill I had just come up, weighed down with equipment. You’d be gasping for breath, trying to recover while those above would be unleashing untold horrors down at you. Luckily for Nicole and I we were just winded tourists.
We followed the path along the base of the wall until we came to an entrance which leads up to the top. There was some information here detailing the damage inflicted on the area by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake. Several walls were destroyed and one large section of wall was severely warped, all seemed to have been rebuilt or repaired by the time of our visit in 2016.
This was the north wall entrance, marked by an impressive torri gate. This also happened to be a Loople Bus stop, after taking a look at the castle grounds we wouldn’t have to walk down that hill. Phew!
At the top of stone stairs we found a vast open area, dotted by a few buildings, trees and statues. The castle and old buildings no longer remain unfortunately, but the foundations of the great hall had been restored. It gives an idea of how large this building would have been.
Mere steps from the foundations was the edge of the cliff overlooking the city of Sendai. It’s an outstanding view. The main downtown area can be located by the cluster of high-rise buildings, including our hotel which seemed like the highest building in Sendai.
One of the more famous things to see up here is the statue of Date Masamune riding his horse. It’s strategically placed giving Masamune a great view over Sendai, allowing him to keep watch over the bustling city which he laid the foundation for 100s of years before. Along with Masamune’s statue was a sculpture of a black kite. By the time you read this the black kite should have been replaced on it’s perch atop a large stone pillar. But when we found the kite it was resting at the base. It had been severely damaged in the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, but being one of the most important bronze sculptures in Japan, it had been repaired.
The last visit for us up here was Miyagiken Gokoku Shrine. It’s a brilliant sight, mainly due to it’s bright vermilion colouring. It’s accompanied by a little water fountain on it’s grounds.
There was more to see at the grounds of Sendai Castle, but we ran out of time. There is a castle museum and a reconstructed tower. If you plan to come visit this sight we would recommend giving yourself 2, perhaps 3, hours. We’re not sure how large the museum is, but we easily spent an hour up there and didn’t even see it or the tower.
We headed back to the north wall entrance to wait for the Loople Bus to come and take us to our last stop for the day. It was about a 25-30 minute ride to Osaki Hachimangu Shrine, and it was getting late in the day. By the time we reached the entrance to the shrine, conveniently a Loople Bus stop (there is a trend there!), we only had about 40 minutes to explore.
Getting off the bus you cannot miss the shrine, as from this point the entrance to the long and straight path through the complex to the shrine is marked by a large vermilion torri gate. It’s always a neat sight to see in a large city, a large torri contrasted with the modern buildings around it.
We followed the path, up stairs, through large cedar trees, past smaller shrines. You know you are getting close when you come across the temizuya, a place for purification. These generally look like a water fountain of sorts, and will have some small ladles. This is where you purify yourself before approaching the shrine. Use a ladle to scoop some water and rinse off your hands, being careful to not do so over the basin of water. Some will also rinse their mouths by transferring water to a cupped hand using a ladle. Again, do not return the water to the communal basin! Just spit beside it. 🙂
After purifying we went up to the shrine to take a look. Unlike Miyagiken Gokoku Shrine, which was built in the early 20th century, Osaki Hachimangu has an air of a long history. This shrine was an important place in Sendai for the Date clan and thus has 400 plus years of history. It’s a serene place and we enjoyed strolling around the grounds. While initially a bit disappointed we arrived late and didn’t have much time to look around, as it started to become dark we were happy with how things turned out. The lights started to come on and a new sense of beauty appeared along with them. It added to the atmosphere and we felt lucky to have seen it at dusk.
Unfortunately we couldn’t linger too long as we would miss the last Loople Bus for the day. We hurried back to the stop, only to wait a nerve wracking 10 minutes. Had we missed it? Did we misunderstand the sign? Being used to the extremely punctual train system in Japan had us rather worried during those 10 minutes the bus was late. Luckily all was well as we were soon on the bus headed back to Sendai Station.
We made a quick pitstop at the hotel before heading out for dinner. We were in conflict over what to have for dinner, simultaneously craving sushi and deep fried skewers. We left our dinner fate in the flip of a ¥100 coin and headed to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant we had seen in the shopping arcade. Their menu was huge, so many different varieties to choose from, and luckily they had an English menu available. The food was quite good, we devoured plate after plate. I ventured out of my comfort zone and tried beef tongue sushi. Beef tongue is a specialty of Sendai, and while this wouldn’t be the best introduction, I was curious enough to give it a try. To my shock it was good and I liked it! We’d have to find a better representation another night, but this first taste was really good. Nicole ordered a piece after hearing me rave about it, but unfortunately she was not impressed. Chance seemed to have delivered her a very chewy piece, where mine was like butter her’s was like rubber.
We stumbled out of the restaurant full and content and headed back to the hotel to get some sleep. It had been a long and exciting day and sleep was in order. Sendai really impressed us, it felt like we had been there a few days given how much we saw in our first one. We looked forward to the following day.
If you ever visit Sendai do give the Loople Bus a try. They have an amazing website, with all the information you need.
Check it out here!
There were several locations featured in this episode
- North Wall Entrance – Where we picked up from episode 1. This is where we learnt about the damage done to the area during the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake.
- Date Masamune Statue – The famous statue of Masamune riding his horse. Amazing views out over Sendai.
- Miyagiken Gokoku Shrine – Brilliant vermilion Shrine on the site of the old Sendai Castle.
- Osaki Hachimangu Shrine – One of our favourite stops in Sendai. The grounds around the shrine are large and tranquil. A great place to come for a stroll.
- Tonkatsu Restaurant & Laundromat – How awesome would it have been to be doing laundry while simultaneously eating tonkatsu?
- Sendai Train Station – The kind of station you would expect to find in a big city, lots of platforms and lots of shops and restaurants to explore.
- Sushi Restaurant – Unable to find, but it was in the arcades. Generally if I forgot to record a place I can find it using Google Street View, but the street view in this area of Sendai is from 2011, perhaps it did not exist back then.
Thanks for watching/reading!