The day started much differently than we had planned, Mother Nature was not on our side. Plan A was to go visit Yamadera, an hour train trip from Sendai through the mountainous area of Mt. Daito. Unfortunately the wind was so strong that JR had to cancel all trips on the line. This explained the delays we had leaving Sendai Station and the delay at a station about a quarter of the way to Yamadera. At that station they finally decided to send us back to Sendai.
Episode 14.1: https://youtu.be/lNM1kzKpPns
We were a little shocked. The thought that we might not make it to Yamadera didn’t even cross our minds, which meant we had no Plan B.
Back at Sendai Station we wandered around, thinking what to do, when we came across an interesting food stall. Zunda Saryo served a Sendai specialty, zunda mochi. A combination of mochi, a sweet glutinous rice cake, encased in zunda, a sweet paste made from boiled edamame. It didn’t look very appealing, a cup of vibrant chunky green goo. But what the heck, it was a specialty.
Zunda mochi in hand, we headed back to the hotel, partly to research Plan B and partly to try this interesting food item we picked up at the train station.
Refreshed and comfortably perched on our bed back at the hotel I dove in. Wow, it was spectacular. The zunda part, the green paste was thick, a little chunky and perfectly sweet. I could have just eaten a cup full of the stuff. But I dug a little deeper to uncover some of the mochi hidden inside. It too was very good, not overly mushy as some mochi can be, it had a good spring. The zunda complimented the mochi very well. I let Nicole have a try, she was less than impressed. But then, she doesn’t like mochi, nor does she like edamame, I’m not sure what she expected. Fine by me though, I could finish it all.
Seeing as we’d give Yamadera another try the following day, we swamped some plans and decided to run an errand, do some money exchange at a bank. There was a bank just down the street from our hotel, a location of the 77 Bank chain. It was an interesting experience, and had we not been oblivious as we walked through the door, could have been a rather quick visit.
We took a number to wait our turn for a teller. We had two choices of button to press for a ticket, by complete luck Nicole chose the correct button, we later learnt one button was for personal, the other for business. Our number was eventually called, we walked up to the teller who once had deciphered what we wanted told us to go up to the third floor. And so we did, up the extremely long escalator. Finding the proper counter was easy on the third floor, and again the person helping us deciphered what we wanted and told us to return to the first floor. This seemed to be going no where. But she was very nice and escorted us down, to walk us to the currency exchange machine just inside the main entrance, clearly marked in English. How embarrassing! From there it was a simple exchange and we again had a wallet full of yen.
All that work at the bank had built up our appetites. Before making the hike out to Rinnō-ji temple we needed to find some lunch. We found our way to Kokubun-cho, the largest entertainment district in all of Tohoku. It’s basically a long street full of restaurants and bars, and at lunchtime is very quiet. We found a restaurant overlooking Jozenji-dori, a famous avenue in Sendai, known for it’s beautiful boulevard.
The restaurant, Ootoya, was on the second floor of a building on Jozenji-dori. It was empty at the time we arrived, and remained quiet during our meal. We could choose any seat in the place, and got to sit right at the window. Nicole was delighted to find another Sendai specialty on the menu, grilled beef tongue. Despite her experience the night before, she wanted to try a better representation of the dish. I opted for a simmered chicken cutlet. The tongue came out sizzling, served on a hot stone. Her second round with beef tongue was much better than her first, she really enjoyed her meal.
Full and satisfied we took a quick visit to the boulevard in Jozenji-dori to see some of the famous bronze statues. We imagined how beautiful the boulevard would have been a few weeks before, when the tree would be full of leaves changing colours. Or a few weeks after our visit when the trees are lit up with white lights. Actually, that could have been going on while we visited Sendai, we never managed to make it out here at night.
Knowing we had limited daylight left we cut our stroll along Jozenji-dori short and started the hike out to Rinnō-ji Temple. We took what felt like a route off the beaten path, walking through a residential area of Sendai. It was interesting to take in the atmosphere and pointing things out which were different from home. One such thing, which felt a little sketchy as the roads were getting busy at that time of day, was the lack of sidewalks. We were basically walking in the road, which the locals were also doing. There were also neat contrasts between some ultra modern looking homes and old traditional looking buildings which unfortunately had seen better days.
As often happens when we least expect it wandering around Japan, we came across a shrine right off the road we were following. It was a pretty large building and grounds which seemed to appear out of nowhere. Our first hint was a torii at the edge of the road, and as we passed another building blocking the view buildings of the complex started to reveal themselves.
It’s always a challenge when we are pressed for time and something like this happens. But we can never stop ourselves from exploring what is right in front of us. As we walked into the complex we realized that there was a vast cemetery behind the main hall. This is Kumano Shrine, as we learnt when we arrived back at the hotel and looked up what we had found.
Part one of this episode ends with a dilemma as we came across what looked like a grocery store, our kryptonite.
There were several locations featured in this episode
- 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.
- 77 Bank – Had an interesting visit at this bank location. Pro tip: the currency exchange machine is right in the entrance, has English menus and is self-serve!
- Ootoya Restaurant – A very good restaurant serving grilled beef tongue overlooking Jozenji-dori.
- Jozenji-dori Avenue – Major road in Sendai with lots of shop and restaurants. Also has a beautiful boulevard with a famous sculpture to check out.
- Kumano Shrine – A hidden shrine we happened upon on our way to Rinnō-ji Temple.
Thanks for watching/reading!