We quickly found out just how amazing Sendai’s tourist friendly network of attractions really is on our first full day exploring. Their Loople Bus, which connects all the main attractions on a single loop around Sendai, is very handy and well thought out. On top of that the price of ¥650 is extremely reasonable as it includes discounts at many of the attractions along the way. It practically pays for itself.
Episode 13.1: https://youtu.be/HfScbsf1zIo
As expected, we woke to rain hitting our windows. It looked like it was going to be a rather dreary day. We didn’t let that slow us down, we were determined to have a fun day out exploring Sendai.
We started our day, as we usually do, although not on camera this time, with a filling breakfast. The breakfast buffet at the Westin was very good. Lots of variety, good Japanese and Western choices. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast as we got down to the buffet pretty early. And as luck would have it, by the time we finished and got back to our room the weather was turning. What started out as a miserable looking day had turned into a partly cloudy, partly sunny day. Perfect!
We hustled to the train station in search of the tourist office. It eluded us for a bit, but we eventually found it in the JR ticket office and got the lowdown on the Loople Bus. Tickets are purchased down in the bus terminal area at a booth right beside the Loople stop. We were impressed to find a very helpful lady working at the bus stop. She had a binder full of information for various sites in various languages. That was very handy as she was able to explain to us that one of the attractions on the loop, the botanical gardens, was closed.
We didn’t wait long for the bus to arrive, well actually, it was already there waiting to begin it’s run for the day, which was about 15 minutes after we arrived at the stop. It’s a cute little bus, reminiscent of the tourist trolleys in San Francisco. Once on we found navigating the route very easy as there was a screen explaining the next stop.
Our first stop on our tour for the day was Kyogamine Hill where the mausoleum of the famous Date Masamune is located, along with the mausoleums and grave sites of several other past feudal lords of Sendai. This area of burials is called Zuihōden. The walk from the Loople stop was up the hill, along a road lined with huge cedar trees. It was a beautiful setting. Luckily we approached Zuihōden from this direction because along the way up the hill we came across a temple situated in a quite vast and beautiful Japanese garden. This was Zuiho-ji Temple and not something we knew about before seeing it’s entrance gate from the road to Zuihōden. The grounds around the temple are tranquil and quiet. Nicole commented how insane it was that we had just taken a short 10 minute bus ride from the centre of Sendai to this peaceful place.
We continued our way up to Zuihōden which felt like a forest on the top of Kyogamine Hill. Full of huge cedars it to was very tranquil and quiet and again we found it hard to believe we were practically in a bustling city. Unfortunately Zuihōden was pretty much completely destroyed in the heavy bombings of WWII and it seemed that all the buildings were reconstructions dating back to the late 70s and 80s. Date Masamune’s reconstructed mausoleum was impressive and very beautiful in it’s ornate decorations. The route through Zuihōden is an easy one to navigate and after getting our fill of this first mausoleum and it’s connected little museum we continued along to two other mausoleums of past feudal lords.
Zuihōden is exquisitely maintained and a pleasure to experience. This is on our top three must visit places in Sendai, and likely a place we would visit again if we ever return to Sendai.
A short Loople Bus ride away is the Sendai City Museum. The museum gives an excellent overview of Sendai history dating back to the time of Date Masamune and does a good job chronicling the history of it’s growth. There’s also some samurai artifacts on display, some impressive suits of armour and weapons. In what felt a bit like a child’s area you can try on a replica of Date Masamune’s famous crescent moon helmet. I obviously did try it on, it made good video footage.
The Sendai City Museum is another attraction high on our list. It is very accessible to non-Japanese speakers, quite a bit of English throughout. I opted to rent an English audio guide which did expand the wealth of information available.
Part 1 of this episode left us making our way up a huge hill to the site of the old Sendai castle. Unfortunately the castle no longer remains, but the views at the top of the hill are supposed to be amazing. We’ll find out in Part 2.
There were several locations featured in this episode
- The Westin Sendai – Our home for the next 4 nights. The views out over Sendai from our room on the 36th floor were astonishing.
- 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.
- Loople Bus Stop @ Sendai Station – Should be easy to find with the Google map link. Note that it is down under the pedestrian walkways out front of Sendai Station.
- Cemetery – A small little cemetery we came across on our way to Zuihōden.
- Zuiho-ji Temple – It was quite a surprise to find this temple along the way to Zuihōden. It would have been worth the visit in it’s own right.
- Zuihōden Mausoleum – The remains of the famous Date Masamume are located here in his mausoleum. There are a few other mausoleums and grave sights of other feudal lords from the Date family here as well.
- Sendai City Museum – An excellent museum detailing the history of Sendai.
- Ruins of Castle Wall – On our way up the hill to the sight of the old Sendai Castle we came across an old outer wall which had seen better days, mainly due to earthquakes over the years.
Thanks for watching/reading!