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Sendai Travel Guide

A statue of samurai in Sendai.

A statue of samurai in Sendai.

Mausoleum of Masamune Date

Zuihôden (瑞鳳殿), Mausoleum of Masamune Date in Sendai.

The Tanabata Matsuri in Sendai is the most famous in Japan.

The Tanabata Matsuri in Sendai is the most famous in Japan.

Sendai : Medieval and Modern

Vibrant and placed under the auspices of its founding knight, Sendai has recovered from the earthquake of March 11th, 2011.

His helmet decorated with a half-moon, his black horse, his castle: everyone in Sendai knows Date Masamune (1567-1636), the great lord who made ​​this small port a prosperous and open city, from its founding in 1604. Renowned as angry and vengeful, Masamune was also an esthete, a connoisseur of Noh theater and calligraphy. The history and influence of the "One-Eyed Dragon" (the nickname of Masamune, who lost an eye as a child) can be visited in the west of Sendai, nestled on Kyogamine Hill.

The Japanese in Saint-Tropez

The former castle of the lord of Sendai is worth a visit, more for the spectacular views it offers than for its few ruins, although the guard tower is filled with beautiful period pieces. Below, in the silence of a cedar forest, the magnificent Zuiho-den sanctuary is the mausoleum of Date Masamune. Between gilding, reliefs, and flamboyant colors, it is a shining example of Momoyama style. On the other side of the hill, the municipal museum tells its glorious history, including this little-known period: Masamune multiplied contacts with the Christian West and Pope Paul V and in 1613 he sent a galleon to Rome, which created the first encounter between France and Japan, on a beach in Saint-Tropez!

The party in the stars

Sendai felt the brunt of the earthquake of March 2011, and if its shore were severely affected (Shiogama, Matsushima), its center shook but resisted. It was enough to bring back bad memories from1945, when Sendai was destroyed by American bombing, before being rebuilt with typical post-war town planning (a grid-iron pattern crossed with wide tree-lined roads, like Aoba dori, the home of local shopping). 10 blocks north, the Jozenji dori leads to the most famous building in town: its library, an amazing glass cube built by architect Toyo Ito.

Between these two avenues, the Iroha Yokocho (unaffected by American bombs) and Kokubun chô areas are there for you to unwind: bars, clubs, restaurants, where you can sample the famous Sendai grilled beef tongue (gyûtan). It is also where the Tanabata star festival is in full swing: around August 7th, the city is adorned with bamboo and Japanese paper decorations (the sasatake) and celebrates the myth of Vega and Altair.

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