Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Weekend Gateaway In Sendai

"Rectitude carried to excess hardens into stiffness; 
benevolence indulged beyond measure sinks into weakness."

Date Masamune (1567-1636)
founder of Sendai city



The locals of Sendai city often describe their city as "not too big, nor not too small, it's very convenient and it's close to both the sea and the mountains." Sendai city is the largest city in the northern region of Tohoku in Honshu island. The city possesses beautiful scenery, such as the Hirose-gawa River that runs through central Sendai, and the lush zelkova trees that line its streets. Greenery is especially abundant in the center of the city, which has tree-lined streets and parks. As a result, Sendai is called 杜の都 (Mori no Miyako, "Forest City").

I made a short two-days-one-night trip to this city over the weekend, temporarily to escape from the busy and crazy like in Tokyo. The journey on the night bus took us six hours and I woke up to a freezing morning at Sendai station.

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Five-thirty in the morning. You could hardly spot any human beings at the station at this hour.

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Early morning recharge at McDonalds.

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Walked to the nearby Tsutsujigaoka Park (榴ヶ岡公園) to catch the beautiful cherry blooms.
This park has a variety of Someiyoshino and weeping cherry trees planted along its paved lanes.

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Although the sakura season has ended in Tokyo, the cherry blossoms were at their peak over the weekend.

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One of the high-end section near the station, where it looks very much like Omotesando in Tokyo.

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The famous Jozenji Street (定禅寺通り). There are stories which says couples who visited this street together will break up after some time.

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A short break for a simple brunch at Mos Burger - hamburger and corn soup.

The modern city of Sendai was founded around the year 1600 by Date Masamune, one of feudal Japan's most powerful lords. Many of Sendai's tourist attractions are related to Masamune and his family.  

Sendai was the closest major city to the epicenter of the devastating earthquake of March 11, 2011. The tsunami devastated the city's coastal outskirts and the Sendai airport but fortunately, the city center was spared from major damage. Virtually all tourist spots reopened within a few months of the earthquake. Today, more than two years after that faithful day, the city has bounced back to its former state, although there are still several regions which are still in the process of recovery.

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It has been some time since I took the train using a ticket. When I'm in Tokyo, SUICA comes in handy.

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Musubimaru (むすび丸), the mascot character that promotes tourism in Miyagi prefecture.

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A statue in Asahigaoka Park.

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Dried lotus plants on the pond.

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Come summer, this lake will be covered with beautiful lotus.

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A Mandarin duck was spotted swimming in the pond.

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Sakura still in their buds, due to the cold weather.

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There are however, a few petals, which have bloomed.

After strolling around the city throughout the morning, it was time to get some food for lunch, before heading to the next destination. Lunch was just a simple meal at Handaya (半田屋), which is a perfect place for someone who looks for good value for their money. The restaurant practises such a concept, similar to university cafeteria where you get to choose any combinations for your meal from the wide variety of menus.

One thing for sure, the food here is cheap, tastes good and will guarantee you a full stomach after your meal. One downside however, is that there isn't any branches in Tokyo.

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Hiyashi chuka (chilled noodles), a Sendai specialty with tonjiru (pork soup) and salad for lunch,

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The local train in Sendai. There are only two to three coaches, way lesser then the trains in Tokyo.

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Rows of breathtaking sakura trees along Shiroishi river (白石川). There are approximately 1,000 cherry blossom trees that line along the river.

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One cool thing about the train ride is that they decrease the speed along this stretch for the passengers to enjoy the beautiful sight of the cherry blossoms.

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Emerald blue river and mountain with snow caps in the background. This is what I miss a lot when I am in Tokyo.

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Finally, arrival at Shiroishi station after almost an hour of train ride.

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As the most southern city in Miyagi prefecture, it is just a small city with population of 37,000 people.

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The major attraction of this city every spring is the Shiroishi castle.

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The main tower of the castle, which was restored in 1995 and opened to public.

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A small park within the castle, which is hugely popular during the hanami season.

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Small huts selling snacks and drinks.

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On the way home, stopped to get this famous snack called Haginotsuki (萩の月), similar to castella with custard cream as its filling.

Mention Sendai and one of the most synonymous dish related to this city is none other than gyutan (牛タン), or grilled beef tongue. These thinly sliced beef tongue are usually cooked over a charcoal grill, or in donburi form, as a curry, or in a beed stew. During my previous visit to Sendai, which was almost two years ago, I missed out trying this delicacy because the idea of eating ox's tongue is just too kimochiwarui (disgusting) to me.

However, this time, I managed to overcome my fear and decided to try and see how gyutan tastes like. For dinner, we dropped by Rikyu, a famous chain restaurant for its gyutan. There were already a long queue when we arrived there but fortunately, we managed to get into the restaurant in less than half an hour.

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Rikyu (利久), one of the two most popular gyutan chain restaurant in Sendai.

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It was full house inside the restaurant. However, there were plenty of staff and you won't be make to wait long until you get your food.

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Starter for the day - boiled beef with miso paste and fine onion slice.

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The set meal I ordered. It comes together with a bowl of oxtail soup and teamed white rice with barley (mugi gohan).

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A closer look at the plate of gyutan. My verdict? It actually tastes much better than I initially thought and it is recommended if you happen to be in Sendai.

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Something new and raw. Gyutan sushi.

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Another dish with gyutan as its base - gyutan ice cream.

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After the satisfying meal and a short walk around the city, it was time to retire at the hotel.

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The final stop to end the day was the top floor of SS30 to get a night view of Sendai city.

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What a perfect place to end the wonderful day with such a magnificent night view of Sendai city.

That's the end of day one in Sendai. Stay tune for the second day of my exploration of this beautiful city. Thanks for reading.

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