Sightseeing and Attractions
Sendai's great public transport links mean that you will never be short of things to do or places to visit. There are several sightseeing spots within the city and in the surrounding areas that can make for a fun day trip. Further afield, you can check out spots in your new home prefecture, or other parts of Tohoku (Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Miyagi, Yamagata and Fukushima)
Zuihoden Mausoleum (Sendai City)
The Mausoleum is pretty interesting and the gardens are well worth a look. Various members ofthe famous Date clan are lurking here, and there are a couple of shortwalks. By ignoring the notices and stepping over a few ropes you can also climb up and get a good view of the Hirose river. The Yageyama bus goes past here, as does the Sendai Loople.
Yasoen Koen (Sendai City)
Down south just off the main 286 route, Yasoen Koen is a wild plants garden with a seemingly under-utilised park. It has heaps of great trees and plants, not to mention a huge LAWN (something I miss here in Japan!). Great for a picnic on a good day.
Michinoku Kohan Koen (Miyagi)
Michinoku park is just outside of Sendai city and has large flower beds and fountains. Play areas for children and picnic areas for grown ups.
Akiu (Sendai City)
The falls themselves are OK although they aren't exactly enormous. The pool at the bottom looks great for summer swimming, but apparently this is not the done thing. There are also some great walking trails in this area.
This is one of the three `most scenic' spots in Japan. You can visit the museum up on the small hill by the beach, or drink green tea looking out to sea in the place where Date Masamune greeted his samurai warriors. There is an awesomely stinky fish market, and more temples to see, not to mention that you can paint their own Kokeshi doll for an outrageous sum if you are so inclined. And, if you walk across the long red bridge you can relive the `Swallows and Amazons' days of your youth and wander round an island with some pretty good views.
Yamadera Temple (Yamagata Prefecture)
Yamadera dates back to 860 (or thereabouts) and is a whole cluster of buildings that crawl up a steep hillside. Bits of the complex have been destroyed by fire, but much of the authenticity remains and the forest setting is beautiful. There is a monument to the Japanese Haiku poet Basho, and from the top you get a fabulous view down a steep-sided valley. It looks great in spring and winter, and the autumn colour is superb.
In Hiraizumi itself the main attraction is Chuson-ji Temple and the famous Gold room. If you are sick of temples and want something a bit different then try the boat trip up Gei-biki Gorge. It's a little way out of Hiraizumi but the gorge itself is beautiful, rocky and steep-sided with a river full of carp. A boatman guides you along between high cliffs and at the end you can get out and wander around for a few minutes. On the trip back the boatman sings for a while, after which you can relax surrounded by greenery.
This place is worth a visit just for the bus ride. Leaving from Sendai station, the trip takes you out west for about one hour, on a narrow road that goes past Ohkura Dam. Joge-san is a new pagoda-type construction, not particularly historic but still interesting for a look. It is set in a Japanese garden complete with pond. The buses return to Sendai only once an hour - make sure you find out what time the last one leaves because it's a long walk home.
There are a million other things to do in Sendai, and even more in the areas outside the city. It can be difficult adjusting to everything in the first few months, so when school gets draggy or Sendai gets too crowded, pack up and head for the hills. Most of these places can be easily reached on public transport but if you have an international driving license I suggest you simply hire a car and get lost - truly the best way to brush off the cobwebs, and to see things you never expected.