15 Best Things To Do In Sendai, Japan

There are so many great things to do in Sendai it can be tough to narrow down your options. Sendai is the largest city in Japan’s northern Tohoku region and the capital of Miyagi Prefecture. While the area was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, Sendai remains a vibrant, bustling hub of culture, history, and modern sights.

Home to around a million people, Sendai owes much of its history to the powerful samurai clan of Date, who founded the city in 1600. Nicknamed the city of trees, Sendai’s trees are a feature that helps this otherwise urban jungle endear itself to visitors, with plenty of parks and nature on the doorstep.

From famous cherry blossom spots and historic castle ruins to local markets and iconic burger joints, some amazing things to do in Sendai make a visit to this northern Japanese city very much worth your time.

Things to do in Sendai

Hike Up to Sendai Castle

Cameron Pounding Mochi At The Sendai Castle During A Festival

Sendai Castle may not be all there, as what’s left is largely a ruin – but it remains a top sight in the city. Oaba Castle was built in 1600 by Date Masamune, a powerful lord immortalized by a statue up the top. Rebellion, revolution, and WWII carpet bombing took their toll on the castle.

Today, the structure is no more than its nevertheless impressive outer stone walls. Located 100 meters above Sendai itself, on Mount Oaba, it is a beautiful lookout over the city below. You may even meet Masamune himself wandering the grounds for a photo opportunity – not his ghost, but an actor.

  • Location: Kawauchi
  • Cost: Free (bus from Sendai Station is ¥260) 
  • Tips: Learn more at the nearby Aoba Castle Museum (admission ¥700)

Visit the Osaki Hachimangu Shrine

Osaki Hachimangu Shrine

Osaki Hachimangu was established by the Date clan in 1607. This Shinto (native Japanese religion) shrine venerates the god of war, Hachiman. The recently renovated shrine is striking for its architecture. Unique in the world of Shinto shrines—usually plain wood or painted red—it is covered in luxurious black lacquer with gorgeous gold leaf detailing. A shrine busy with locals and tourists alike, Osaki Hachimangu is a national treasure that remains part of everyday life; visiting it is easily one of the best things to do in Sendai.

  • Location: Aoba-ku
  • Cost: Free to enter the shrine grounds
  • Tips: Buy an amulet for good fortune or to protect against failing exams!

Get Great Views of the Akiu Great Falls

Akiu Great Falls In The Autumn

Akiu Great Falls is not only one of “Japan’s Top 100 Waterfalls” but is, in fact, one of the “Three Great Waterfalls of Japan.” Located on the city’s outskirts, in Taihaku ward, traveling here – just 30 minutes from the bustling city center – reveals a wild world untouched by urban sprawl.

Enter through the gate of an old shrine, surrounded by old pine trees for extra atmosphere. There is a platform that allows you great views of the falls themselves, plummeting from 55 meters—an impressive sight to behold.

  • Location: Taihaku-ku
  • Cost: Free
  • Tips: Head to Akiu between late October and early November for fall foliage

Step Back in Time at the Zuihōden Temple

Zuihōden Temple In Senda With Flowers

Zuihōden Temple is a sprawling mausoleum complex dedicated to Date Masamune, with his heirs and various other descendants laid to rest nearby. Surrounded by towering, centuries-old cedar trees – supposedly symbolizing the long life of the Date clan – ticking the Zuihōden off your sightseeing list is one of the best things to do in Sendai.

The architecture is an ornate example of the Momoyama Period (1573-1603) style, with complex roof joints painted a rainbow of radiant red and striking turquoise. This is no dull mausoleum, that’s for sure.

  • Location: Aoba-ku
  • Cost: Admission is ¥550 (opening hours are 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.)
  • Tips: The nearby museum boasts Date clan artifacts – including hair and bones!

Learn About Local History at the Sendai City Museum

Sendai City Museum is the main museum in town. It’s here where you should make a beeline if you want to learn how the city grew from its humble origins into the largest city in Japan’s Tohoku region. Inside the impressive concrete structure, you’ll find over 90,000 items. This comprehensive museum—a must-visit for history buffs—represents everything from old samurai armor to paintings and ceramics.

  • Location: Aobayama Park
  • Cost: Admission is ¥400 (opening hours 9 a.m. – 4:15 p.m.)
  • Tips: Try on a replica of Date Masamune’s iconic helmet while you’re here!

Attend the Jōzenji Street Jazz Festival

A Man Playing Jazz

If you are a music lover, you should plan your trip to Sendai around this hallowed music extravaganza. Beginning in 1987, the Jōzenji Street Jazz Festival is one of the biggest events in Sendai, drawing thousands of visitors and hundreds of performances to a mix of over 40 stages and venues. Taking place over a weekend in September, it’s not just about the jazz: there’s also pop, rock, blues – you name it. 

  • Location: Jōzenji Street
  • Cost: Free!
  • Tips: Book your accommodation in advance – it’s popular

Be Amazed by the Towering Sendai Daikannon

A Close Up Shot Of The Sendai Daikannon

If you want something cool in Sendai, how about checking out one of the world’s largest statues? Sendai’s Daikannon – or “Big Kannon” – is indeed large. Specifically, it is the tallest statue of Nyoirin Kannon (Buddhist deity of mercy) in the world. At the time of completion, in 1991, Daikannon was Earth’s tallest statue.

A 30-minute bus ride from Sendai itself, visiting is more of an adventure than just gazing at a statue. You can enter the statue – through the mouth of a dragon, of course – then ride up 12 stories via an elevator to reach amazing views at the top. On a clear day, you can see the Pacific Ocean.

  • Location: Izumi-ku
  • Cost: Admission is ¥500
  • Tips: Take the stairs back down to see dozens more statues

Have Lunch in a Sandwich Shop from the 1950s (Hosoya Sandwich)

Hosoya Sandwich Shop Restaurant Front

A veritable institution, Hosoya Sandwich is among the oldest purveyors of delicious things between two pieces of bread Japan offers. If you’re craving something that’s not sushi or miso soup, this should be where you head.

Pay a visit, grab a stool at the counter, and order one of a handful of burger variations, such as the “Sendai Burger” (featuring a plus-size patty). Eating here is easily one of the best things in Sendai—the food is good, but the interiors are also impressive.

  • Location: Aoba-ku
  • Cost: Between ¥1,000 – ¥1,500 (including fries and a drink) 
  • Tips: Look under the burger you order; the bun has a logo!

Soak Up Some Art at Miyagi Museum of Art

Modern Art At The Miyagi Museum of Art

Art fan? Then you should head over to Miyagi Museum of Art. Opened in 1981 and set in a building that will make anyone sensitive to cool architecture ready their Instagram for snaps, it hosts an extensive collection of artworks connected with Miyagi Prefecture. The museum has work by artists from Sendai, the wider prefecture, Japan, Asia, and further afield. It contains oil paintings, prints, sculptures, and handcrafts from the Meiji Period (1868-1912). It is an interesting place to wander.

  • Location: Aoba-ku
  • Cost: Admission is ¥300
  • Tips: Check online for workshops you can take part in

Sample Some Whiskey at the Miyagikyo Distillery

The Logo Of The Miyagikyo Distillery

Miyagikyo Distillery is one of the main distilleries of Japanese whiskey company, Nikka. Not only is it a great place to learn about the sensation of Japanese whiskey, but visiting this cool distillery is also one of the more chilled things to do in Sendai.

With a serene natural setting and plenty of trees and ponds, it’s a great spot to relax and enjoy the scenery. Visitors can take a tour; however, it is in Japanese only. They do hand out English-language pamphlets and let you sample some whiskey! This is standard for many of Japan’s distilleries and breweries, but we’ve always enjoyed a visit regardless of the language barrier.

  • Location: Aoba-ku (40 minutes on the Senzan Line from Sendai Station to Sakunami Station)
  • Cost: Free!
  • Tips: Try the Date Masamune Whisky at the bar – it’s limited edition!

Sip Tea at a 130-Year-Old Teahouse

Matcha Ceremony In Historic Teahouse

The venerable Gengo Chaya has been living out its life as a teahouse for over a hundred years – and has the interiors to match. Visiting here is easily one of the best things to do to fulfill your dreams of Japanese teahouse perfection. Known for serving up Sendai specialty zunda-mochi (rice cakes topped with soybean jam), get here for sweet afternoon snacks with tea and soak up a moment of calm in the metropolis of Sendai city.

  • Location: Nishi Park, Omachi, Aoba-ku
  • Cost: Snacks from ¥350
  • Tips: They also serve meals, so lunch is also an option

Take in a View of the City from Up High

Natasha Looks Out Window Over Sendai

AER Observation Terrace offers tremendous views over the city. Formerly the tallest building in Sendai, at 140 meters tall, the AER Building boasts a well-kept secret of an observation deck on its 31st floor. There are two terraces: from the west, you can see inland, with the sprawl of Sendai’s shopping streets backed by mountains.

In the east, you can spot bullet trains sliding past with the Pacific Ocean in the background. If all that wasn’t enough, you’ll be happy to know that the observation deck turns into a mini planetarium after dark!

  • Location: Right near Sendai Station
  • Cost: Free!
  • Tips: Go for sunset when you see the city gradually light up

Spend the Morning at a Yuriage Harbor Morning Market

Japan Fish Market

While much of Sendai’s sprawl and sights extend west of the station, there is still more to see on the doorstep of Miyagi’s largest city, with suburbs like Natori boasting a much more local side to the sprawl. Though devastated by the Great Tohoku Earthquake in 2011, Yuriage Harbor Morning Market reopened in 2013 and is still going strong 40 years after its first opening. This is where to see locals bid on fresh seafood, taste some of the produce yourself, and generally soak up a slice of local life.

  • Location: Natori
  • Cost: Free to wander (pick up produce from as little as ¥1,000)
  • Tips: It’s one of Japan’s top spots for aka-gai (arc shell clam), so try it out!

Slip into Another World Along Iroha Yokocho

Oysters At Bar In Sendai
Delicious oysters at a local Izakaya

Iroha Yokocho is a historic shopping arcade that houses around a hundred different izakaya (Japanese bars), local stores, and eateries. Visit after dark to soak up the Showa Period (1926-1988) atmosphere. The shopping arcade began life as a collective of stallholders who began to appear after the center of Sendai city was bombed during WWII. It is one of the best things to do in Sendai at night – a great place to lap up local life and tuck into all sorts of food (and drink).

  • Location: Ichiban-cho, Aoba-ku
  • Cost: Affordable (¥1,000 upwards for food and drink for one person)
  • Tips: When first seated, ask for a nama-biiru (draught beer) to surprise the locals!

Hang out in Tsutsujigaoka Park

Cherry Blossoms Japan

Tsutsujigaoka Park is the site of 360 weeping cherry trees from Kyoto to Sendai by Date Masamune in the 17th century. No wonder it’s an iconic spot in the city for hanami (flower viewing) when the cherry blossom starts coming out. You will see food stalls, people gathering together, and a lot of sake being drunk – especially by the after-work crowd. Outside of hanami season, this park is also a chilled spot for jogging, cycling, and just enjoying a breather from the tall buildings of Sendai.

  • Location: Miyagino-ku
  • Cost: Free
  • Tips: Go for cherry blossom season (early to mid-April)

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About Natasha Alden

Natasha is the co-founder of The World Pursuit. She is an expert in travel, budgeting, and finding unique experiences. She loves to be outside, hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow on her snowboard, and biking. She has been traveling for over 10 years, across 7 continents, experiencing unique cultures, new food, and meeting fantastic people. She strives to make travel planning and traveling easier for all. Her advice about international travel, outdoor sports, and African safari has been featured on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, and Reader’s Digest.

Learn more about Natasha Alden on The World Pursuit About Us Page.

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