If you’re planning to visit Sendai, this might be worth a look. First off, it should be known that my method of travel is anything but relaxing. I like getting up early, and moving a lot. Mind you, there is nothing more I enjoy than sitting in a coffee shop and people watching in a new town. That said, I try to avoid “stagnating.” I usually just start going, and see where the day takes me. I like my days to be organic with small goals in mind.
Granted, a word of advice: don’t move too quickly or you’ll miss getting a feel for the city and it’s culture. As much as I like packing my days with activity, I still try to take the time to wander through neighborhoods and back alleys to see what I can find. It’s fine to try and hit all the “big stuff” but also remember to take a moment to chill out and blend into the city life. That’s where the real magic of traveling hides.
- Prepare for flash Japan weather. I mean, we saw that it was cloudy, but then it rained… and I mean it rained. Relentlessly. The weather reports here are about 30% accurate. When we walked into the hostel looking as though we’d just gone swimming, I couldn’t help but feel slightly silly. Taking off my soaking shoes to walk around on someone’s wood floors in sopping socks was not a highlight.
- If you can, drive to Sendai. The shinkansen was great in interest of saving time, but it was very, very expensive. It came out to about 100yen per minute. A lightweight (kei) rental car would be much, much cheaper. It just adds about 4 hours of travel. Ask yourself which is the greater evil before trekking up to Sendai.
- Don’t try to eat at Mexican restaurants after 7pm on a Saturday in Sendai. Most likely, this is the one day this week where there is going to be a live Mexican band with a hefty cover charge. Figures.
- Wander, wander, wander. When we got there, we talked out of the station and picked the most interesting direction. This worked out perfectly in Sendai. There is a lot packed into Sendai’s city center, and it’s not overly big. We were able to see most of the “must-see” spots on foot, without even planning a route ahead of time. That and, more than once, we stumbled upon an outdoor market selling amazing, fresh goods or winding back areas with odd, unique shops. We also just hopped on the local train and took it to whichever stop looked the best. That worked out pretty great too. We ended up in a much less traveled part of Sendai, which had it’s own charm.
- The SS 30 observation floor. Kris and I decided to go here because it was near the station, and we knew it was free to get up to the observation deck. It ended up being one of my favorite things we did. No one really seems to know about it and, I for god’s sake, it’s FREE. Thirty stories up with an amazing view of Sendai. Do it!
- Eat beef tongue. I don’t care if the idea of it horrifies you. You’re in a new place, trying knew things. Eat it. It’s delicious and Sendai is known for this particular item! “Adventure begins just outside of your comfort zone”
Now, go make your own mistakes and successes in Sendai! Gambatte (do your best)!