Miyagi Prefecture is about as close to a regional hub as you’ll get in the remote northeastern Tohoku region which makes it a great base for exploring the surrounding, less accessible prefectures. Colorful Sendai is the prefectural capital—its tree-lined avenues are packed with lots of great shops and restaurants. Friendly locals are always happy to strike up a conversation with an unfamiliar face.
The extremely popular Tanabata Festival means they’re certainly used to visitors, who usually combine a trip to nearby Matsushima to witness one of Japan’s top three scenic views. There’s hiking around Kinkasan’s Golden Mountain, hot spring action at Naruko and Akiu, and skiing at Onikobe. Grilled cow-tongue is the definitive dish – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
It’s less than two hours on the bullet train from Tokyo to Sendai, from where you can easily access the rest of Miyagi’s attractions. Stay a while in the city to explore the monuments to the legendary feudal lord Date Masamune, nicknamed the One-Eyed Dragon, who transformed Sendai from a small village into a major stronghold. One such monument is Masamune’s mausoleum which is ornately decorated with bright colors and intricate designs.
After dark, head to the lively Kokubuncho area, affectionately seen as the little brother to Tokyo’s Kabukicho red-light district. In early August, Sendai becomes a riot of color during the Tanabata Matsuri when streets are decorated with thousands of giant handmade paper streamers. It’s a beautiful sight, though you’ll have to jostle with the two million or so spectators for a good view.
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