Despite being the densest city in the Tōhoku area (the north part of Japan), with a population of 2,340,000 people,
Sendai City does not get the number of tourists which Tokyo or Osaka would get. Sendai City is located in Miyagi Prefecture, accessible in as short as one and a half hours from Tokyo. With the downtown bustling city of Sendai being close to the sea, mountains and countryside living, it is definitely a must-visit on your trip to Japan! There are plenty of options for malls to shop at and cafes to eat at, but once you are done with the metropolis what is there to do?
Even though I lived in Tōhoku for three years, I had never heard about these three off-the-beaten-path experiences you can easily go for a day trip from Sendai City.
Stand-up Paddleboarding (SUP) in one of three Japan’s top scenic spots, Matsushima Area
Matsushima was designated as one of Japan’s three most scenic views, along with Miyajima and Kyoto’s Amanohashidate. The scenic views of Matsushima, being islands and oceans, are usually enjoyed by sightseeing cruise, but you cannot miss this following unique method of viewing the unique scenery this area offers.
The sea connected to Matsushima is wonderful and calm, making it perfect to do Stand-up Paddleboarding (SUP) amongst all of the small clusters of uninhabited islands. Beginners or experienced SUPers, anyone is welcome! If you haven’t experienced SUP before, it requires the basics of balance, but is easier than ice skating, surfing or snowboarding – if you can stand on a moving train or bus without falling over, you will most likely be able to SUP without falling off the board! The boards are large and somewhat thick, which makes it easier to stand. Experienced SUPers are able to participate in experiences all-year round, whereas beginners can try out SUP from April to November.
One of our tour participants said,
The SUP instructor we had could speak English, which was very helpful. It was fascinating to hear about the nature around the Matsushima area; he could identify surrounding wildlife and oyster farm locations, one of Matsushima’s specialties. On top of that, he was a great teacher, telling us the method of how to identify safe conditions for SUP, enabling us as students to gain confidence and prepare us if we ever were to go SUP independently.
The SUP experience includes rental wetsuits and everything needed for SUP, so you will need not to purchase any SUP specific gear. We recommend you bring a change of clothes, a towel to dry off, a water bottle and a waterproof phone case with a necklace for photos.
Roughly a thirty-minute train ride from Sendai Station to Rikuzen-Hamada Station and then a short taxi ride, this experience is very accessible from central Sendai City.
Sample Program Itinerary
8:30 Arrive at Rikuzen-Hamada Station, take a taxi to the SUP meeting area
9:00-11:30 Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) Experience with your Japanese English-speaking guide Remembering the Arai Area: Cycling Tour
Experience a meaningful bicycle tour on the seaside of Arai. In 2011, the area of Arai was hit hard by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, leaving behind a wide, flat, empty area with few buildings remaining. With an English-speaking guide, you will ride to the Earthquake Heritage site of Arahama Elementary School and learn more about the disaster by seeing the damage it did to the school firsthand, as well as from the museum exhibits. Pay your respects at the close-by memorials of wreckage sights near the beach, then experience the present seaside, taking in the wind.
Continue your tour by cycling alongside the Tenzan canal, a stream with an interesting history, which connects the coastline with the Sendai Bay.
Depending on your tour time, you can catch the sunset as you take in the sights and history of the area, your guide explaining while leading the way.
A short 13 minute train ride can take you to the Arai area from Sendai station and you can easily spend a couple of hours cycling around, thinking about the past, present and future of the area, not just Arai but also about Tōhoku.
Sample Program Itinerary
11:00 Meet English-speaking guide and hire rental bicycles
11:20 Visit the Earthquake Heritage site of Arahama Elementary School 12:00 Pay your respects at the close-by memorials of wreckage sights near the beach 12:30 Lunch at JR Fruits park 13:30 Ride by the seaside 14:00 Cycle alongside the Tenzan canal 15:30 Return your rental bicycle Vegetarian friendly! Harvest your own Wakame Seaweed and enjoy a Wakame Shabu-Shabu Lunch!
During the winter months, many experiences in the Tōhoku region are limited to snow activities due to the snowfall. This experience, which doesn’t feature the snow, can only be experienced in the winter months due to seaweed harvesting schedules.
Go out on the water with your guide in a small fishing boat and harvest wakame seaweed, fresh from the ocean. Your guide will pull up the rope with the seaweed and tie it to the side of the boat for easy cutting access.
A quick slice hauls a large, long amount of seaweed, the main star of your lunch. The whole wakame seaweed can be eaten, from the mekabu edible base, stem and wakame leaves.
Return from the sea, then head off to a floating dome tent on a large wooden raft- here, you will be able to eat prepared wakame seaweed tempura and cook your own wakame shabu-shabu.
The freshly harvested brown-green seaweed turns into an emerald colour as you place it in the simple boiling water; definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Depending on your harvest, you can take your wakame seaweed home with you to cook wakame shabu-shabu at home.
One of our tour participants commented:
The boat ride out was very scenic and it felt like no time to get to the seaweed farm. It was cold beacuse of the rain and the winter air, but the staff lent us ponchos and working gloves and we dressed warm for the day. Harvesting the seaweed was very interesting, seeing how long the seaweed was a surprise! The floating dome tent on the raft was very impressive and warmed up quickly with the shabu-shabu pot going. The tempura and shabu-shabu was so delicious and it was fun chatting and eating with the group.
This unique opportunity is accessible by a thirty minute train ride from Sendai Station to Higashi-Shiogama Station, then our organizers will pick you up and take you to the fishing port.
If you are interested in other fishing boat experiences in other seasons, contact us and we can do our best to organize a program for your desired travel dates.