Friday 17 May 2013

Travel report: Sengoku Basara tourism part 3 - Sendai and the legacy of Date Masamune

Photo taken at Zuihouden Mausoleum, Sendai
Note: This post follows directly on from part 2. If you haven't read that one already, please check it out first as I refer back to it for some explanations.

If the city of Shiroishi in Miyagi prefecture is all about Katakura Kojuurou, then the region's capital of Sendai is passionately devoted to Date Masamune. The real life Masamune founded the city in his domain more than four hundred years ago; since then it's grown into a busy urban hub and tourist destination, full of relics from the Sengoku period.

As soon as you step out of the train at Sendai station, you're met by endless references to the celebrated city founder and Musubimaru, the riceball-shaped regional mascot whose design includes nods to Masamune's famous armour. A beautiful stained glass window depicting the historical Date Masamune keeps watch over the station lobby.

And it's likely that you'll also come across the occasional Sengoku Basara poster in between the more traditional ones.

A poster for the Masamune-kou Matsuri

Sendai doesn't rely on Capcom's game series quite as much as Shiroishi as there are already numerous tributes to the real Date Masamune. Moments after arriving at the station, I spotted this pink train on the opposite platform. It's decorated with cute pictures and the regional mascot, Musubimaru.

I wanted to ride on the pink train
Here's the front of the station. If you look closely, you can see Musubimaru again, promoting tourism to the local area in the run up to the holiday season.

Sendai Station, viewed from the raised bridges outside
This shop sign made me smile.

I wonder whether they rent motorhorses too
Even shops which are part of national chains are more than happy to pay respect to the city's history. Doujin goods specialist Toranoana uses a Masamune-themed kotora character on their banner, while Melon Books displays a 'Gyuu-tan' (beef tongue) version of mascot Melon-chan, cosplaying in a cow suit.

The yellow banner is for Toranoana
My main objective during my March trip to Sendai was shopping in the centre of the city. Last year though, I took the Loople sightseeing bus and visited a few special tourist spots.

The Loople bus carrying visitors around the sights
 One of these locations was Zuihouden: the resting place of the real Lord Date Masamune.

Zuihouji temple
The Loople bus stop is at the bottom of a steep hill leading up to the mausoleum. In the heat of summer it made for an exhausting climb even in the shade of the surrounding cedar trees. On the way to the mausoleum complex there's a temple, Zuihouji. At the time I thought it looked quite elaborate - that was because I hadn't seen what was coming next.

The intricate decorations of Zuihouden
The Zuihouden that can be seen today is a reconstruction; its predecessor was sadly burnt down during World War II air raids. There's a little museum nearby with items rescued from the original mausoleum and background information. History buffs can also spend time walking around the picturesque grounds dotted with dragon statues to see the luxurious mausoleums belonging to some of Masamune's descendants.

Such spectacular colours!
I love the gorgeous architecture of Zuihouden. The elaborate patterns and emblems which cover every available surface of the building make it impossible not to stare in wonder. The very solemn, respectful atmosphere around the mausoleum was a welcome break after the bustle of the station.

The other place I had to visit while in the Sendai area was Aoba-jou, also known as Sendai Castle.

The obligatory Date Masamune picture everyone takes
The castle itself is in need of reconstruction after the war and its original decommissioning during the Meiji Restoration. There's a lot to see at the site though, and there were a lot of other tourists wandering around. The Loople bus had to take a detour on the way; its usual road up to the castle was closed due to damage from the 2011 Touhoku earthquake.

I took dozens of photographs of the statue...
The biggest attraction in the castle ruins is the large statue of Date Masamune on horseback. It stands a short distance away from the other facilities, silently watching over the city of Sendai. Patrolling the area were some costumed members of the Date Bushoutai performance group, helping people to take pictures and generally being welcoming.

The view from where Masamune stands
Back in the main Sendai Castle area, I paid a visit to another popular Sengoku Basara pilgrimage destination: the castle's Gokoku shrine. The usual ema prayer plaques which people hang in the shrine are lovingly decorated with illustrations and quotes from the Sengoku Basara games. Work from famous fan artists can occasionally be seen hanging alongside perfectly serious wishes left by the shrine's more religious visitors.

Of course, I added an ema of my own before leaving
The castle complex was well-equipped for the stream of tourists, with a large souvenir shop and plenty of quirky snacks to choose from. Thanks to a persuasive salesman I ended up with some tasty zunda dango.

Zunda dango: a convenient snack
Delicious zunda shakes made from blended rice and soybeans were next on the menu. They were thick and creamy. As it was the height of August I was desperate for a drink because it was so hot; the shake only made me even thirstier (fortunately, more conventional beverages were available nearby).

The zunda shakes proved tempting
There were also some treats to be found in the shop. I bought a triple pack of 'unification mochi' (mini daifuku), in chocolate, zunda-an and camembert flavours.

All three flavours side by side
I also picked up special edition zunda-flavoured Pretz sticks. They were pretty tasty! On either side are special Sengoku Basara clear files.

Zunda Pretz (please overlook the comics behind)
This brings me to the end of my three-part travel report; I tried to keep this one shorter since articles on Sendai are all over the Internet already. There are still more places in the Miyagi region I want to see one day such as the San Juan Bautista and Matsushima, both for its natural beauty and the Date Masamune Historical Museum - with the unique Date Cafe. I'd also love to be able to travel to the area during one of the festivals I mentioned!


    I found it looking for a good and easy way to explain Sendai connection to Sengoku Basara to my friends (I'm live in Sendai now) and this was a huge help, plus its so informative and easy to read, keep up the great work.


    1. Thank you! Your comment was a nice surprise. I hope you enjoy living in Sendai (I'm rather jealous) ^^


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