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 is the capital city of Miyagi Prefecturemarker, Japanmarker, and the largest city in the Tōhokumarker (northeast) region. The city has a population of one million and is one of Japan's seventeen designated cities. The city was founded in 1600 by the daimyo Date Masamune, and is well known by its nickname, the  . There are about 60 zelkova trees on Jouzenji Dori (定禅寺通) and Aoba Dori (青葉通).
In winter, the trees are decorated with thousands of lights in an event called the Pageant of Starlight (光のページェント), which starts in December and ends when the New Year starts. Many people visit Sendai to see the Pageant of Starlight.

History

Although the Sendai area was inhabited as early as 20,000 years ago, the history of Sendai as a city begins from 1600, when the daimyo Date Masamune relocated to Sendai.

Masamune was not happy with his previous stronghold, Iwadeyama. Iwadeyama was located to the north of his territories and was also difficult to access from Edo (modern-day Tokyomarker). Sendai was an ideal location, being in the centre of Masamune's newly defined territories, upon a major road from Edo, and near the sea. Tokugawa Ieyasu gave Masamune permission to build a new castle in Aobayama, Sendai after the Battle of Sekigahara. Aobayama was the location of a castle used by the previous ruler of the Sendai area.

At this time, Sendai was written as 千代 (which literally means "a thousand generations"), because a temple with a used to be located in Aobayama. Masamune changed the kanji to 仙臺, which later became 仙台 (which literally means "hermit on a platform"). The kanji was taken from a Chinese poem that praised a palace created by the Emperor Wen of Han China, comparing it to a mythical palace in the Kunlun Mountainsmarker. It is said that Masamune chose this kanji so that the castle would prosper as long as a mountain inhabited by an immortal hermit.

Masamune ordered the construction of Sendai Castle in December 1600 and the construction of the town of Sendai in 1601. The grid plan roads in present day central Sendai are based upon his plans.

Sendai was incorporated as a city on April 1, 1889, as a result of the abolition of the han system. At the time of incorporation, the city's area was 17.45 km² and its population was 86,000. However, the city grew through seven annexations that occurred from 1928 to 1988. The city became a designated city on April 1, 1989. The city's population exceeded one million in 1999.

Sendai was (and still is) considered to be one of Japan's greenest cities, mostly because of its great numbers of trees and plants.Sendai became known as The City of Trees at least before World War II. This was because the Sendai han encouraged residents to plant trees in their yards. As a result, many houses, temples, and shrines in central Sendai had , which were used as resources for wood and other everyday materials. Air raids during World War II destroyed much of the greenery, and more was lost during the post-war rehabilitation and growth. Sendai is still well known as The City of Trees, but this is mainly because of massive efforts to restore greenery in the city.

The 2nd Infantry Division was known as the Sendai Division as it was based in Sendai, and recruited locally. During the Second World War it was involved in many different campaigns, but one of the most important was the Battle of Guadalcanalmarker.

Geography

Sendai is located at lat. 38°16'05" north, long. 140°52'11" east. The city's area is 788.09 km², and stretches from the Pacific Oceanmarker to the Ōu Mountains, which are the east and west borders of Miyagi Prefecture. As a result, the city's geography is quite diverse. Eastern Sendai is a plains area, the centre of the city is hilly, and western areas are mountainous. The highest point in the city is Mt. Funagata which stands 1,500 m above sea level.

The Hirose-gawa River flows 45 km through Sendai. The river is well-known as a symbol of Sendai, especially because it appears in the lyrics of Aobajō Koiuta (青葉城恋唄; literally, The Aoba Castle Love Song), a popular song sung by Muneyuki Sato. Sendai Castlemarker was built close to the river to use the river as a natural moat. The river frequently flooded until the 1950s, but dams and levees constructed in the 1960s and 1970s have made such floods rare. The river is now known for its exceptionally clean water and natural beauty, and was selected by Japan's Environment Agency as one of Japan's 100 Great Waters.

Sendai panorama view from Aobayama Hill.
Most mountains in Sendai are dormant volcanoes, much older than the more famous Zaōmarker and Naruko volcanoes in nearby municipalities. However, many hot springs can be found in the city, indicating hydrothermal activity. The Miyagi Oki earthquake occurs offshore Sendai once every 25 to 40 years. The 2005 Miyagi earthquakemarker, which occurred on August 16, 2005 had an epicenter close to the Miyagi Oki earthquake area. However, the Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion concluded that it was not the Miyagi Oki earthquake, saying "...the recent event is not thought to be this earthquake. This is because the magnitude of the earthquake was small, and the source area, which was estimated from the aftershock distribution and seismic waves, did not cover the whole expected source region. Although, the recent event ruptured a part of the focal region of the expected earthquake."

Climate

Average temperature and precipitation in Sendai.
Sendai is situated in a temperate climate zone and has a moderate climate. The city's average temperature is 12.1°C (53.8°F) and its average annual precipitation is 1,241.8 mm. The highest recorded temperature in the city is 36.8°C (98.2°F), and the lowest recorded temperature is -11.7°C (10.9°F). The average year has 16.8 days with a high temperature over 30°C and only 2.2 days with a low temperature below 0°C, which is smaller compared to other major Japanese cities . The city is rarely hit by typhoons, and experiences only 6 days with more than 10 cm of snowfall in the average year. Sendai's rainy season usually begins in late June to early July, which is later than most cities in Japan. And cold wind from the Okhotsk air mass, called "Yamase", blows in this season.

Demographics

As of 2005, the city has an estimated population of 1,028,214 and a density of 1,304.69 persons per km². The city's total area is 788.09 km². Most people in the city live in urban areas close to train and subway stations. The 2000 National Census revealed that 88.5% of the city's population (892,252 people) live in a 129.69 km² area, which is 16.6% of the city's total area. The population density in this area is 6,879.9 persons per km², which is more than 5 times higher than the city's population density at that time, 1,286.6 persons per km². Approximately 10,000 people in Sendai are non-Japanese citizens.

Sendai has 444,514 households as of 2005. The average household has approximately 2.31 members. The average household is becoming smaller every year, because single-member households are increasing. Sendai has more people in their early 50s and in their 20s and early 30s than in other age groups. This is a result of the first and second baby booms in Japan, and university students. The average age in Sendai is 38.4, which makes the city one of the youngest major cities in Japan.

Governance

A map of Sendai's Wards
Sendai City Hall.
Sendai's political system is similar to other cities in Japan, because the Local Autonomy Law makes all municipalities uniform in terms of organization and power. However, Sendai is a designated city, so it has the same jurisdiction as prefectures in some areas.

Sendai's local government is essentially a mayor-council government with a strong mayor system. The mayor is elected from a citywide election. Sendai City Assembly members are elected from 5 elective districts, which correspond to the city's 5 wards. The number of assembly members allocated to each ward is based upon population. As of May 2005, the city has 60 assembly members; 17 from Aoba Ward, 11 from Miyagino, 8 from Wakabayashi, 13 from Taihaku, and 11 from Izumi. The City Assembly elects an Assembly Chairperson and Vice Chairperson. Sendai has two vice mayors, who are not elected by the populace.

Sendai has five wards ("ku"), which were created when it became a designated city in 1989. The city consciously avoided names that included directions (e.g., north 北, center 中央) when it chose names for the new wards.

Economy

Sendai is the centre of the Tōhoku region's economy, and is the base of the region's logistics and transportation. The city's economy heavily relies upon retail and services – the two industries provide approximately two thirds of the employment and close to half of the establishments.

Sendai is frequently called a branch-office economy, because very few major companies are headquartered in the city. Various authorities are cooperating to alleviate this problem, primarily by encouraging high-tech ventures from Tohoku University, which is well-known for its science and engineering departments. Several high-profile projects, such as the Sendai-Finland Wellbeing Center, have emerged from these attempts, but tangible results in the city's economy and employment are yet to be seen.

Tohoku Electric Power Co., Inc., a major regional supplier of electric power, has its headquarters in Sendai.

Education

Sendai Second High School
Sendai is sometimes called an "Academic City" (学都; gakuto) because the city has many universities relative to its population. Tohoku University is the centre of the city's higher education. Tohoku University is known in Japan to be the leader in the field of material science. The university was one of the nine Japanese imperial universities and was ranked as the best Asian multi-disciplinary university in a 1999 Asiaweek survey. Also it was the first university in Japan to accept female students as well as foreign students.

Other Sendai universities include

Transportation

JR Sendai Station
JR East Sendai Stationmarker is the main transportation hub for the city. The station is served by seven JR lines and is a major station on the Tōhoku and Akita Shinkansen lines. An underground passage connects the station to the Sendai Subway.

Sendai has a single north-south subway line (Nanboku Line), one of the most expensive in Japan with a basic fare starting at 200 yen. The city is currently constructing an second, east-west subway line (Tōzai Line), scheduled for completion in 2015.

The city is served by Sendai Airportmarker (located in neighboring Natori), which has international flights to several countries, and Sendai Port. Contrary to the name, the Sendai International Airport terminal is actually south of the city in neighboring Natori, and the 3000 metre main runway straddles the border between Natori and Iwanuma while a 1200 metre diagonal runway is located entirely within Iwanuma. A rail link to Sendai began service on March 18, 2007.

The Tōhoku Expressway runs north-south through western Sendai, and is connected to other highways, such as the Sendai Nambu Road, Sendai Tobu Road, Sanriku Expressway (Sendai-Matsushima Road), and Sendai Hokubu Road.

Train stations



Culture

Streets

The promenade of Jozenji-Dori
The most well-known streets in Sendai, and , are both lined with Japanese zelkovas. These are symbols of "The City of Trees". Jozenji-Dori has a promenade and a few sculptures. It is a place of relaxation. Many events and festivals, such as the Sendai Pageant of Starlight and the Jozenji Street Jazz Festival, take place on Jozenji-Dori and in . Aoba-Dori is the main business road in Sendai.Other major roads in the city include Hirose-Dori(ginkgo) and Higashi-Nibancho-Dori.

Festivals

The Sendai Tanabata Festival.
The most famous festival in Sendai is the Sendai Tanabata Festival, which attracts more than 2 million visitors every year and is the largest Tanabata Festival in Japan. The festival is relatively quiet compared to other traditional Japanese festivals, because its main attractions are the intricate Tanabata decorations. The Aoba Matsuri Festival follows more typical Japanese festival traditions, with a mikoshi, floats, a samurai parade, and traditional dancing. Local people burn their New Year decorations and pray for health in the new year during the Dontosai Festival, the oldest festival in Miyagi Prefecture.

Sendai Pageant of Starlights
Various contemporary festivals also take place in Sendai, such as the Jōzenji Streetjazz Festival, the Michinoku Yosakoi Festival, and the Sendai Pageant of Starlight. The Jōzenji Streetjazz Festival is one of the largest amateur music festivals in Japan, with more than 700 groups participating in recent years. It began as a jazz festival in 1991, but soon began to accept applications from all genres. The festival is called a "Streetjazz" festival to indicate this fact. The Michinoku Yosakoi festival is a dance festival, derived from the Yosakoi Festival that takes place in Kochi. Trees in downtown Sendai are decorated with lights during the Sendai Pageant of Starlights. The event provided the idea for the Festival of Lights annually held in Riversidemarker, Sendai's sister city. In 2005, streets was lit up with one million miniature bulbs.

Specialties and crafts

Sendai is the origin of several foods, including gyutan (牛タン, cow tongue, usually grilled), hiyashi chūka (cold Chinese noodles), and robatayaki (Japanese-style barbecue). However, robatayaki was later introduced to Kushiro, which developed and popularized the dish. As a result, many people believe Kushiro is the origin of Robatayaki. Zundamochi (ずんだ餅, mochi balls with sweet, bright green edamame paste), and sasakamaboko (笹かまぼこ, kamaboko shaped like bamboo leaves) are also considered to be Sendai specialties. Sendai is also known for good sashimi, sushi, and sake. This is because Sendai is near several major fishing ports, such as Kesennuma, Ishinomaki, and Shiogama, and the fact that Miyagi Prefecture is a major producer of rice.

Many crafts from Sendai were originally created under the influence of the Date family during the Edo period. Examples are Sendai Hira, a hand woven silk fabric, Tsutsumiyaki pottery, and Yanagiu Washi paper. However, some crafts, such as umoregi zaiku (crafts created from fossil wood) were developed by low-ranking samurai who needed side jobs to survive. Kokeshi dolls were popularized by hot spring resorts that sold them as gifts. Some relatively recent developments include Sendai Tsuishu lacquerware and Tamamushinuri lacquerware, both of which were developed after the Meiji Restoration.

Sendai was also known for its production of Tansu, clothing chest of drawers made from wood with elaborate ironwork.

Sites of interest

Dainenji
Sendai is home to various historical sites related to the Date family. The ruins of Sendai Castlemarker are located close to downtown on Aobayama, which also gives a panoramic view of the city. The Zuihoden Mausoleum is the tomb of Date Masamune, and is also home to artifacts related to the Date family. It is located on a hill called Kyogamine, which is the traditional resting place for members of the Date family. The Ōsaki Hachiman Shrine, built in 1607 by Date Masamune, is designated as a national treasure.

Newer historical sites include the former home of Doi Bansui, a famous lyricist, and a monument at Sendai City Museum that commemorates the Chinese writer Lu Xun. Another statue of Lu Xun can be found in the Tohoku University Katahira Campus, where Lu Xun studied medical science. Older historical sites include the Tōmizuka Tomb, a historical tomb that dates back to the late 4th century or early 5th century, and the Tomizawa Preserved Forest site, where the excavated remains of stone age human settlement (Upper Palaeolithic - roughly 20,000 years ago) have been protected by a large museum structure, built in 1996.

Museums

The Miyagi Museum of Art
Sendai City Museummarker displays various artifacts related to the Date family and the history of Sendai. Date Masamune's famous suit of armour and artifacts related to Hasekura Tsunenaga's visit to Rome are sometimes on display.

The Miyagi Museum of Art is Sendai's largest art museum. A total of 24 sculptures have been installed in various public locations in Sendai through its City of Sculptures project.

The Tomizawa site museum in the southern part of the city preserves a fossilized forest where the remains of human habitation from 20,000 years ago can be seen.

The Sendai City War Reconstruction Memorial Hall is dedicated to remembering the air raid of July 1945 in which most of Sendai was destroyed.

Natural sites

Saikachi Gawa
Western Sendai is home to many sites of natural beauty, many of them found around Akiu(秋保) and Sakunami(作並), which are both hot spring resorts. Sites around the Akiu area include the Akiu Otaki Falls, sometimes counted as one of Japan's three great waterfalls, and the Rairai Gorge, known for its autumn colours. The Futakuchi Gorge contains several waterfalls that have been designated as natural monuments and the Banji Cliffs, an example of columnar basalt.

The Sakunami area is also known for its natural beauty, with cherry blossoms in the spring, and beautiful colours in the autumn. The nearby Hōmei Shijuhachi Taki Falls is the name of various waterfalls found in the higher reaches of the Hirose-gawa River. The origin of the name "Hōmei" (鳳鳴; literally, Chinese phoenix cry) is said to come from ancient local inhabitants' claim that the sound of the waterfalls was similar to the legendary bird's call.

The Tatsunokuchi Gorge offers a breathtaking view, petrified wood can be found next to the nearby Otamaya-bashi bridge, and many locals enjoy cherry blossoms at Nishi-Kōen park and Tsutsujigaoka park. The Hirose-gawa River and the Gamo Tideland are both home to diverse wildlife.

Matsushimamarker, which is one of the Three Views of Japan, is near Sendai, Matsushima-shimarker.

Other sites

Sendai Mediatheque is a multipurpose facility that houses the city library, galleries, and film studio facilities open for use by the general public. The building was designed by Toyo Ito and is known for its innovative architecture.

The AER Building, the Miyagi Prefectural Office, and the SS30 Building are all relatively high buildings in downtown Sendai that offer panoramic views. The Sendai Daikannon is an approximately 100 meter high Kannon statue. The statue was built during Japan's bubble economy by a now defunct company.

Religion

Catholicism

The Catholic Church has been associated with Sendai since 1631, the year in which Date Masamune, daimyo of Sendai, built a galleon to send an embassy to the Pope in Romemarker. Although the embassy was successful in its aim of establishing relations with the Holy See, Masamune's plans were frustrated by the suppression of Catholicism in Japan. The diocese of Sendai (previously the diocese of Hakodate) was established in 1891, only two years after the promulgation of a new constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion in Japan, in 1889. The Bishop of Sendai currently oversees the four northern prefectures of Miyagi, Fukushima, Iwate and Aomori, serving 11,152 Catholics in 56 parishes. Mototerakoji, the Cathedral of the diocese, is located a few blocks north of Sendai Station.

Sports

Kleenex Stadium Miyagi
Although the Lotte Orions briefly used Sendai as a temporary home for the franchise from 1973 to 1977, the city was largely ignored by professional sports until 1994. In that year, the Tohoku Electric Power football team was changed into a club team, Brummel Sendai, with the goal of eventually promoting the team into the J. League. The team achieved this goal when the J. League expanded in 1999 with the creation of a second division. The name of the team was simultaneously changed to Vegalta Sendai.

In 2005, the number of professional sports teams based in Sendai suddenly increased to three. The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles was introduced as a new Pacific League baseball franchise after widely publicized turmoil involving the merger of the Kintetsu Buffaloes and the Orix Blue Wave developed into the first strike in Nippon Professional Baseball. Additionally, the Basketball Japan League, which began its inaugural season in November 2005, included the Sendai 89ers among its first six teams.

Annual sporting events include the Sendai Cup, an international football tournament for U-18 teams, and the Sendai International Half Marathon. In 2006 of the Sendai International half marathon, Mizuki Noguchi who won the women's marathon Gold medal in 2004 in the Athens Olympic Games, took part in and won the race in surprising course record.

Various sporting venues can be found in Sendai, such as Sendai Stadiummarker, Miyagi Baseball Stadiummarker, Sendai City Gymnasium. The city is also known as the origin of figure skating in Japan, and 2006 Olympic gold medalist Shizuka Arakawa trained in Sendai as she was growing up. Tohoku Fukushi University and Sendai Ikuei Gakuen High School are well known for their strong sports programs, the latter for baseball.

In 2006, Sendai hosted some games of the Basketball World Championship 2006.

Sister and friendship cities

Sendai has a long history of international sister city relationships. Its affiliation with Riversidemarker, Californiamarker, on March 9, 1957, is the second oldest sister city partnership in Japan.

References

  1. Profile
  2. A History of Sendai Aoba Matsuri
  3. General Information
  4. Sendai Hotels & Travel Guide
  5. about sendai mediatheque|sendai mediatheque


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