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Sendai's castle site museum

Locals often say the first place you must visit in Sendai is the site of the castle. The thing is you get there and there isn’t any castle. Well, having been in Sendai for a while it was my third time to the top of Aoba-yama, the strategic hilltop where the lord of Sendai built his castle way back just after the year 1600. However, it was the first time I entered Honmarukaikan. Honmarukaikan is a museum that describes and details the history of the former Sendai castle. The museum is full of many interesting displays of period artefacts, scale models, and a theater experience that finally reveals what happened to the castle on the hill.

You are greeted on the exhibit floor by a portrait of Date Masamune, founder of Sendai and builder of the castle, surrounded by his successors’ portraits. The samurai history of the castle is highlighted with several sets of authentic warrior armor. A far wall houses swords, furniture, and daily living items. The creative period of early Edo is demonstrated with pieces of different colored pottery. You can also see the castle models.

It is amazing to see scale models of the old castle. The Date clan constructed a castle atop a hill surrounded by forests, mountains, and the natural moat of the Hirosegawa River. Another model has a close up of the castle gates. The old castle consisted of several gates as well as watch towers. To learn about the castle in detail, step inside the museum theater.

Included in the price of admission is the museum’s theater experience. This is the best part of the museum. An approximately 15 minute video describing a computer-generated castle and surrounding area is narrated by animated characters. Although the movie is only in Japanese, everyone can appreciate the graphics showing the different defenses, buildings, and even interiors of the buildings. You even learn fascinating details such as that Miyagi Prefecture once had a strong horse riding tradition, demonstrated by a horse stable in the video. The museum even recreated artworks housed inside the inner chambers of the castle with beautiful tigers or cranes. Finally you learn that the castle was ordered to be dismantled by the Edo government years after it was first constructed. They needed to lessen the power of rival and ally clans in order to maintain the peace.

Sendai has a strong history related to its samurai past, but the city is so much more. On the other hand, Sendai as a city started with the construction of its castle, so it should also be first on your agenda.

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Cathy Cawood 9 years ago
I wonder what it was like trying to fight in such tall helmets...? Looks like an interesting place.
Elena Lisina 6 years ago
Me too wonder how they could fight in all that gear?!

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