July 14 – Soaked in Sendai

On a dreary Thursday morning, I headed to the train station to take a bullet train (the Shinkansen) to Sendai.

My reason for visiting Sendai was that it, along with Tokyo, suffered greatly during the war from the United State’s firebombing.  A very large proportion of the city was burned to the ground.

Plus, it gave me a good excuse to try out the bullet trains!

I will be making several references to a video game at the end of this blog post.  If the words, “Skyrim”, “Dovahkiin”, and “High Hrothgar” don’t mean anything to you, just avoid the sections that are in this color.  You can read them, sure, but don’t get too confused because they most likely will not make sense to you.

Don’t worry – you aren’t missing much…mom.

I will have much more to say about the Bullet Trains in a later blog post, but suffice it to say, they are awesome!

Sendai City Museum

Date Masamune
(the statue is at Sendai Castle overlooking the city)

Aerial picture by the US bombers after bombing of Sendai. It’s tough to tell, but most of the city is rubble.

My first stop in Sendai was at the Sendai City Museum. I’ll pause for a moment and let you take a guess and what this museum is about…

A lot of the museum focused on the city’s early days back in the 1600’s when it was founded by a guy named Date Masamune. He’s the serious looking dude on the horse.

He built a big castle on a bluff overlooking the city.  Sadly, that castle (along with a ton of other things it seems) in 1945 during World War II.

The museum had an interesting section in it featuring items from an early 1600’s trip by Hasekura Tsunenaga to Rome.  There were several letters back and forth from Hasekura Tsunenaga to and from the Pope at the time.

I kept thinking…wow – and I thought my flight to Japan was long.  Imagine getting from Japan to Rome in the 1600’s (by way of Mexico…not the shortest path by any means!)

While a lot of the museum was dedicated to antiquity, there was a section talking about Sendai during World War II when most of the city was destroyed by firebombing.

This seems to be a recurring theme in the sites I’ve been to so far, pointing out the horrible struggles faced by the Japanese citizenry by Americans who didn’t necessarily target military targets.  They just took out the whole towns using these new incendiary devices.  This is certainly not a point of emphasis to learning about WWII in America.

Sendai Castle

As stated earlier, Sendai Castle was destroyed over many years, with the remains being blown up in 1945. As such, there isn’t much at the Sendai castle site.

Also, it was POURING DOWN rain at this point, so I didn’t hang out too long.

Sendai City War Reconstruction Memorial Hall

After lunch, I headed to this museum which was dedicated to the effects of WWII on Sendai and their efforts to reconstruct after.

I was very much looking forward to this site, especially as it pertains to my fellowship. Unfortunately, I didn’t get as much out of it as I would hoped. The main reason was that while there were a bunch of cool exhibits…there was not one word of English in the entire building.

I tried to use my Google Translate app as best I could to figure out what certain things were, but a lot was probably lost in translation.

I was able to get the general gist of things and it did give me a certain perseptive into the fear that the citizens of Sendai must have felt during the time of intense bombing.

Air raid siren

Yamadera Temple

My time in Sendai complete, I headed east for an hour into the mountains to the small town of Yamadera. The mountains in this area are quite dramatic – rising sharply for thousands of feet.

Perched high above the city sits Yamadera Temple.  There are 1,000 steps leading to this temple and it is a popular spot for Japanese tourists to climb the steps.  Along the way, there are several Buhudist shrines/figures/whatever you call them.

I quickly climbed the 1000 steps and enjoyed the view of the valley below.

In Skyrim, on the pilgrimage to High Hrothgar to see the Greybeards, the Dovahkiin has to climb the Seven Thousand Steps. This kept running through my mind when I climbing the one thousand steps to Yamadera Temple.

Now, according to Google – there are actually only 732 steps in the game.

This leads us to the enevitable question – am I Dragonborn?  Do I possess the Thu’um?

I did try to “Fus ro dah” a pebble off the cliff to little effect.  Perhaps my thu’um simply hasn’t developed yet.

I certainly can’t prove that I’m Dragonborn at this point…but I also can’t disprove it.  Hmmmm…interesting!

And finally…

Here are some drink options from a few of the MANY vending machines one will come across when walking anywhere in Japan. Yes, there were a few vending machines in High Hro…I mean the Yamadera Temple. As you can see in the picture above, they are typically just hanging out by the street some where.

Since you didn’t ask, my favorite – Pocari Sweat – it’s basically like clear Gatorade.

Tomorrow…a controversial Japanese War Museum and Shrine honoring war veterans, including some significant war criminals!