Sendai - Tohoku's biggest city with 1.1 million people
And the place I've been lucky to call home for almost three years now
with more tourists visiting the region than ever before
Today we're gonna take a look at what to do in the city and the surrounding area
From one of Japan's most famous and picturesque coastal towns
and a local fishing port home to more sushi restaurants per capita than anywhere else in Japan
To a terrifying statue towering over the city
We'll discover some of the iconic dishes, stunning scenery and vibrant people
that make Sendai a worthy weekend trip away from Tokyo
There's no way we can make a video about Sendai without inviting a local celebrity
Somebody who was born here, somebody who knows the area and somebody who's lived here for at least 300 years now
without further ado, it's Ryotaro! How you doing?
Very well. Celebrity, you're right about that.
I was being sarcastic
Don't be shy just see the sad truth, you're right
Don't let it go to your head again
All right. So where are we Ryotaro? Where is this picturesque place we stand upon now?
So this is where the Sendai Castle used to be
It used to be here, there's no castle anymore but there's the ruins of Sendai Castle
Yes, if you come to Sendai Castle expecting a castle, you're going to be somewhat disappointed
It got hit by lightning?
There was a fire
It got burnt down, like most castles in Japan it got burnt down
Most castles in Japan are actually rebuilt, but in Sendai they didn't bother
Instead they put a big statue here of Lord Masamune Date - the guy that founded Sendai and the local area
He tried to unite Japan actually, but he couldn't
He couldn't do it?
No, he couldn't do it
We can't all get what we want in life
But if you've just arrived in Sendai I think this is a good starting point
Because you've got one of the best views, the best view of Sendai by far
And you can also try one of Sendai's most famous and popular dishes
So while you're up here at Sendai castle, you can enjoy the first local dish of Sendai
Which is actually a milkshake, Zunda milkshake
For the longest time I got Zunda confused with Zumba - the Brazilian dance
Equally as intriguing
But this is made of edamame, green beans, green soybeans that have been chopped up and mixed into the milkshake
I never wanted to try it because I thought how can that possibly be appealing?
For years on end he was like "Try zunda milkshake! Try zunda milkshake!"
Well I said that
And I said I'll take it at my own pace - my own pace is three years
Then I came up here two months ago, tried it, fell in love with it
Now you're addicted, obsessed with it!
I'm addicted and obsessed with it
How many have you had today already?
This is our third one. But I needed two to remind myself of the flavour.
Remind yourself, right...
And the flavour is vanilla ice cream with a hint of salt and a kind of nutty undertone
It gives it a very moreish addictive taste.
Trying your best to explain how it tastes
That's how you describe things
This is the best place to experience it, to try it, sitting here overlooking Sendai
Staring at the giant terrifying white statue in the distance
Look at this - this is Daikannon
Actually means "goddess of mercy"
When this was built in 1991, it was not popular at all by local people - and still isn't
When this was built in 1991, it was the tallest statue in the entire world
Now it's only the sixth tallest statue
But as Ryotaro said, its reputation isn't that great with the locals
Because it wasn't built by a temple, it wasn't built by a church or anyone
it was just built by a rather rich company, who had a bit too much money to spend leftover
That said, it is an incredible statue and you can go inside it
There's lots of mini statues and things but personally I wouldn't bother
I'll just come here, get a little photo for Instagram and move on
In recent years Sendai a5 Wagyu has joined the ranks of Japan's top cuts of beef
And today we've come to try Sendai beef served in four different recipes
And joining us for our tasting is an actual genuine celebrity this time
The most successful foreign musician living in Japan - frontman of pop rock group Monkey Majik, Blaise Plant
Who as well as being a resident of Sendai, is also our friend.
So Blaise, cheers for joining today.
Thanks for having me Chris, appreciate it
Difficult job, reviewing Sendai beef
By the way, Ryotaro is here. You can see him in the mirror ladies and gentlemen
Somewhere around here... I'll see here and then we'll block him out
So this restaurant specializes in Sendai beef and they've got a variety, pretty much every variety of Sendai beef known to man
We've got sushi, which has come out first. We've got steak and we've got shabu shabu coming later.
And sukiyaki later on as well
Sendai gyu is one of the highest ranked beef cuts in Japan
And can only be bred by licensed farmers
And with a rank of A5 denoting the obscenely marbled cuts of beef
It's not long before our favorite inevitable phrase makes an appearance
That meat just melts in your mouth, you could probably eat it with a straw
Melts in your mouth doesn't it
We've filmed beef quite a lot in these videos.
We've used the phrase "melt in your mouth" maybe 300 times in the last 2 years
So we vowed to never use it again
So now whenever I eat beef I can't use that phrase
Really why not?
Yeah, because I just feel like it's unoriginal
But it's all right, because you're here we can get around that
Is there another way of saying "melt in your mouth" without using the phrase "melt in your mouth" though?
Cuz I'll be damned if there is - there isn't. If there is let us know in the comments!
Round 2 is shabu shabu
You take a thin slice of A5 beef you put it in some hot water
About 10 to 15 seconds and BANG! It's cooked, ready to go.
Put it in some yuzu sauce, stick it in your mouth - job done.
Question is, how does it taste?
Mr. Blaise, and remember you can't use the phrase "melt in your mouth"
I know, I was just thinking about that
You've already used your trump card once this time
Gotcha. All right, well you know what? I'm gonna have to say...
Am I okay to say that, or?
He's just quoted his brand new song
Disgusting isn't it? You have someone in your videos and they start promoting their stuff.
Sorry man, you gave me the opportunity
Your new song is Umarvellous, which is a combination of UMAI meaning delicious in Japanese
and marvellous meaning, marvellous innit
There's a dance that goes along with it too, so
He really wants you to watch that video
It is a good video, especially the 80s aesthetic in the video
It's an homage to our good old friends Earth Wind & Fire
Check it out
So our last dish is Sendai gyu in steak form
Blaise's is already gone
I said Blaise, let's just wait so we can film it
No, it's gone
Of the ridiculous amount of sendai gyu based dishes we've had today, which one was your favourite?
Well there was a lot of beef that was eaten today, so it's kind of hard to...
A staggering amount
But I gotta say the sukiyaki
Just because Sendai gyu goes really well with it
just because of that sweet marble
If you're in a hurry and you're looking to try another iconic meaty dish
Sendai's most famous food is gyutan, literally barbecued beef tongue
Popular in the city since the late 1940s
Barbecued to perfection and flavored with salt or miso - gyutan is typically served along barley rice and tail soup
You'll have no trouble stumbling upon the dish whilst wandering around the Sendai station area
Just follow the salty scent of the grilled beef and you'll be on the right track
So Blaise, you've lived in Sendai 18 years
Yeah, where would you recommend to people visiting Sendai for the first time, somewhere that's actually good
I've got a great place for you guys!
When you go straight out to the coast, there's another town called Matsushima
It's one of the most beautiful places you'll ever visit
Definitely on your bucket list
So, this is Matsushima Bay
It's one of the three historic scenic sites in Japan along with Miyajima in Hiroshima and Amanohashidate in Kyoto
It's quite a buzzing atmosphere, there's lots of things going on
Dozens of ferries going out every hour
Restaurants and stalls, temples and people here just to escape the city
And given that it's only half an hour away from Sendai, it's definitely worth a visit
So in Matsushima Bay there are 264 islands
And the best way to see that is to take a ferry and it costs about 1500 yen
So if you're coming to Matsushima the most popular dish to eat typically are oysters
Which you can find at pretty much any restaurant along the waterfront
But we popped in for something a little bit more light today - kinako sando
The best way to describe it is it's profiterole meets meringue. It's got a kind of crispy outer shell of meringue with the softness of a profiterole
But there's a difference in there
There's a cream in there right? You'll find that
That cream actually, it's made out of the roasted soy flour
and also butter and egg white actually
You know it's good because when Ryotaro and I are filming we usually do a few takes
but we've only had time to do one take this time
Given that I've basically eaten it all already
Yeah, because otherwise, you know, not gonna be able to film anymore.
We have to get it right the first time today.
I think if there's one thing to do or see in Matsushima, it's this.
This is Ensuin Gardens, Ensuin Temple
Just behind Matsushima Bay behind the waterfront
There's this beautiful sprawling garden that feels like a compilation of all the best bits of Kyoto rolled into one
We've got the rock garden. We have a bamboo forest.
And these really cool cave carvings that look like something out of Indiana Jones
If there's one place you've got to come, this is it
I always bring people here and they absolutely love it.
Best of all apparently Einstein came here in the 1920s
So if you do come here you're walking in the footsteps of Einstein. If that doesn't sell it to you - nothing will.
Just ten minutes south of Matsushima is the port town of Shiogama
Which holds the record for having the most sushi restaurants per capita of anywhere in Japan
That's not just because Shiogama is historically a major port town
But because of the way the tuna is supplied to the local sushi restaurants
So if you're in Sendai and you want to get some sushi, when you get the best freshest sushi around
most people come to the nearby town of Shiogama
Which is just next to the city on the coast
And in-between Matsushima and Sendai
Shiogama, what does literally Shiogama mean?
Well shio means salt
And gama means pot
Salt pot. That's how you remember it - get that meme in your head
Yeah Shiogama faces the sea and they used to make salt from the sea water
Because Shiogama's got the biggest raw tuna market
So when you go to a sushi restaurant
Surely all sushi's raw right?
Well it is, but when the fishermen catch sushi right, they actually make tuna frozen normally
So when they go to the market and defrost the tuna, and that's how it's delivered to the sushi restaurant in the end
However in Shiogama it's the biggest raw tuna market. So it gets refrigerated only it doesn't get frozen
So when you eat the tuna it comes in the freshest state
It's about as fresh as it gets.
Exactly. So why are we still talking?
This is seriously good
Amazing. Obviously you can get sushi anywhere in Japan, and they're all fresh
But the quality, and cost performance
Good cost performance.
What an elegant romantic way of explaining it
Mmm you can taste the cost performance
Earlier on Ryotaro mentioned that the best way to see Matsushima Bay is to hop on a ferry
But if you have a little bit more time to spare or you just love fishing there is a slightly more adventurous alternative available
So we're out here in the middle of Matsushima Bay in what might be the world's smallest boat
It's a little bit scary. But other than that, it's a very calm beautiful evening!
There was a typhoon yesterday that swept through the area and we're now experiencing the calm after the storm
So it's actually very nice
Today if we don't catch any fish. We don't have any dinner
So let's go and see how Mr. Ryotaro is getting on with the fishing.
How good are you actually at fishing?
Very good, very good.
Well yeah, I mean like the last time I fished I was 12
And I was really good back then.
Did they have fishing rods back in the 1920s?
Here we go!
Even Ryotaro caught something
Yeah I did!
This is gonna be tempura! Yeah, look at that!
It's a gobi
So while I've been flying the drone everybody's been picking up sticks and just been beating the sea hitting the sea
This is either some weird Japanese tradition that I don't know about, or there is actually a reason behind it. Let's find out
So we we have set up a net and we're actually hitting the surface of the sea
to actually surprise the fish so that it goes all the way there and goes into the net
They all said there is no point of actually fishing with a rod when you can actually do this because they got a lot of fish by doing this
You're just banging it on the side of the boat
Having beaten the sea with sticks for 20 minutes
We reel in the net and head back to shore to turn the spoils of our trip into a fresh mouth-watering supper
So welcome to Ryotaro's Kitchen
And what we've got here is actually...
It's the channel nobody's been waiting for...
So this is it. There's spoils of a fishing trip well done
I'm pretty happy with what we've caught, what you've caught. Well done! To think you actually did something of value for once
The greater Sendai area is the perfect place to spend a weekend away from Tokyo
If not for the city then certainly to escape to the coast
For more information and all the fantastic locations we visited on our trip
You can find all the details in the description box below
But as always guys, thanks for watching. Thank you. We'll see you next time!
Let's go and enjoy Ryotaro's cooking.
I love how you've got all these freshly caught fish then we've just got some hotdogs
Freshly caught from Matsushima Bay!
To be fair that could be a really good bround, bround breaking...
Bround breaking, what are you talking about?