Gokoku Shrines are Shinto shrines located in every prefecture of the country and designated as places to enshrine those who have died in war as “eirei,” spirit of the departed hero. Those shrines were originally called Shoheisha Shrine, but were renamed Gokoku Shrine by order of the Interior Ministry in 1939.
Gokoku Shrine in Miyagi Prefecture was founded in 1904 at the ruins site of Aoba Castle, the main castle of the Sendai domain, where Date Masamune resided. The shrine pavilion was destroyed by fire cause by Great Sendai Air Raid in July, 1945. In 1958, old building of Kaze no Miya, one of the attached shrines of Ise Shrine was dismantled and reconstructed as Gokoku Shrine in Miyagi.
Eventually the total number of souls enshrined reached 56,000. Those include the dead soldiers from Miyagi Prefecture and the war dead from the areas under the control of the Army’s Second Division.
As the shrine is located atop a hill with an altitude of 144 m, the shrine is known as the best scenic spot in the city. It commands a panoramic view of the city with the Hirose River and the Pacific Ocean.
The Homei Shijuhattaki (Forty-eight) Falls is on the upstream of the Hirose River, which runs through Wakaba-ku in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture. Water flows down the terraced rocky slopes one after another, forming a basin on every stage. The largest flow was once called “the Bomeki-no-taki Waterfall.” The origin of its name “Homei (Phoenix’s Cry)” is obscure, but there are several theories. One theory states that it was because the overlapping sounds of the waterfall sounded like a cry of a Chinese phoenix.
Off the road from National Route 48, the waterfall is surrounded with densely grown trees. As the waterfall flows at the bottom of the sheer cliffs, only the cool sound of flowing water can be heard from the hiking trail. If you want to see the whole picture of the waterfall, you have to pluck up the courage to lean forward and look down.
The upper part of the waterfall consists of several stages, each of which has a large basin. You will never get tired of looking at the water flowing from one basin down to another, creating the flow of white bubbles. There is a legend that, once upon a time, a heavenly maiden descended from the sky and danced beside the waterfall. Looking at the beautiful flow of water, you might think that it really happened.
Atago Shrine was originally found in Yonezawa in Yamagata Prefecture. With the relocation of the residence of Date Masamune, the founder of the Sendai domain, the shrine was also relocated from Yonezawa to Iwateyama, and finally to the top of Mt. Atagoyama in Sendai in 1591 to serve as the head guardian shrine of Sendai.
As Mt. Atagoyama used to be called Tenguyama (Tengu Mountain), the sitting statues of Otengu (Great Tengu) and Karasu-tengu (Tengu with a crow face) are placed on both sides of the main gate. They are said to be the largest Tengu statues in Japan.
The present shrine pavilions were built in 1603 by Date Masamune. Honden (the main hall) and Haide (the oratory) were designated as cultural properties of Sendai City. The enshrined deity is Kagutsuchi no Kami, the god of fire. It is said that the fire prevention festival of the shrine was held as the grand event of the castle town.
From the observatory deck set in the precinct, visitors can command a panoramic view of the Hirose River and “the City of Trees” just as Masamune did about 400 years ago.
The Hirose River is the largest tributary of the Natori River designated as a “Class A River System” by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. The main stream length of the Hirose River is 46 km and its watershed area is about 311 sq. km. The river flows out of the area near Sekiyama Pass in the Ou Mountain Range.
The city of Sendai has developed on the terraced land formed along the Hirose River; hereby the river is called “Mother of Sendai.” The river terrace forming the central part of Sendai City and the natural cliffs typically seen along the Hirose River have been formed in accordance with the changes in the river channel.
The Hirose River provides habitats for a lot of precious flora and fauna including sweetfish and Kajika frogs, which live only in clear water, and over 100 species of wild birds such as common kingfishers and crested kingfishers. Although the Hirose River runs through an urban area, bountiful nature and green woods remain in its watershed area.
The Lantern Float in the Hirose River is a representative summer event held during the season of Bon in August at the riverside between the Miyazawa Bridge and the Hirose Bridge over the Hirose River in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture.
The origin of this event dates back about 250 years, when the Tohoku region suffered from cold weathers and bad harvests and hundreds of thousands of people were starving. To rescue those starving people, the Sendai domain set up the relief center near the Hirose Bridge. Later, people began to float paper lanterns on the river to appease the souls of the victims.
The lantern float has been handed down for 250 years since then. After World War II, the fireworks display began to be held at the same time and it became a biggest summer event of the city. Although it was discontinued for a short time, it was revived in 1990. After a variety of events including an outdoor concert, fireworks are shot up over the lanterns afloat on the river surface. The festival ends with the illumination of the 130-meter wide Niagara Falls fireworks.
Sendai Castle is located on Mt Aoba in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. Constructed in 1601, the castle is also known as Aoba Castle. Date Masamune established the castle during the Keicho years. For 270 years it was the home of the Date family and the Sendai clan's seat of government. Due to its inconvenient setting on a mountain, the Date family moved from Sendai Castle to Wakabayashi-yakata.
Sendai Castle is constructed in a circular enclosure system with Hon-no-maru in the center and Ni-no-maru, Higashi-no-maru and San-no-maru on the outer sides. The buildings are protected by Hirose River, and to the south by Ryu-no-guchi Valley.
After crossing Hirose bridge and climbing the gentle hill, one sees the ruins of the Ote Gate, which was said to resemble a reconstruction of Hizen Nagoya Castle. Ote Gate was destroyed by war, but today the restored gate and fortress give a a feel of the old atmosphere of the castle in former times.