1. Itsudatte Neko-ten (いつだって猫展)
April 19–June 9
An exhibition of cat-themed ukiyoe and other historical Japanese cat-themed art.
Access: 3-min. walk from Kokusai Center Station
Admission: Adults 1,300 yen
Event website: nekoten-mmt.tv
2. Kazan: A Superb Imagination at Work
April 20–June 23
The first-ever full retrospective of Kazan’s works, this traveling exhibition is making a sojourn in Sendai before moving on to Kyoto. Kazan Yokoyama (横山華山) was an Edo period painter known for the extraordinary detail and distinctive, at times anachronistic style of his works. Kazan’s work influenced other Edo period painters so strongly that he became the de facto the progenitor of the Yokoyama-school style of painting.
Access: 7-minute walk from Kokusai Center Station or Kawauchi Station
Admission: Adults 1,300 yen
Event website (English): kazan.exhn.jp/en/
3. Sendai International Music Competition (仙台国際音楽コンクール)
May 25–June 30
Aoba Ward, Sendai
The Sendai International Music Competition is held just once every three years. Its mission is to “contribute to the global culture of music and international exchange through the nurturing of young, talented musicians”. Young pianists and violinists from around the world come to compete here. The Competition is unique in that, from the semifinals onward, competitors are accompanied by the Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra during their repertoires. The public is invited to attend both the solo preliminaries as well the concerto-accompanied later rounds.
Hours: Concert start times 10:00–18:30 (varies by performance)
Access: 3-min. walk from Asahigaoka Station.
Admission: From 1,000 yen (varies by concert)
4. Fantastic World-Marina Narita (46)Junichi Onodera
May 25-June 30
Sendai artists Marina Narita and Junichi Onodera have partnered on this art exhibition at the Art Inclusion (Ai) Gallery. The 46 indicates the difference in their ages. On weekdays you can see other inclusive art exhibits at Ai Gallery as well. There is also a gallery talk and party with both artists on Saturday June 15th from 14:00.
Access: 6-min. walk from Hirosedori Station (Sendai Subway Nanboku Line) or 14-min. walk from Sendai Station
5. Tohoku Kizuna Festival (東北絆まつり)
Fukushima City, Fukushima
The six major summer festivals of Tohoku rolled into one! Come witness the spectacles of the Aomori Nebuta, Akita Kanto, Morioka Sansa Odori, Yamagata Hanagasa, Fukushima Waraji, and Sendai Tanabata festivals all in one. The festival takes place in a different prefecture of Tohoku each year—this time it’s Fukushima.
Hours: 10:00–18:00 (June 1), 10:00–17:00 (June 2)
Access: Main event space is a 30-min walk from Fukushima Station (but various attractions set up along the route).
6. Togatta Street Performer Festival (とうがった大道芸)
Togatta Onsen, Miyagi
The main street of Togatta Onsen comes alive with amusing and thrilling performances by street performers from Japan and abroad. Come see juggling, magic shows, stunt unicycle performances, and more!
Hours: 18:00–21:00 (June 1), 9:30-15:00 (June 2)
Access: 60-min by bus from Sendai Station. From Sendai Station, board highway bus bound for Togatta Onsen (遠刈田温泉). Alight at Togatta Onsen bus stop.
7. Tenbo Green Festa (展望グリーンフェスタ)
June 1–July 7 Saturdays & Sundays
One of Tohoku’s largest colonies of cork azaleas (シロヤシオツツジ), a deciduous azalea which bears graceful white flowers, grows wild on the hillsides surrounding the Zao Eboshi Ski Resort. Come see them in full bloom! To allow visitors easy access to the azalea colony, the Tenbo Ropeway will be in operation on these dates.
Admission: Free (Ropeway 1,300 yen round-trip)
8. A Very Special Music Festival (とっておきの音楽祭)
Huge street music festival featuring 352 acts spread over 34 stages! The mission of the festival is to promote collaboration between disabled and abled musicians. Barrier-free access to all acts.
Access: Main event plaza is a 10-min walk from Kotodaikoen Station.
9. Christian no Sato Matsuri (キリシタンの里まつり)
Local festival celebrating the Christian heritage of the area. The main event is a flower offering ceremony at the Christian martyrs' burial site. Outdoor live music and market stalls selling fresh produce and prepared foods will be set up at the nearby park.
10. Fava Bean Festival (そら豆まつり)
Fava beans are a little-known local product of Murata and a coveted item for those of us from abroad who grew up on them. With their harvest season so short, the surest opportunity to purchase fresh ones at bargain prices is at this small festival. Highlights include char-grilled fava beans and all-you-can-stuff fresh fava sales. In addition to the festival, the restaurant at the Michi no Eki hosting the event serves fava bean udon year-round as a signature dish.
Access: 40 minutes by highway bus from Sendai Station. Board bus bound for Murata (村田) from Sendai Station Bus Stop 34, alight at Murata-machi Yakuba (村田町役場)or Satellite Miyagi (サテライト宮城). Destination is a short walk from the bus stop.
11. Thai Festival in Sendai (タイフェスタブルin仙台)
Celebrating Thai culture. Highlights include kickboxing, crafting experiences, food, and live music.
Hours: 10:00–20:00 (June 8), 10:00–19:00 (June 9)
Access: Next to Kotodai-Koen Station
12. Sake & Nishi Park (日本酒と西公園)
Enjoy early summer with sake-al-fresco in Nishi Park. 25 breweries from 10 prefectures will set up shop in Nishi Park for two nights only—a rare chance to sample such a diverse selection of sake all in one go! Food stalls and live entertainment will also be available.
Hours: 10:00–20:00 (June 8), 10:00–17:00 (June 9)
Access: Next to Omachi-Nishi Koen Station
Admission: Free (sake tickets 2,500 yen for a set of 10)
13. Sendai Akiu Soba Fest (仙台秋保そばフェス)
Soba festival and competition located near Akiu Onsen. Accomplished amateur soba artisans come to compete against one another to see who can make the best hand-cut soba. On June 8, Zenmen Cooperative-certified amateurs compete, and on June 9 it's the Sendai-Akiu preliminaries for the all-Tohoku amateur soba championships. There will be stall set up selling hand-cut soba to the public, as well as soba-making tools and local products. Visitors can also enjoy a soba exhibition and balloon-animal art.
Access: By bus from Ayashi Station. Board bus bound for Uenohara (上の原), Nojiri-cho north (野尻町北), or Futakuchi (二口). Alight at Akiu Chugakko-mae (秋保中学校前). Destination is a 3-min walk from bus stop. Bus timetables here (click on desired bus to view departure times).
14. Iki Iki Den En Festival (活き生き田園フェスティバル)
Lively local festival aimed at bringing agricultural communities and city folk together. Features a variety of amusements, from traditional ceremonies to pop culture entertainment and goofy competitions. Saturday evening highlights include a fireworks show and live music by local acts like Samurai Apartment. Festivities kick off Sunday with a Bakishin Riser character show, followed by a boot-flinging competition and the self-proclaimed “World’s #1” giant rice bale parade. The public is also invited to participate in various farming experiences, such as sweet potato planting and sausage making.
Hours: 13:45–21:00 (June 8), 10:00–15:00 (June 9)
Access: 12-min. by taxi from Kashimadai Station
15. Meat Festival (食肉まつり)
The highlight of this carnivorous event is the spit-roasted Kuroge wagyu (黒毛和牛). Steak, simmered offal, and grilled pork also make an appearance. Non-meat attractions include market stalls, street performers, and live jazz.
Access: Next to Kotodai Koen Station
16. Osaki Food & Fun Festival (おおさき食楽まつり)
Naruko Onsen, Miyagi
Celebrating local food specialties from inside and outside the prefecture. A competition will be held to determine who makes the best Naruko chanko nabe. Part of the fun is the festival's location—right next to the famous Naruko Gorge. Fill your belly at the festival, then walk it off with a stroll down the path that leads to the bottom of the gorge.
Access: 10-minutes by shuttle bus from Naruko Onsen Station
17. Tagajo Iris Festival & Gotochi Gourmet Fair (多賀城あやめ祭り・ご当地グルメフェア)
The historic Taga Castle Site is home to a lovely iris garden. Come take the flowers in full bloom and enjoy a wide variety of associated festivities: partake in a tea ceremony, try on Manyo isho (an ancient style of Japanese clothing), shop the festival bazaar, view artsy illuminations in the evening, and more!
The Gotochi Gourmet Fair will be held in conjunction with the Iris Festival on June 15,16, 22, 23, and 29. It showcases local-gourmet food from Tagajo and it’s faraway sister cities: Daizafu, Fukuoka; Nara City, Nara; and Tendo, Yamagata.
There’s a lot happening and not every event is offered every day, so please see the event link for detailed information.
Hours: 10:00–16:00 (Evening illumination is 19:00–21:00 June 20–22)
Access: 5-min. walk from Kofuku-Tagajo Station
18. Ume~ Ume Matsuri in Kakuda (うめ～梅まつりin角田)
A local ume festival featuring market stalls, cooking demonstrations, pit-spitting games, and more.
Access: By free shuttle bus from Kakuda Station
19. Shibata Hydrangea Festival (しばた紫陽花まつり)
June 21–July 7
Funaoka Park, most famous for its cherry blossoms, is also home to a handsome colony of hydrangeas. In early summer, the parks walking paths come alive with over 2,500 hydrangeas in bloom. The festival also features yukata (casual, lightweight kimono) rental, crafting experiences, and live musical performances that range from blues to traditional folk songs (events and times vary by date).
Access: A 15-minute walk from Shibata-Funaoka Station
20. Kozo-ji Firefly Festival (高蔵寺ホタルまつり)
Enjoy the otherworldly glow of fireflies floating in the woods near the historic and atmospheric Kozo-ji Temple, a National Cultural Property. In addition to fireflies, the evening is also filled with a variety of other entertainments: hand-cut soba, live musical performances, and a mukashi asobi (old-fashioned games corner).
This group exhibition is by six female Tohoku Seikatsu Bunka University art majors who graduated in 2010. The title comes from the first letters of each of their names and is also a spirited call meaning "let's go do it!"
10 years after graduating, what has changed and what remains the same? These works capture something of what they've seen, thought and felt. Spend some time in their world.
Hours: 11:00-19:30 (ends at 17:00 June 30)
Access: 5-min. walk from West 1 exit of Omachi Nishi Koen Station (Sendai Subway Tozai Line)
22. Iris Festival & Kagura Taikai (あやめまつり神楽大会)
Iris Festival: June 14–July 3
Kagura Taikai: June 30
Kagura is a traditional style of Japanese dance that predates Noh and kabuki, originally performed at shrines during ceremonies as entertainment for the gods. Come watch kagura performances in a casual setting at this event, held in conjunction with the Sanno Historical Park Iris Festival. Kagura dances traditionally practiced in rural areas of southern Iwate and northern Miyagi will be performed, complete with elaborate costumes and live musicians.
Hours: 8:30–17:00 (Kagura Taikai is June 30 only, starting at 9:30)
Access: 70 minutes by bus from Sendai Station. Board bus Ichihasama Line (一迫線) bus bound for Ichihasama Sogo Shisho-mae (一迫総合支所前), alight at Ichihasama Sogo Shisho-mae. Destination is a 5-minute walk from bus stop. Bus info here.
Admission: 510 yen
23. Osaki-Hachimangu Minadzuki Oharae-shiki Purification Ritual (大崎八幡宮水無月大祓式）
Aoba Ward, Sendai
Oharae-shiki are traditional Shinto purification rituals held biannually at the end of June and December. These rituals are meant to cleanse the spirit of the various sins and misdeeds one unintentionally commits throughout the year. The summer oharae-shiki at Osaki-Hachimangu Shrine offers a variety of rites to purify the spirit.
The quintessential ohare-shiki rite, one which requires no payment or advance reservations, is the chinowa kuguri. A chinowa (茅の輪) is a large ring made of bundled aquatic plants that worshippers pass through in a left-to-right figure-eight pattern, a simple ritual said to purify the spirit completely of all the unintentional corruption accumulated over the past six months. Anyone, regardless of country of origin or religious orientation, is invited to take part—participation doesn't require one to join the Shinto religion or become a shrine member. The chinowa will be set up about a week before the ohare-shiki, and will remain up through August 8. Visitors are free to come view it and perform a chinowa kuguri any time during that period.
Access by rail: A 15-min. walk from Kunimi or Tohoku Fukushi Daigaku-mae Stations
Access by bus: From Sendai Station bus stops #10 or #15, board a bus bound for Jogi (定義), Sakunami Onsen (作並温泉), Shirozawa Shako (白沢車庫), Imozawa (芋沢), Osawa・Aonoki (大沢・青野木), Moniwa (茂庭), Saikaen (西花苑), Minamiyoshinari Danchi (南吉成団地), or Kunimigaoka (国見ヶ丘). Alight at Osaki Hachimangu-mae (大崎八幡宮前) bus stop. Search timetables here.