Friday, May 24, 2019

Scenic views from -- and area history lessons at -- Sendai's Mount Aoba

Standing on the old walls and foundations 
of Aoba Castle, atop Sendai's Mount Aoba
A statue of Date Masumune, astride a horse, 
can be found where  his castle once stood
Far off in the distance, a giant Daikannon statue looms! :O
Years ago, when travelling in Germany, I got to thinking -- after spending a day that involved lunch at a castle, visiting a town with four more castles and then visiting a town with a world famous castle -- that it must be the country with the most castles in the world.  Since then, however, I've visited a number of Japanese cities and towns with castles (some of them original; others reconstructions) and got to wondering whether the Land of the Rising Sun may actually be home to even more castles than Deutschland.

In any case, I've become a bit of a Japanese castle snob over the years -- in that I have often decided to give visiting reconstructed castles a miss (however impressive they may look from the outside) even while going out of my way to check out representatives of the 12 remaining castles in the country deemed to be "original constructions" (that include Himeji-jo but also less well known ones like Bitchu-Takahashi's Matsuyama-jo).  And it's indeed unusual for me to deign to visit castle ruins rather than actual castles -- but that's what I did on the first day of my recent Japan trip.  
In truth though, I went to the site where Aobo-jo once stood more for the scenic views that I knew could be had from there rather than for its historical associations.  And on a high visibility day that allowed me to see for miles, I definitely think my decision was the right one.
At the same time, however, Mount Aobo turned out to have more sections of castle than I thought would be the case.  In particular, the massive outer stone walls are hard to miss; and the castle foundations are effectively what one walks on when strolling in the space atop the 100-meter-hill from where one can get panoramic views of Sendai. 

Atop Mount Aoba is also where an equestrian statue of the founder of Sendai, whose castle used to have this commanding location, can be found.  Robbed of sight in one eye as a result of a childhood bout of smallpox, Date Masamune (1567-1637) went on to lose that organ entirely later in life.  This didn't seem to impede his progress much to becoming a legendary warrior and leader popular known as the One-Eyed Dragon however.
The statue of this larger-than-life historical figure astride his horse atop Mount Aoba is too high up for me to see whether Date Masamune is depicted there with two eyes or just one.  His lack of an eye is visible in at least one the side panels on the plinth at its base though.  But, really, what comes across far more in the visual portrayals of this daimyo is how powerful he was. 
All in all, I can imagine that the vast majority of visitors to Sendai won't leave the city without visiting the site where Aoba-jo used to stand and, also, coming by some knowledge -- if they didn't already have some previously -- of Date Masamune.  On the other hand, the sense I get that is that most people are content to view the Sendai Daikannon from a distance (e.g., from atop Mount Aoba); with it being given scant space in local tourist literature even though, standing at over 100 meters tall, it's the sixth largest in the world!


Paul said...

You haven't yet mentioned ... how was the beef tongue in Sendai?

YTSL said...

Hi Paul --

Go to my latest post for your answer (kinda of)!