Fri, Aug 16, 2019

Zuihoden, the mausoleum of ‘One-eyed Dragon’: A sight to behold in Sendai

Japan’s beauty in the eyes of CIRs

Zuihoden is a popular destination for tourists in Sendai and well known for its vividly colored decorations. (Courtesy of Zuihoden)
By Sora Choi / CIR for the Miyagi Pref. Government

Located in the city of Sendai in the Tohoku region, Zuihoden is the mausoleum of Date Masamune, the founder of what was known as the Sendai Domain – the domain’s capital was what later became modern-day Sendai – and one of the most charismatic feudal lords of 16th-century Japan.

Date Masamune was born in 1567 and became head of the family following successful campaigns on the battlefield. Known for his helmet with a golden crescent-moon and black armor, he wore an eye patch to cover the eye he lost as a child, thus giving him the fearsome nickname of the “One-Eyed Dragon.” It is even said that his helmet and armor were one of the inspirations for the attire of Darth Vader from “Star Wars.” Date went on to found Sendai Castle and eventually became famous throughout the country for developing the culture, politics and economy of the region. Even today, the Date clan’s regal aesthetic and influence can still be found throughout various historical sites throughout Sendai and Miyagi Prefecture.

Zuihoden is the mausoleum of Date Masamune, the ‘One-eyed Dragon.’ (Courtesy of Zuihoden)

The Zuihoden mausoleum is a sight to behold with its magnificent contrast of vividly colored decorations, deep black lacquer and striking gold accents. Although it was originally designated as a National Treasure in 1931, it was rebuilt in 1979 after being burned down in 1945 during World War II before undergoing further renovations in 2001 to better replicate the original beauty of the mausoleum. The ornaments on the building range from flowers and birds to dragons and heavenly deities, making for a stunning work of architecture. Flanked by towering trees, the stone path leading up to the tomb is equally breathtaking and provides a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of Sendai. In the summer, the trail is lined with blue and purple hydrangea flowers in full bloom, and in the fall, a special evening illumination event is held to light up the mausoleum and colorful leaves nearby.

Zuihoden is frequently used for field trips by local residents. (Courtesy of Zuihoden)

Located further down the path are Kansenden and Zennoden, the gorgeous mausoleums housing Masamune’s son Tadamune and his grandson Tsunamune, respectively. These structures are also intricately designed in a style similar to that of Zuihoden. Not far from the sites is a small, unassuming cemetery dotted with gravestones of other descendants from the Date family. This area, which is usually less crowded, is a quiet break from the more popular Zuihoden site and provides a chance to take in the tranquil atmosphere of the mausoleums and the surrounding forest.

For a more in-depth look into the history of the Date family, the Zuihoden Museum near the main mausoleum displays personal artifacts of the Date clan as well as items excavated after the wartime bombing, including family skeletons and hair. Other exhibits include swords, armor, combs, lacquer boxes and documents. There is also a souvenir shop where visitors can purchase original products and memorabilia related to the Date family and Sendai.

Zuihoden is a true gem for those interested in experiencing the rich culture of Miyagi while being transported to an otherworldly site deep in the forests of Sendai. Not only is Zuihoden a famous tourist spot, it is also frequently used for field trips by local students and residents alike due to its status as a well-respected symbol of the region. A trip to Sendai and Miyagi is not complete without a visit to Zuihoden and its comprehensive look into the history of Date Masamune and his family, one of the most powerful clans in ancient Japan.

You can enjoy the colorful leaves in the fall. (Courtesy of Zuihoden)

Zuihoden is a 15-minute walk from Omachi Nishi Koen Station on the Tozai Subway Line. It is also designated as a stop for the Loople Sendai, a sightseeing bus that takes visitors to famous tourist spots in the city. English-speaking tour guides are also usually available on-site during weekends, and multilingual explanations can be found at the sites.

(Cooperation: Council of Local Authorities for International Relations)

Sora Choi

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Sora Choi

Sora is from the state of Michigan in the United States and graduated from Michigan State University with dual degrees in Japanese and English. She initially became interested in Japan after staying with a host family in Sendai as a high school student. Before coming back to Japan, she worked at a think tank focusing on U.S.-Japan relations in Washington. In 2016, she joined the Miyagi Prefectural Government as Coordinator for International Relations (CIR), where she primarily promotes regional tourism through the “Visit Miyagi” website and social media.

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