Hirose-gawa or the Hirose River that flows through Sendai is deemed by many as a multi-purpose river. Even since the time of Date Masamune, the samurai lord and founder of Sendai, the river has played the important role of providing an additional layer of defense to Aoba Castle. Nowadays, its primary role is as a green area used by a lot of Sendai residents for seasonal events such as BBQ or imonikai. In short, it gives Sendai its distinctive vibe as the ‘City of Trees’, due to its lush green riverside.
That is exactly why Hirose River is one of my favorite spots in Sendai. Walking along the river is pleasant, yet not many people actually know how attractive this simple activity is. Additionally, the riverside is the perfect place to do a little birdwatching. Here’s how you can get to this secret spot of mine — refer to the map below. Note: You could also use bicycle to access this spot, so bring one if you prefer cycling.
From Tohoku University Katahira Campus, exit from the main gate to a downhill road towards the river. Turning slightly left will eventually lead you to a small curvy street. From here there is a small brick path that leads you down to the riverside. This is the beginning of my birdwatching route. In springtime, there are some pretty cool-looking trees with colorful flowers.
Just follow the path here. The riverside offers you plenty of spots here and there to relax with the sound of flowing water. Occasionally you might see Japanese eagles circling around in the sky scouting for food, while down below cranes and ducks are mucking about in the river.
The path leads you up to a small children’s playground near a residential area. In the distance you can see Atago Bridge, but there is no way to get there from the riverside. Instead, head up off the banks and follow the road to the main road that passes across Atago Bridge. (See the embedded Google Map below for reference).
Crossing the bridge, you will end up on the other side of the river. Here you can’t walk close to the riverside, but instead you have access to a narrow path meant for bicycles. I find that this path is best tread in Autumn, as the trees along the road will be red or yellow in color. The flow of the Hirose River by this location is smoother and much bigger in size — the sign of a downstream. Occasionally you can see ducks or seagulls here.
If you keep following the same street you will eventually end up in Showashiden Street that crosses the river over another bridge. This spot is usually filled with people having picnics or parties during summer and autumn. And this is the end destination of my birdwatching route. From here I usually catch the subway nearby from Nagamachi-icchoume station back to Sendai station.
There it is – a quick half-day getaway idea from the city! I hope you have the chance to try out this route one day, too.