Nov 13, 2017
Years ago, a visiting colleague asked me what souvenir of Sendai he should being back to his school and townsfolk. I did not recommend the cow-tongue sembei that my husband brought back to Gifu when we lived down there and he visited home. No one liked them, including my husband.
Don't buy these. They are gross.
Instead, I suggested kameboko, a small bamboo-leaf shaped chunk of preserved fish, but since I had trouble remembering the name of the thing (which I still sometimes do), my visitor chose to ignore my advice and go try out his Japanese on the staff at this excellent store in the arcade. Inside any kamaboko shop in the arcade, customers can find a number of edible souvenirs and regional delicacies, including kameboko in a variety of flavors and boxed sets of surprisingly reasonable cost. One set at one shop even features kameboko in the shape of a shrimp, which is a bit out of the ordinary for this area. There are a few kameboko shops in the shopping arcade, so if you don't see anything you like, keep looking.
You can even get a photo op AS a kamaboko in front of this shop near Forus.
Cow Tongue 牛タン
Gyutan, or cow tongue, is famous in Sendai, which is why you can find it on many menus displayed at restaurants close to the station.
From curry to sembei to katsu fillets, gyutan is everywhere and you need only to know the kanji for cow and the hiragana or katakana for tongue to identify it.
Personally, I consider this one to be an acquired taste, but if you are feeling adventurous and in the mood for something savory in your Sendai souvenir shopping spree, look no further than the gyutan.
This friendly razzing cow mascot shows off his goods as well, if you want the cuddlier version of the food-stuff.
Even amongst Japanese people, zunda isn’t for everyone. People from other prefectures don’t always understand or enjoy the sugary soybean concoction, but here it is so famous and ubiquitous that it is the regional kitkat flavor.
You can find it in chocolate and a number of other sweets as well. Sometimes the intrepid shopper can even find zunda taiyaki at the taiyaki place between the sections of the arcade, but beware that these are not long-lasting souvenirs and should be eaten within a day at the latest.
I even found a zunda smoothie in the arcade.
Where to get them
The travel-friendly packs of individually wrapped zunda or gyutan products are easy to find on the third floor of the station, near the shinkansen entrance or on the basement level at the omiyage shops.
If you’re looking for something a bit more selective, a short walk down the arcade will bring you the kamaboko and other regional favorites. Anything shrink-wrapped will usually come with expiration dates, so it is easy to tell if and when you could distribute such items. At some shops, you can even fill out forms to ship your purchases home if need be.
So if you need savory or sweet omiyage from Miyagi, check the station and the arcade.
A working mom/writer/teacher, Jessica explores her surroundings in Miyagi-ken and Tohoku, enjoying the fun, quirky, and family friendly options the area has to offer.