Sendai Jazz

The Sendai Jazz Festival is this coming weekend, September 12-13! Sendai is a great place for people to come and feel the life of a city. Last year was my second year going to the Jazz Fest and it was just as good as the first. Sendai is a pretty nice city as it is, but when over 700 bands converge on the city and perform on over 90 stages, it gets pretty lively. There are many small stages set up through a roughly 10 block radius of the city. However, there are three “main spots” at the grounds. The biggest one, located in Enkei and Koutoudai Parks, are where the main action is. There are three large stages, three small stages, and about 20 various food booths at this location.

There are also two smaller locations. One is about a 5-minute walk to the East of Koutoudai Park, in Nishikicho Park, which has a couple of small stages and a handful of food and beverage tents. The other one is to the west and slightly south of Enkei Park. This place has a few stages, The World Food Market, and a flea market. It’s about a 10-minute walk west of Enkei Park. Nishi Park is my favorite of the three, although it has the least music. In the past, The World Food Market had German, Mexican, and Indian foods, along with others. It was nice to have a little bit of multi-cultural flavor being as where I live there is little of it. I was also surprised by the flea market. I love flea markets. I love other people’s old junk. I recommend hitting each place in a line, then coming back to the main action at the biggest stages.

Once exiting Sendai station to the west you will see some of the largest department stores in Sendai connected by a raised walkway: the S-Pal department store, Loft Department Store, Sakurano Department Store, the Jujiya Co. Sendai Store, and EBeanS. EbeanS is home to Junkudo Sendai, the largest bookstore in the Tohoku Region. YES, they have an English section. Once you have hit up these places, start heading north towards the music. The main stages are about a 15-20 minute walk to the northwest. Once you reach Nishikicho Park, take a hard west direction and a couple of blocks later you will be at Koutoudai Park and the main stages. From there, take Johzenji Dori west as it has a wide boulevard with a center walk that is covered by large leafy trees. On the way is the Sendai Mediatheque, which is a great stopping point for art, food, and beer. There are many places to get pamphlets with maps and recommended stops, so make sure to get one.

The festival is a really great way to spend the weekend and a good reminder that there really is young expressive culture in Japan. Japan is not all temples and kimonos. It’s not just technology and sumo. It’s a lot of young (and not so young) people wanting to express themselves through music, art, and fashion. Much of the time Japanese society is very stifling when it comes to individuality. People are pressured to conform to group ideas and group image in order to ensure harmony. Sendai Jazz Festival is a great outlet for everyone to let loose with sound and color, to paint, dance, sing, and be different!

For complete information, visit the Johzenji StreetJazz Festival website.

For maps and fliers, click here.

Here are a few videos from the Jazz Festival in 2007: