Sendai is Tohoku's largest city, and its 1.3 million residents enjoy the big-city amenities coupled with the easygoing vibe of a small town. Devastated by World War II, Sendai has since become a thoroughly modern and well-planned city, with wide boulevards and a surprising amount and variety of greenery. It's the economic and educational capital of the region, hosting a broad range of industries and institutions, such as prestigious Tohoku University. In recent decades the city has become a magnet for international students, teachers, and workers, and this has helped foster Sendai's energetic and affable atmosphere.
The city's origins can largely be traced to the story of the "one-eyed dragon," local warlord Masamune Date (1567–1636). Affectionately nicknamed for both his one working eye (he was blinded in the other during a childhood bout with smallpox) and his valor in battle, Date established a dynasty in Sendai that maintained its position as one of the three most powerful daimyo (feudal lord) families during the shogun eras (his crescent-moon helmet is still found in popular samurai-battle imagery). In later life, his talents expanded: he engineered a canal linking two rivers, improving the transport of rice; and in an effort to further trade with Europe, he dispatched an emissary to Rome and the Vatican. He remained to his death a closet patron of Christianity, and encouraged Japanese exploration of the outside world (even after both were formally outlawed by the Tokugawa Shogunate).