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As usual, I check into the Sendai City Hotel on Bansui Dori, one of the best deals in town: It sits on the edge of the Kokubuncho entertainment district, has a Christian church opposite for easy penance if things get out of hand, and newly-refurbished single rooms start from a comfortable ¥3,500. The Irish pub that was next door the last time I was here has been replaced by yet another konbini (convenience store) that faces off against an almost identical one across the road, and next to the new one is a brand-new Don Quijote discount megastore that makes the Tokyo branches seem like corner shops. Here I buy crucial things I forgot to bring — a CD player, bottles of mineral water and a nurse’s uniform.

Across the road from Don Quijote and into Kokubuncho, I take the first left to the tiny Okinawa-themed izakaya (Japanese-style pub) Kaminari Kazoku (Thunder Family). I know Sendai is renowned for it’s gyutan (cow-tongue) restaurants, but I’d have to be severely water-boarded by a team of crack CIA torturers in Dick Cheney’s basement for a week before I’d eat a mammal.

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