Tucked in northern Japan, Tohoku is the emerging travel destination that needs to be on your must-visit list. Take the 90-minute ride on a bullet train from Tokyo and you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into another world. You’ll fall in love with the breathtaking forests surrounded by snowy peaks, never want to leave the hot springs you soak in each afternoon, and eat and drink your fill while visiting fish markets, partaking in noodle eating contests, and touring the area’s vineyards. It’s time to start planning your next adventure, so we’ve rounded up some of Tohoku’s highlights to get you started.
Visit the samurai village of Kakunodate for a glimpse of samurai architecture. Then learn all about how Japanese swords are made from Swordsmith Kunihiro (given name Mitsugu Nakahata) who owns a workshop in Inakadate.
Caution: it’ll be hard to tear yourself away from the hot springs (onsen in Japanese). There are more than 10 different types of mineral hot springs in the Tohoku region. The different minerals are supposed to have various healing qualities. Soak in the sulphur-infused outdoor hot springs at the Zao Onsen resort or take in the views of the mountains overlooking Tazawa Lake while relaxing in the Nyuto Onsen, or, if you’re feeling daring, visit the 1,000-person hot spring at Sukayo Onsen.
Tohoku is a foodie paradise. You’ll find some of the best sushi you’ve ever had in Miyagi, where there are more sushi restaurants than you could ever possibly visit. Throughout the Tohoku region you’ll find many fish markets, make sure you try the donburi, a rice bowl of fish, vegetables and meat at the local fish market. In Morioka you’ll want to try “The Great Noodles,” Wanko Soba (a noodle challenge where you’ll try to eat as many bowls of noodles as you can), Reimen and Jajamen. Go hungry, and don’t forget to consider staying at one of Tohoku’s farms during your trip.
From whisky to wine, Tohoku artisans are brewing and fermenting delicious drinks. In Iwate you can learn about making sake and even make and label your own at the Sekinoichi Sake Brewery, while in Sendai you can visit the Akiu Winery where the owners are making wine from local grapes.
Find Your Zen
Learn to meditate like a monk at the Chokai-san International Zendo. Located in Akita, the center provides meditation for visitors with explanations in English.
This large crater lake is simply stunning. Outdoor enthusiasts will love hiking around the lake where various mountain overlooks offer breathtaking views. After tiring yourself out opt to take a boat ride around the lake before indulging in ramen and salted fish in the nearby village.
If you only go to one part of Tohoku make it Matsushima Bay. While fairly small, you could spend several days here. Wander around Fukuura Island, walk across the iconic red bridge, visit the Godaido Temple and tour the Shiogama Fish Market. If you’re game you can even shuck your own oysters for lunch.
*Featured image: Illuminated lanterns in wooden tunnel inside snow dome at Aomori Winter Festival, a famous snow festival in the Tohoku region of Japan