If you are travelling to Japan and want to experience an off the beaten path destination, we recommend adding Tohoku to your bucket list. The region is located between Tokyo and Hokkaido and is known for its stunning landscapes and uncharted wilderness. Tohoku is on the island of Honshu and it consists of six different prefectures: Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and Yamagata. The area has a vast, beautiful countryside, mountains, lakes, hot springs and very high-quality rice as the region provides over 20 per cent of the nation’s rice crop. Throughout the years, Tohoku retained its reputation as a remote and scenic region in the North of Honshu. Home to some of Japan’s best ski slopes, a vast number of inviting onsen, an array of trails which are naturally stunning and local culinary delicacies which lure international foodies from all corners, Tohoku has something interesting for each type of traveller. Here are some of the highlights of the region.
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Are you a spiritual trekker?
Are you looking for a spiritual experience during your trip to Japan? Dive into Japan’s spiritual heart and make room for meditation with monks or long treks with the Yamabushi. Understand the essence of the Japanese culture and find it within yourself to learn about the art of acceptance. This type of journey will allow you to connect with inner self, before feeling one with your environment, the local culture and Japanese food. According to the myths, Yamabushi are believed to have supernatural powers. Traditionally, Yamabushi are mountain hermits who follow the Shugendō doctrine. Their practices are open to outsiders, interested in learning more about the rituals. You are meant to follow your Yamabushi for days or even weeks and be able to deal which any and every situation and accept things and yourself in the process. At the end of the practice, you can jump over fire as a sign that you are being spiritually reborn.
Are you a nature hiker?
Nothing beats a journey through Japan’s natural landscape. From photographing the dramatic Kitayamazaki Cliff to admiring transparent indigo lakes in the lush green Shirakami Mountains, Tohoku is a region which presents you some of Japan’s finest nature. The Shirakami Mountain area was one of Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1993 and its known for its deep valleys, groups of 33 lakes and swamps and a plethora of waterfalls. If you are a nature lover, take a long trail in Kitayamazaki, which starts from Aomori and leads to Miyagi where you can hike along the coast. The star attraction in Tohoku for any nature hiker is the Aoike Pond which looks beautifully blue. You can see the old beech branches at the bottom of the pond. Nobody knows why Aoike Pond has its blue colour which makes this attraction mysterious, yet naturally stunning.
Are you the adventure traveller?
Do you like to insert a bit of adrenaline into your travels? Tohoku has an array of fun activities to offer, tailored to all adventure travellers. From paddle boarding and water yoga in Matsushima, trough mountain biking across the region, you will be spoiled for choice. For local activities, tag along a fisherman to harvest oysters before sampling their delicious taste. One of the most peaceful and rejuvenating experience is perhaps kayaking at sunset on Lake Tazawa, which does not freeze in the winter, making it the perfect year-round destination in Tohoku.
Are you a Powder Snow Hunter?
If you are a winter child who loved going for the fresh powder, then Tohoku is just the place for you. Take the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Aomori which is close to Mount Hakkoda, a skiing paradise. The Hakkoda mountains are a set of volcanic peaks, known for their seasonal beauty. Nowadays, many international skiers make Mount Hakkoda their go-to place for their winter sports. The location is known for the off-piste trails suitable for ski professionals. The area is known for its relaxing onsen (Japanese hot springs), so nothing beats a hot soak after a full day of snow adventure with your family and friends.
Are you a countryside lover?
After seeing the vast neon-lit entertainment quarters of Tokyo, head over to the capital’s chill pill: Japan’s epic countryside. It is within these relaxing areas that you’ll find a way to combine your need for adventure, tranquillity and culture. Visit the Akita Cultural Facility and meet Akita Maiko, Japanese women who train to become Geisha. They entertain visitors with traditional dances and games. See the stunning Akita Furusato Village during winter where all rooftops are covered in white, creating a mot photogenic landscape. Soak in Ginzan Onsen located in Obanazawa, a small town nestled in the Japanese mountain. And finally, head for the slopes during winter to enjoy a ski trip of a lifetime, before indulging in freshly cooked Japanese food at your local ryokan.
Are you ready to visit Tohoku? Which type of travellers are you and what will you do once you visit the beautiful region of Tohoku? Let us know in the comments section below.
Thank you, JNTO for sponsoring this post. We are very excited about returning to the region this year and we can't wait to go on a spiritual trek, find our inner adventure and relax in your gorgeous onsen.