Translated by Hilary Keyes
Japanese Encyclopedia: Tōhoku Region
Written by MATCHA
The Tōhoku region is made up from the six most northern prefectures of Japan's main island, Honshū. These prefectures are: Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Akita, Yamagata and Fukushima.
The Tōhoku region consists of the six most northern prefectures of Japan's main island, Honshū. These prefectures are: Aomori (青森県), Iwate (岩手県), Miyagi (宮城県), Akita (秋田県), Yamagata (山形県) and Fukushima (福島県) . The largest major city in the Tōhoku region is Sendai, with a population of 1.5 million. In order to reach the other large cities in Tōhoku, it's typical to travel from Sendai.
Traveling to Sendai from Tokyo by car takes four hours, two hours by bullet train, five hours by highway bus and roughly one hour by plane. It is best to chose your method of travel to the Tōhoku region based on your schedule and budget.
The Scenery in Tōhoku
Japanese Nature Sites You Must See Once In Your Lifetime Photo by tangerinaok on Flickr
Nature untouched by human hands is abundant in the Tohoku region. With an elevation of roughly 1000 m above sea level, Shirakami-sanchi (白神山地) mountain range was the first place in Japan to be registered on the UNESCO World Natural Heritage site list.
From the third week of April through the end of October, for the low fee of 500 yen, from Aoyama to Akita it is possible to enjoy the grandeur of these natural sites while mountain climbing. By comparing the degree of difficulty required to your own stamina, it's easy to chose from the five different mountain climbing courses available.
Photo by yisris on flickr
The transparent blue-green underground lake Ryūsendō in Iwate prefecture, a legendary home of dragons, is also a famous sight. Being roughly 120 meters at its deepest and having a visibility of 41.5 meters is what makes Ryūsendō not only the deepest lake in Japan, but one of the clearest lakes in the world.
It takes about 30 minutes to view the lake. The entrance fee is 1000 yen, however there are value tickets available that combine the entrance fee with the tourist center, parking fees, drink/food sets or shopping vouchers. It is definitely a good idea to buy your tickets to Ryūsendō in advance.
Remaining Still: Japan's Historical Structures
For those that are interested in architecture, Tōhoku is full of historical castles, temples and townscapes. For example, Hiraizumi city in Iwate prefecture has Chūsonji-Konjikidō, a gorgeous temple ornamented with brilliant gold leaf, also now a World Heritage site.
Photo by Yuko Hara on flickr
And in Akita prefecture, you will feel like you've fallen back in time when you visit the Bukeyashiki, a former samurai residence.
To see some of the most beautiful sakura in Japan, look no further than Hirosaki Castle in Aomori.
photo by Bill McChesney on flickr
The Aizu-wakamatsu Castle in Fukushima prefecture is renowned as one of the most impregnable castles in Japan.
By visiting these structures and seeing their historical scenery, it is possible to gain a deeper understanding of the lifestyles of the samurai and nobility of the time.
Recommended Festivals and Events in Tōhoku
All the prefectures in Tōhoku have their own distinctive festivals. The Nebuta Festival in Aomori, Sansa Odori in Iwate, the Sendai Tanabata Festival in Miyagi, the Kanto Festival in Akita, Hanagasa Festival in Yamagata and Waraji Festival in Fukushima - there are six large festivals in total, all taking place in August.
This photo shows part of Sendai's Tanabata Festival.
Photo by 陳 ポーハン on flickr
Of these six festivals, Aomori's Nebuta Festival is the largest and most famous in Japan, featuring dashi (山車, floats) made from paper; they almost seem to dance and jump as they move down the streets.
As anyone can apply to participate, if you've got confidence in your strength and stamina, doesn't it sound like fun to make memories by adding your voice and strength to those of the locals?
Photo by kanegen on flickr
If you are interested in Japanese folklore, at the Namahage Sedo Festival (なまはげ紫灯祭り) in Akita, or at the Kappa Festival in Iwate, you can get in touch with some of the ghosts from the past.
And, while not a festival, beginning in 1910 and happening every year at the end of August, Akita's Ōmagari (大曲) is the largest fireworks display in all of Japan - an event not to be missed! Because of its popularity, it is definitely a good idea to purchase your tickets well in advance.
The Local Specialties of Tōhoku
Photo by Hajime NAKANO on flickr
In Tōhoku, the local farming and livestock products, as well as the dishes made from those raw materials are bountiful; some of the most famous are the maguro (tuna) of Aomori, Akita's kiritanpo (*1) and Hinaidori chicken, the cherries of Yamagata, the Maesawa beef of Iwate, Miyagi's gyu-tan (cow tongue), and the Kita-kata ramen of Fukushima.
*1: Kiritanpo: freshly cooked rice that is mashed, shaped into dumplings on a large skewer and toasted.
With hundreds of events to chose from, why not try making your own kiritanpo in Akita, picking cherries in Yamagata, or for big-eaters, eating wanko soba in Iwate? No matter what you chose, you are sure to make some incredible memories in Tōhoku.