Tohoku Region Travel Guide
Located in the north of Honshu island, the Tohoku region has a population of 8.5 million inhabitants and is composed of six prefectures: Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and Yamagata.
Visiting Tohoku allows discovering various traditional activities. Among them, pilgrimage to Dewa Sanzan, 3 sacred mountains located in Yamagata Prefecture, or experience the natural onsen of Ginzan, perfect for rejuvenation.
With its historical as well as modern symbols, Tohoku is a region not to be missed during your visit to Japan!
Japanese traditional beauty in Tohoku
Tohoku is full of places full of history: Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, traditional wooden houses, and feudal castles. These will make you discover the Japan of the past, the time of the samurais, and the clan wars.
In Iwate prefecture, the temples, gardens, and archeological sites of the city of Hiraizumi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are full of history. Formerly the capital of the northern part of Honshu Island, it is now a testimony to the past of the Tohoku region.
The old town of Kakunodate has remained almost unchanged since its creation in the 17th century. Its samurai district, one of the best preserved in Japan, is the witness of an important page of the traditional aspect of Japan. An opportunity to go back to the past!
Founded in 860, the Yamadera temple is nestled on the mountainside of Yamagata Prefecture and offers a breathtaking view of the green valley below and the surrounding mountains. Not to be missed during your visit to the area.
Finally, Ôuchi-juku village in Fukushima Prefecture is very popular since the Edo period. Its ancient thatched houses have been protected until today, giving the village a time capsule appearance.
We recommend visiting these places, witnesses of the history of the region!
The nature of northeastern Japan
Composed of six of the most rural prefectures in Japan, the Tohoku region is blessed with great nature, ideal for walking and hiking. Get away from the big cities for a while and take a breath of fresh air north of the many mountains by discovering the national parks and other natural beauties offered by the region.
Located about 40 minutes by train from Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture, Matsushima Bay is home to more than 200 small rocky and wooded islands. It is considered one of the three most beautiful scenic spots in Japan on par with Amanohashidate, the "bridge of heaven" of Chugoku, and the very famous Miyajima.
The most impressive one is located in Aomori prefecture, where a river taking its source in Towada lake has formed Oirase Gorge. Surrounded by lush woods and dotted with waterfalls, this place has inspired painters and poets for centuries. It is a particularly recommended place for hiking and biking enthusiasts.
Where to see the cherry blossoms in Tohoku?
Cherry blossoms are one of the symbols of Japan and their arrival at the end of winter brings a festive wind to the country every year! Their blossoming kicks off Hanami, a Japanese tradition of picnicking with family, friends, or colleagues under the branches of cherry blossoms.
When spring arrives, you will find exceptional places to go and admire the pink petals of the cherry blossoms:
In Fukushima Prefecture, there is also one of the Nihon Godaizakura, which are the oldest, largest and most famous cherry trees in Japan.
The Miharu Takizakura was planted more than 1,000 years ago and today it reaches 12 meters in height with a diameter of 20 meters. This tree is very impressive when its branches bloom millions of pink flowers at the arrival of spring.
- Read also: Where to see cherry blossoms in Tohoku?
Travel to Tohoku region with a National JR Pass or with a JR East Tohoku Pass
Tohoku is a region famous for its culinary specialties, popular all over Japan. From the famous Aomori Ringo to the Morioka noodle trio, Tohoku has a lot to offer to Japanese food lovers.
To learn more, check out our article exclusively about the specialties to try in the Tohoku region!
Visiting Tohoku: how to get to the region
Access by train:
Access by train is easy from Tokyo or Hokkaido with high-speed trains to Tohoku. For example, the trip from Tokyo to Aomori will take only 3 hours by Shinkansen and it will take you only 1 h 30 to get to Sendai.
The Japanese high-speed train serves the biggest cities in Tohoku and then local train lines run through the six prefectures. To travel without constraints, consider the Japan Rail Pass!
Access by plane, from Nagoya and Osaka:
There is an airport in each of the six prefectures of Tohoku, so you can easily get to the region by plane. The plane is a fast way to get to Tohoku, the trip from Nagoya airport to Aomori airport takes only about 1 h 20 and 1 h 45 from Osaka.
Access by car:
It is also possible to explore the region by car by renting a car. A solution within everyone's reach, which offers you the most freedom and opens the doors to the most rural Tohoku!