37 Best Things to Do in Tohoku - Travel in Northern Japan by Prefecture
Quickly and easily accessible from Tokyo, Japan's Tohoku region is full of breathtaking scenery, untouched nature, Japanese history, and local delicacies. With six prefectures to choose from, this massive region in northern Japan is full of things to do at any time of the year. Find famous ski and snowboarding destinations nestled in the snow-covered mountains during the winter and some of Japan's best sakura cherry blossom viewing spots in the spring. Keep reading for all you need to know about travel in Tohoku, including the best ways to get to each prefecture and all of the top things to do, eat, and see.
Jul 01 2021 (Jul 02 2021)
About Tohoku - A Region Known For...
The Tohoku region consists of the northernmost chunk of Honshu, Japan’s main island.
It's made up of six mountainous prefectures: Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and Yamagata. Its latitudinal position gives Tohoku a cooler climate, making its summers relatively mild and its winters snowy wonderlands. Tohoku is also well known for its pristine nature, which includes majestic ocean views, panoramas of snow-covered mountains, beautifully colored lakes, roaring waterfalls, and much more. The region is also extremely famous for its high-quality rice and sake, as well as its gorgeous hot-spring retreats!
When Should You Visit Tohoku?
Many destinations across Tohoku are worth visiting at any time of the year but if you are interested in seasonal activities, all six prefectures have something special to offer. The seasons pretty much follow the rest of Japan, just with a longer winter and a lot more snow. The snow season is generally mid-November to mid-March (can be longer in the northernmost prefectures), with a warm and vibrant spring from April to June, a lush, green summer from June to August, and a colorful, crisp fall from August to mid-November.
Some of Japan's most fantastic festivals also take place in this region, like the famous Yokote Kamakura Snow Festival held in Akita's Yokote City, when on February 15-16th each year, people make and gather inside dozens of small huts made out of snow to celebrate and pray for prosperity for their family and business. There is also the Soma Nomaoi Festival, held in Fukushima on the last Saturday-Monday of July, where you can see men in full traditional armor racing horses through the streets in true samurai fashion. August is a great time to witness festivals full of dancing, bright and beautiful costumes, massive decorations, and yummy food such as Aomori's famous Nebuta Matsuri, with its giant paper floats. This festival is definitely worth your while during a summer trip!
Check here for the Best and Cheapest Time to Visit Japan in 2022.
How Do You Get to Tohoku?
Some parts of Tohoku are just a couple of hours from Tokyo, which makes it an easily accessible yet fairly unknown region to explore!
You can catch one of Japan's fairly cheap, comfortable highway buses or the shinkansen from central Tokyo to any of Tohoku's prefectures. Depending on your destination, flying into some cities might also be a more convenient and cheaper option.
If you are planning to travel throughout Tohoku using public transportation and are coming from overseas, then by far the cheapest and most flexible option would be a Japan Rail Pass, giving you 7 days of unlimited rides from 29,650 yen (only offered outside of Japan). There's also the JR EAST Pass (Tohoku Area) that allows unlimited rides in the area on JR trains (including bullet trains) for five consecutive days for 20,000 yen (available to non-Japanese passport holders). Remember that roads will be icy and snowy in the winter if you choose to drive yourself but the public transportation will usually continue operating as normal.
Is Tohoku Safe?
In 2011 a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck the east coast of the Tohoku Region causing the most damages in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures and also resulting in a nuclear powerplant meltdown in Fukushima. The other prefectures of Tohoku (Yamagata, Akita, and Aomori) weren’t as strongly affected due to their location.
After intensive decontamination efforts by the government, including removal of topsoil and tree branches and the washing down of roofs, and great reconstruction efforts (including more than 350 kilometers of seawalls built along the Tohoku coastline), the area hit by the tsunami was approved for travel again.
Even today, 10 years later, there is constant monitoring by TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) and Tohoku University, who release on-campus radiation measurements, as well as supervising by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and strict regulations to ensure that all food, water, and travel in the region is perfectly safe.
Top Things to Do, Eat, and See in Tohoku by Prefecture
The furthest north of all of Tohoku, Aomori can be reached via shinkansen, highway bus, or flight. The shinkansen runs between Tokyo Station and Shin-Aomori Station for about 17,000 yen (one-way) and takes about 3.5 hours. An overnight bus will cost you anywhere from 5,000-11,000 yen (one-way) but will take you around 10 hours. Or, for about the same price as the shinkansen (about 17,000 yen), you can take a flight from Haneda airport to Aomori in under 2 hours.
What to See in Aomori
▪️ Oirase Gorge
Although Tohoku's Oirase Gorge is one of Japan's most popular destinations for autumn foliage, this mountain stream is gorgeous at any time of year. Late October to early November is when the trees will be their most vibrant shades of yellow, red, and orange but during the spring and summer, it is a different kind of beautiful with the lush, green trees and wildflowers. There are over a dozen waterfalls along the stream, which flows peacefully through the forest, and there is a 9-kilometer trail that is easily walkable in about 2.5 hours.
▪️ Shirakami Sanchi and Blue Pond
Find some mystery in the world's largest primeval beech forests of Shirakami Sanchi, a world heritage site also well known for its Blue Pond. There are various hiking, walking, and biking trails throughout the forest, but the most scenic route is the Juniko (twelve lakes) Trail, which takes you on a 40-minute journey past lakes of all colors, from bright turquoise to milky blue to crystal clear.
▪️ Hakkoda Ropeway
Look over the expansive Hakkoda Mountain Range as you take a slow ropeway ride 650 meters up to the top of Mount Tamoyachi. At the top, you can find a multitude of hiking trails from short beginner courses to 4-hour trekking and even year-round skiing (though the best conditions will be from November to May). You can also take a trek (or a mountain climb for the more advanced) to the 300-year-old Sukayu Onsen, perfect for relaxing after whatever activities you've chosen.
Marvel at Japanese history as you explore this ancient town centered around Hirosaki Castle, originally built in the 17th century (the current structure was rebuilt in 1810) and one of Japan's best cherry blossom viewing spots. The surrounding Hirosaki Park is also full of cherry blossom trees and makes for a beautiful, romantic stroll in the springtime.
▪️ Tsuru no Maibashi Bridge
Cross the beautiful Tsugaru Fujimi Lake on the truly unique triple-arched Tsuru no Maibashi Bridge as Mount Iwate towers in the distance. Fujimiko Park and Tanchozuru Natural Park are on either side of the bridge, so you can take a leisurely stroll from one to the other, and take your pick of picnic spots, playgrounds, or fishing and boating.
Food and Local Delicacies to Enjoy in Aomori
Aomori is full of apple farms, producing more than half of Japan's apples each year! During the apple picking season (early July-mid November) there are some apple farms where you can pick them yourself.
▪️ Miso Curry Milk Ramen
The name says it all - a creamy blend of miso and curry flavors, traditionally topped with butter, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, and sometimes meat. This has been a cherished local delicacy for over 30 years!
▪️ Senbei Jiru
The ultimate comfort foods come together to make this delicious dish. Chicken or fish is used as the base in a hearty soup filled with other seasonal vegetables, all topped with "nanbu senbei" wheat crackers for a special twist.
Take either a shinkansen or an overnight highway bus from Tokyo to Morioka Station and then travel locally from there to your final destination. The shinkansen takes about 2 hours for 20,000 yen (one-way) and the overnight bus will be closer to 7,000 yen (one-way).
What to See in Iwate
Hiraizumi is much more than a beautiful town, it is a World Heritage Site with some of Japan's most remarkable and culturally significant landmarks. With architecture and history dating back to the Heian period of Japan (11th-12th century), Hiraizumi tells the story of a town that was built by generations of the powerful Fujiwara clan. Here you can find over 3,000 national treasures and significant historic sites scattered across the beautiful mountainside amongst Japanese gardens, lakes and waterways, and lush forests.
Visit the Chusonji Temple to see the "golden hall", a magnificent dedication to the Buddha of Infinite Light, or head to Motsuji Temple to relax in a Japanese garden that has been restored to look exactly as it did in the Heian period, centuries ago.
▪️ Ryusendo Limestone Cave
Venture through an underground world of caves, lakes, and rivers at the Rysendo Limestone Cave in the mountains of Iwaizumi Town. This Tohoku cave is considered one of the Three Great Limestone Caves of Japan thanks to its beauty and impressive length, which is estimated to be over 5,000 meters. While going into a deep cave might seem scary, it is made easily accessible with structured walkways and lifts, and you'll be able to see unique formations such as stalactites and stalagmites.
▪️ Sanriku Coast
Sanriku Coast includes the entire East coast of Iwate prefecture and stretches into Aomori and Miyagi. It's well known for its beautiful and versatile landscape, some parts having large, sandy beaches and some with sheer cliffs and rocky coastline.
Jodogahama and the Kitayamazaki Coast, both in Iwate, are two of the most recommended sightseeing spots. Jodogahama has clear, calm water dotted with large rock formations. Stretches of sandy beach make this a perfect spot for relaxing and swimming. Take a "Blue Cave Cruise" to explore the rocks and caverns near the beach on a motorboat, or try one of several walking trails from the visitor center to sightseeing points.
The Kitayamazaki Coast, on the other hand, is known for its dramatic, steep cliffs and rocky shoreline. Get spectacular views from the observatory or take a sightseeing boat cruise to experience the cliffs from sea level. If you are looking for wildlife, the Unosu Cliff has an observation deck with equally stunning views where you can see birds like eagles, ospreys, and cormorants.
As the capital city of Iwate Prefecture, Morioka is the major transportation hub of the prefecture and is surrounded by towering and usually snow-covered mountains. Morioka is best known for its gourmet scene thanks to its three great noodles (see the section about Iwate foods below), so you can take your pick of restaurants across the city serving up these local dishes.
After you've had your fill, relax at Morioka Castle Ruins Park, where the Morioka Castle once stood and has now become the perfect area for a nice stroll to look at the stone walls that remain. From April to May over 200 cherry blossoms will bloom, including the Rock-breaking Cherry Tree (Ishiwarizakura) which has been growing out of a granite boulder outside of the Morioka courthouse for over 400 years!
▪️ Geibikei Gorge
If you like nature, this is the place for you. One of Tohoku's most dramatic gorges, Geibikei offers attractive scenery at any time of the year, but particularly so during the foliage season. Geibikei can be admired by a 90-minute ride on flat-bottomed boats that lead visitors about one kilometer into the gorge.
During the scenic cruise, you can disembark at a sandbar where you can admire a large waterfall and try your luck with a local tradition called luck stones. If you manage to pitch a luck stone (representing different good fortunes) across the river into a small cave mouth in the cliffside, the good fortune may come true!
Food and Local Delicacies to Enjoy in Iwate
▪️ Tankaku Wagyu Beef
This super rare beef is lean and full of flavor, making it a pride of Iwate. There are a handful of restaurants in the prefecture that are well-known for making the most of this gourmet ingredient.
▪️ The 3 Great Noodles of Morioka: Jajamen, Reimen, Wanko Soba
Jajamen is the most popular of the three, and some well-known restaurants will have people lined up outside waiting to eat. Jajamen is inspired by a famous Chinese dish and is typically a plate of thick noodles topped with flavorful meat miso, cucumbers, green onion, ginger, and some kind of pickled vegetable.
Reimen is a dish brought from Korea in the 1950s and is a distinctly unique spin on noodle soup. Served cold, the noodles are slim, firm, and topped with kimchi, pickled vegetables, and sometimes meat.
Wanko soba is a full-on dining experience, with all-you-can-eat soba noodles being served by a chanting server as they encourage you to eat more. Other condiments and side dishes are typically also served. Truly unique and special, you can't miss this in Iwate if you're in a group or if you're just hungry!
You can get to Yamagata Station via shinkansen in 3 hours for 11,000 yen. You can also take a highway bus to Tsuruoka, a city on the northwestern coast of Yamagata for as cheap as 5,000 yen, though it will take around 6 hours. There are also daily flights from Haneda Airport which will cost you about 13,000 yen and get you there in about 1 hour.
What to See in Yamagata
▪️ Yamadera (Risshakuji Temple)
As the name implies (Yamadera means "mountain temple" in Japanese), it takes a climb up about 1,000 steps to reach this mountaintop temple! Its beauty and Buddhist significance have made it a pilgrimage destination for centuries, since its founding in 860, and each season brings a new dimension to the experience.
The area is recognized as a Natural Historic Site and a Place of Scenic Beauty, and it is also part of the Zao Quasi-National Park. In the summer, the path up the mountain is illuminated in the evening (from 18:00-21:00) for Buddhist ceremonial chants. In the spring, you can admire each blooming cherry blossom along the way. In the winter, the crisp air and glittering snow create a magical scene, although you would need sturdy boots and good winter gear to make it up the potentially icy and slippery stairs. The thick forest of deciduous trees all around will put on a show of vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows in the fall.
Enjoy the spectacular panoramic view at the top and then a well-earned meal or local ice cream from one of the restaurants at the bottom.
▪️ Dewa Sanzan
The Dewa Sanzan are the three sacred mountains of Yamagata: Hagurosan, Gassan, and Yudonosan. They traditionally represent birth, death, and rebirth in the Shugendo religion, a blending of Buddhism and Shintoism, as well as mountain worship and ascetic practices.
Each of the mountains has a shrine at the top and together they are the site of spiritual pilgrimage for many. Gassan and Yudonosan are open for tourism from July to mid-September while Hagurosan also remains open to visitors during the winter months.
Sakata flourished as a wealthy merchant city during the Edo period, with a local merchant family called the Honma clan dominating trade in the city and acquiring a vast fortune. Due to their influence, the clan was able to build several lavish buildings in Sakata that still stand today and are open to the public such as the Honma Residence and the Honma Museum of Arts.
Sakata also preserves the magnificent 100-year-old Somaro, which was originally a traditional Japanese high-class restaurant but operates today as a teahouse where guests can admire the sumptuous architecture and the performances of Sakata's "maiko" (apprentice geisha).
▪️ Ginzan Onsen
This quaint and charming historic onsen town is nestled into the mountainside and becomes a winter wonderland in the snow season. Relax in luxury or budget-style with dozens of "ryokan" (traditional Japanese inns) and onsens to choose from, most with historic baths.
You can see the historic silver mine that the town was originally centered around, one of many things that will make you feel as though you have traveled back in history. The entrance is next to an awesome 22-meter waterfall on the outskirts of town, and there is also an entrance to a nature trail that is accessible during the warmer months from April to October.
Tsuruoka houses many of Tohoku's valuable destinations as well as a unique food culture that earned the city the title of UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in 2014. The city preserves some beautiful, traditional buildings from the Edo and Meiji periods inside the Chido Museum, which also includes a charming Japanese garden.
Tsuruoka is also home to the largest jellyfish collection in the world at the Kamo Aquarium, which exhibits over 50 different species and a five-meter-wide tank with 5,000 moon jellyfish.
The city is also a great destination for those who love hot springs as it is surrounded by lovely onsen retreats such as Atsumi Onsen, Yura Onsen, and Yunohama Onsen. It is also a top destination during springtime when Tsuruoka Park's 730 cherry trees beautifully bloom.
Food and Local Delicacies to Enjoy in Yamagata
Yamagata is considered the cherry capital of Japan, producing nearly 70% of the cherries in the entire country. This prefecture of Tohoku even hosts a Cherry Festival in late May or early June to celebrate the region's most prominent fruit, giving visitors the occasion to participate in all-you-can-eat cherry-picking sessions!
▪️ Yonezawa Beef
One of Japan's three most famous beef brands, Yonezawa beef is the delicacy of Yamagata prefecture. This beef is acclaimed for its delicate marbling and superior-quality fat, which melts at a very low temperature and gives the meat delicious umami.
No other dish is suited to Tohoku's weather more than imoni, a rustic yet delicious soup made with taro (a type of root vegetable) and meat. Imoni is famous as an autumnal outdoor food, so it's common to see people preparing the dish around a fire near a river, enjoying this convivial, seasonal event.
Take a cheap and relatively fast bus to reach Fukushima station in under 3 hours for 3,000 yen. The shinkansen will get you there in 1.5 hours but cost you 9,000 yen each way.
What to See in Fukushima
▪️ Goshikinuma Five Colored Ponds and the Bandai Area
At Goshikinuma, take a leisurely 4-kilometer stroll around ponds that change color with the seasons, or sometimes even throughout the day. The colors range from turquoise to rusty red and you can even rent a rowboat to paddle around one of the ponds—Bishamonnuma—while enjoying the koi fish. You can visit during any season, but in the winter it's advised to take a snowshoe trek tour to conquer the snow and ice.
Ouchijuku was a trade route town in the Edo period, and today is restored and maintained to look exactly as it did during that time, with thatched-roof houses, unpaved roads, and no electrical wires in sight. Explore local and old-timey shops, restaurants, and traditional Japanese inns. Eat soba and local charred fish per the town traditions. There is also a shrine and a temple after a short climb up the stairs with a spectacular mountain view.
▪️ Oze National Park
Oze National Park is well known for the Ozegahara Marshland and the Ozenuma Pond, as well as its excellent hiking options with well-maintained trails and spectacular views. Most popular from late spring to early summer due to the blooming skunk cabbages (a very unique flowering plant) or in the vibrant colors of early fall, it will be blanketed by deep snow in the winter and is not commonly visited in this season. A range of trails will take you all across the park to its various sightseeing spots, and a few mountain huts can even provide a place to stay the night.
With a rich samurai tradition, Aizu-Wakamatsu is a castle town that offers visitors the chance to admire an outstanding white castle, samurai houses, and Edo-period gardens! The area not only boasts an incredible food culture and some of the best sake in Japan but also guarantees you a relaxing stay in traditional inns with hot springs, and many hiking and skiing opportunities.
▪️ Tsuchiyu Onsen
Tsuchiyu Onsen is one of the most unique onsen towns in Tohoku. Renowned for over 1,000 years, the picturesque town overlooks wooded mountains and vast nature, welcoming guests with several footbaths, a public bath, and many luxurious ryokan. A trip to Tsuchiyu Onsen is an opportunity to enjoy the slow pace of rural Tohoku while soaking in the beauty of northern Japan's four seasons and spending exceptional moments with your loved ones.
Food and Local Delicacies to Enjoy in Fukushima
▪️ Kitakata Ramen
Kitakata has the most ramen shops per capita in all of Japan. With thick noodles, a soy sauce base, and lots of traditional toppings to choose from, this ramen—considered one of Japan’s top three ramen—is extra comforting and worth the trip.
As Tohoku's gourmet paradise, Kitakata offers a plethora of foodie adventures such as trying your hand at organic farming and organic cooking!
▪️ Negi Soba
Fukushima is also renowned for its "soba" noodles (buckwheat noodles) that are locally served as negi soba (leek soba), a type of noodles that you can't find anywhere else in Japan. Negi soba utilizes an unusual but fun method of eating: you have to scoop the soba with a leek and nibble on it as you eat.
▪️ Sauce Katsudon
Fukushima brings the Japanese "katsudon" (rice bowl with deep-fried pork cutlet) to the next level with its local version, the sauce katsudon. As the name explains, in Fukushima's variation of the dish, a juicy pork cutlet is served dipped in a thick layer of mouth-watering sweet soy sauce
You can travel from Tokyo's Haneda Airport to Akita Airport by a 70-minute flight that usually costs between 14,000 and 28,000 yen one way. You can also choose to travel by shinkansen to Akita Station, which takes around four hours and 18,000 yen one way. Night buses are also available and take about eight hours to get you to Akita but allow you to lower your travel expenses, costing around 9,500 yen one way.
What to See in Akita
▪️ Nyuto Onsen and Lake Tazawa
Lake Tazawa is Japan's deepest lake at 432 meters and makes for a great day trip when visited together with the nearby Nyuto Onsen, a hot-spring village prized for the milky appearance of its waters. At the lake, you can see the Goza no Ishi Shrine, which dates back to feudal Japan and has a beautiful "torii" gate floating in the lake.
Get a rental bike or take a sightseeing boat tour to take in the scenery. A fairly difficult, four-hour hike from the lake can also take you up the mountain to Nyuto Onsen (not accessible in winter). With traditional wooden baths and awesome views, this small onsen town is a relaxing throwback to the past.
Kakunodate is not only one of Japan's most spectacular "hanami" (flower viewing) spots during the sakura season but is an ancient castle town that is full of history, Japanese architecture, and tradition. The town is filled with hundreds of uncommon weeping cherry trees, which are simply beautiful when in full bloom around late April to early May. There is also a well-preserved samurai town that was once home to 80 samurai families and is the best opportunity to see real samurai artifacts and culture in all of Japan.
▪️ Yokote Kamakura Festival and Museum
Winter is one of the best times to visit Akita for the one-of-a-kind Kamakura Snow Festival, which is held on February 15th-16th every year in the town of Yokote. Hundreds of "kamakura", or snow houses, will be built across the city for prayer and celebration. Festival visitors are invited inside during the evenings to snack on rice cakes and "amazake" (a sweet rice-based drink usually enjoyed hot).
Start from Yokote station to walk along the kamakura-filled streets until you reach Yokote Castle, where hundreds of tiny kamakura are lined up and will be illuminated in the evening. Stop by Komyoji Park to learn about the building of the kamakura and try your hand at making one. Inside the Kamakurakan Hall, you can see preserved Kamakura at any time of the year inside a room that is kept at a cold temperature. During the festival time, the area around the hall is filled with food stalls and celebrations.
Read on if you want to Try Japanese Igloos in Yokote City's Yuki Matsuri!
▪️ Meet Akita Inu Dogs
You can meet some lovely Akita dogs at the Akita Dog Museum while learning about their history. The museum was founded to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Akita Dog Preservation Society and it exhibits artifacts and materials relating to the history of Akita dogs.
The nearby Akita Dog Visitor Center also has cute Akita Inu greeting visitors, so don't miss the chance to visit both on the same day!
If you are a dog lover, read more on Akita Inu dogs and other 10 Japanese Dog Breeds That Will Melt Your Heart with Their Cuteness!
▪️ Namahage Museum
There's no better way to explore the folklore of Akita Prefecture than visiting the Namahage Museum, which showcases a collection of 150 hand-carved "namahage" (a type of demon from local Akita lore) masks. Each New Year’s Eve, despite their scary appearance, namahage are thought to bring blessings for health and rich harvests, as well as pay a visit to misbehaved children encouraging them to obey their parents and to behave well.
Learn how to meet namahage with our article on Namahage: A New Year's Tradition in Akita Better than the Countdown!
Food and Local Delicacies to Enjoy in Akita
Kirintanpo is rice mashed into a long cylinder, toasted over an open hearth, and served on a stick with sweet miso to make a portable treat. Akita is also known for kirintanpo nabe, a creamy chicken hotpot with vegetables and kirintanpo inside.
▪️ Inaniwa Udon
The history of Inaniwa udon goes back to the beginning of the Edo period. The noodles are hand-stretched and slightly thinner than normal udon and can be enjoyed cold dipped in soy sauce or in a warm bowl of broth. They are so delicious that this dish from Akita was selected as one of Japan’s 100 Best Local Dishes of Rural Areas by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries.
▪️ Hinai Jidori
Akita's Hinai Jidori is one of the three most famous chicken breeds in Japan, as they are free-range and known for their high-quality meat! Hinai Jidori is used in Akita's kiritanpo nabe as well as to prepare delicious "oyakodon" (chicken and eggs over a bowl of rice).
Find buses from as low as 2,000 yen or catch the shinkansen to Sendai Station in under 2 hours for about 11,000 yen each way. From Narita Airport, there are a few daily flights that will get you there in about 1 hour for around 13,000 yen.
What to See in Miyagi
▪️ Zao Fox Village
Zao Fox Village is only one hour by car from Sendai and is home to over 100 foxes of varying species, all wandering freely in beautiful gardens and the surrounding forest. While the animals, including small rabbits and goats, are allowed to roam freely and interact with visitors, they are checked for health and kept free of disease. Various areas in the park are dedicated to feeding, picture-taking, observation of health checks, and even interacting with the newborn foxes in the springtime.
Matsushima is a group of about 250 tiny pine tree-covered islands that are famously known as making up one of the "best three views in Japan". Since ancient times, the view of the islands has been regarded in Japanese poetry and left famous poets speechless with its beauty.
Weather permitting, it is best to explore these islands by boat, but you can also walk across a picturesque red bridge to Oshima or Fukuurajima islands to take your own walking tour. You can take in the entire bay from the Saigyo Modoshi no Matsu Park or from one of the four panoramic views of Matsushima called the "Shitaikan."
▪️ Naruko Gorge and Naruko Onsen
Naruko Gorge and the nearby Naruko Onsen are located about 70 kilometers outside of Sendai and are extremely popular autumn foliage viewing spots from late October to early November. The gorge itself has breathtaking mountain views, the famous Ofukazawa Bridge, and two walking trails that will take you around the mountainside and in the ravine. Around the Narukokyo Resthouse, on the west side of the gorge, you can get the best mountain and bridge views from the observation deck.
▪️ Kinkasan Island (Sacred Deer Island)
Off the coast of Ishinomaki City lies Kinkasan Island, where the free-roaming deer are believed to be sacred messengers from the gods in the Shinto religion. The island is home to Koganeyama Shrine, which was built in 750 and is thought to bless one with a lifetime of wealth if visited three years in a row. The island is lush and picturesque, with wandering deer, monkeys, and other wildlife creating the atmosphere of a magical nature escape.
▪️ Mt. Zao and Okama Crater
Mount Zao is a chain of active volcanic mountains with a dramatically seasonal landscape and things to do in all seasons. The area is also one of Japan's top snow-sport destinations in the winter months, while the Okama crater at its summit is a spectacular hiking and sightseeing destination throughout the rest of the year.
You might be familiar with the Zao Snow Monsters, a naturally occurring phenomenon where the fir trees around the summit of Mount Zao become coated with ice and snow creating a forest of snow "monsters"; or the "snow walls," roads around the mountain that are carved out of up to 10-meters of snow during peak season.
There are many ways to reach Mount Zao, depending on the season, but the most scenic route is via the Zao Ropeway, which operates year-round. The ropeway will take you from the bottom of Mount Zao (Zao Sanroku Station) through Juhyo-Kogen Station, to the summit (Jizo Sancho Station) where Okama Crater and various hiking trails are just a short walk away.
From sublime natural scenery to snow activities and spectacular onsen, Mount Zao and its surroundings have so much to offer! Find out how to spend 3 Days of Rejuvenation in Zao, Miyagi Prefecture!
▪️ Tashiro Island (Cat Island)
More cats than people live on this small island off the coast of Ishinomaki City in the eastern part of Miyagi. Travel by ferry and receive a greeting from your new feline friends as soon as you arrive. Head to the cat shrine, relax at the cat-themed Shima no Eki rest stop, or just roam freely and hang out with the cats (just refrain from feeding them!). There are also some camping spots and inns if you're interested in staying overnight.
If you are curious about the other wonders that this area of Tohoku has to offer, read on for Top 10 Sightseeing Spots in Miyagi Prefecture in the Tohoku Region.
Food and Local Delicacies to Enjoy in Miyagi
▪️ Sendai Gyutan (Beef Tongue)
Sendai is the home of gyutan, thinly sliced beef tongue roasted over a charcoal grill. Sometimes served alone with a side of pickled vegetables, it's also popular in curry or stew.
Zunda is a special sweet bean paste made from young edamame and is often made into mochi. If you can get past its bright green color, it's a nutritious and tasty treat!
Miyagi prefecture is coastal and home to one of the largest fishing areas in the world. From October-March, during the oyster season, Miyagi's world-famous oysters are harvested and served fresh, usually raw.
Ready to Explore Japan's Tohoku Region?
With such a diverse range of scenery, activities, and food, Tohoku is bound to enchant visitors thanks to its rich history and culture! Visit Tohoku on your next trip to Japan for a unique experience that will allow you to uncover a different yet majestic side of Japan!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.