Tohoku Guide

Japan's Regions: Tohoku 東北地方

The Tohoku region consists of the north east part of the main island of Honshu.

Tohoku includes the six prefectures of Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Yamagata, Miyagi and Fukushima.

The Tohoku area has from historical times been one of the relatively less developed parts of Japan. Tohoku was historically occupied by the Emishi, before they were defeated by the Yamato during the Nara and Heian periods and driven north into Hokkaido or subjugated where they were.

The region is marked by long and severe winter weather with cooler and more pleasant temperatures in summer.

Tsuruga Castle, Fukushima, Tohoku, Japan.
Tsuruga Castle, Fukushima, Tohoku, Japan

The Tohoku region's early history is dominated by its remoteness as the central authorities based in the center of Japan around Kyoto sought to impose their control from the 7th century on.

The north east coast of Tohoku was devastated by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Much of the damaged infrastructure and housing have been rebuilt but the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Incident is still ongoing with an exclusion zone still in effect around the damaged plant.

Tohoku's main towns and places of interest are:

Sendai - Miyagi prefectural capital with a vibrant history and modernity.

Kakunodate - an old samurai castle town with many Edo Period buildings still intact.

Hiraizumi - little now remains of Hiraizumi's former glory but during the Heian Period, the then city of around 100,000 people rivaled the wealth of Kyoto in its sophisticated arts and refined culture. 

Matsushima - just outside Sendai is known for the beauty of its coastline dotted with scores of pine-topped islands.

Aomori - in the far north is known for its unique Nebuta festival and related arts.

Hirosaki - has many architectural reminders of the Meiji Period and a popular castle.

Morioka - Iwate's green prefectural capital is famous for its Wanko soba noodles.

Akita - draws visitors for its summer Kanto festival, great art galleries and its famous sake.

Oirase Gorge - in Aomori Prefecture is one of Japan's most beautiful river valleys especially in the autumn season.

Tohoku Access

Air

There are regional airports in Akita, Aomori, and Sendai, with Sendai the largest and most important.

Ferry

There are a number of ferry services operating to and from various ports in Tohoku.

Nagoya Port to Sendai to Tomakomai (Hokkaido)

Tsuruga to Niigata to Akita to Tomakomai.

Train

The Tohoku shinkansen from Tokyo Station in Tokyo to Shin-Aomori Station in Aomori Prefecture is Japan's longest shinkansen line.

The Hokkaido Shinkansen runs from Shin-Aomori Station on the northern tip of Tohoku in Aomori to Hakodate in Hokkaido through the Seikan Tunnel that connects Honshu with Hokkaido.

Bus

All large cities in Tohoku and even many small towns will have at least one highway bus connection with Tokyo per day with the larger towns having both daytime and overnight buses.

Tohoku Map

Tohoku map.

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