Japan has seen a significant rise in international visitors with 2.3 million recorded by this June, an increase of 18.2% compared to June 2016 according to JNTO. Often overlooked is the beautiful region to the north of Tokyo called Tohoku. The region reveals landscapes that will leave visitors speechless and traditions that hark back to ancient times still intact.
Tohoku is made up of six prefectures: Aomori, Miyagi, Fukushima, Yamagata, Iwate and Akita. As the entry point to the region, Sendai is 90 minutes by bullet train from Tokyo and opens up one of the best-kept secrets of Japan. In order to navigate this relatively unknown area and provide travellers ease of planning and booking, Tohoku region has created a dedicated site to deliver a luxury experience.
The lush countryside and unspoilt beauty are ideal for nature-lovers. Experience four distinct seasons: summer, autumn, winter and spring. The best times to visit are during the fall foliage in October, spring cherry blossom season from April to May, or summer for the vibrant seasonal festivals.
The following highlights should be on visitors’ bucket lists:
- Culture: Walk in the shoes of a samurai warrior or witness the delicate giants during sumo wrestling training. Visit World Heritage sites, temples and monasteries, one perched 1015 steps up a mountain.
- Wellness: 10 different types of hot springs or onsen are found in Tohoku; the different minerals provide wellness and healing qualities. Quite a few hotels/resorts/ryokan offer onsens or even individual baths for your suite.
- Animal-lovers: Visit the infamous Cat Island or lesser-known Fox Village, located in Ishinomaki and Shiroishi.
- Foodies: Enjoy the best sushi in Japan in the Miyagi prefecture, which is more densely populated with sushi restaurants than anywhere else in Japan, so much that the chefs compete.
- Active travellers: Cycling and hiking enthusiasts will find the best trails. After a long day of outdoor adventures, visitors can enjoy a soothing soak in one of the many onsen.
- Whiskey, sake & wineries: Japan has come to master the distilling process to rival those infamous whiskey makers from around the world. Guests can make their own sake and label in Iwate Prefecture (Sekinoichi Sake Brewery) and visit Akiyu Winery, founded by a Tsunami victim in 2015 and architect in Miyagi Prefecture, who decided to open a winery using locally grown grapes.
- Hands-on crafts: Craft making, interacting with the local artisans with a pottery class, candle painting, making your own sake or even a Japanese sword appreciation experience.
Find Your Zen: Visitors may learn to meditate like a monk or go to the Lamp no Yado Hotel (Aomori Prefecture) to completely unplug.
- Accommodations: Stay in traditional ryokans, farm stays or luxury accommodations such as Chikusenso Mt.Zao Onsen Resort & Spa (Miyagi Prefecture), Kakunodatesanso Wabizakura (Akita Prefecture), Yunushi Ichijo (Miyagi Prefecture), Oirase Keiryu Hotel (Aomori Prefecture), Onyado Kawasemi (Fukushima Prefecture).
- Air: Each prefecture has its own airport, so it’s easy to fly and cover more ground as a result. For a travel hack, clients can book ANA’s Experience Japan airfare for travelling within the country for less than $100.
- Rail: The Japan Rail Pass makes moving about efficient and affordable on the famous bullet trains, and luxury trains are available.
- Car: Rentals are available and allow travel at a leisurely pace; additionally, local drivers can be hired or luxury options like a private chauffeur.