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Tohoku Region: What You Need to Know!

Thalia Harris

Thalia Harris

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A bridge in Nikko in the Tochigi region.

In the northeastern part of Honshu, Japan’s largest island, lies the enchanting Tohoku region—a land of untamed beauty and rich traditions. This often-overlooked gem offers travelers a chance to experience a side of Japan that’s both deeply rooted in history and refreshing. Let’s take a closer look at what it has to offer eager visitors. 

What kind of food can I enjoy in the Tohoku region?

The Tohoku region offers diverse, delicious local specialties that reflect its unique culinary traditions and abundant natural resources. One popular treat you’ll find in parts of Tohoku is amanatto, a sweet snack made by coating beans and other ingredients with sugar. It’s also a delightful confection that perfectly balances sweetness and texture.

Tohoku is also famous for its high-quality rice production. This is because the region’s cold climate and rich soil contribute to cultivating flavorful and aromatic rice varieties that form the foundation of many local dishes. Overall, the rice here has a distinct taste and texture that sets it apart from other regions.

A platter of assorted amanatto.
They come in all shapes and sizes! Image via Shutterstock

Another specialty you shouldn’t miss is iburi gakko. These are smoked pickles, typically made from daikon radish, with a distinctive smoky flavor. They’re prevalent in Akita Prefecture and offer a unique taste experience that combines the crunch of pickles with a deep, smoky aroma.

You should also try nanbu senbei, a traditional rice cracker from the southeastern part of Aomori Prefecture and northern Iwate Prefecture. These crackers are also common in Hachinohe Senbei Soup, a local dish from Aomori. Generally the crackers are in a soy sauce broth, creating a unique texture and flavor combination that’s comforting and surprising.

An assortment of Nanbu Senbri.
Nanbu Senbei came from Iwate and Aomori Prefectures! Image via Tsuuhan Best

These specialties are just a taste of what Tohoku offers because the region is a treasure trove of culinary delights, from fresh seafood and hearty hot pots to unique noodle dishes. Each meal in Tohoku is an opportunity to experience the area’s rich food culture and the flavors that have been cherished for generations.

What significant events are happening in the region? 

The Tohoku region is also home to some of Japan’s most spectacular and culturally significant festivals, drawing visitors from across the country and worldwide. Three of the most remarkable events are the Akita Kanto, Sendai Tanabata, and Aomori Nebuta festivals.

The Akita Kanto Festival is a mesmerizing sight. It features performers balancing towering bamboo poles with dozens of paper lanterns. This breathtaking display of skill and tradition generally occurs in early August, lighting the night sky with a sea of glowing lanterns.

A person wearing a white tengu mask at the Kitakami Michinoku Geino Festival in Tohoku Japan.
There are three great festivals in the area! Image via Shutterstock

In Sendai, the Tanabata Festival transforms the city into a colorful wonderland. This 400-year-old celebration, held from August 6th to 8th, sees the streets adorned with elegant bamboo decorations and vibrant streamers. The festival also features various events, including taiko drum performances and traditional dances, as well as a spectacular fireworks display on the eve of the main festival.

However, the most famous of the three is the Aomori Nebuta Festival. This explosive celebration of sound, color, and theatrical performance occurs in early August. The festival’s highlight is a grand parade of enormous floats. These intricately crafted structures depict mythical beings and historical figures. Each float is also illuminated from within, creating a mesmerizing spectacle. In addition, enthusiastic dancers and musicians accompany the procession, adding to the vibrant atmosphere. As a result, the combination of visual artistry and lively performances makes this parade an unforgettable experience.

What resorts should I visit in the Tohoku region?

Ginzan Onsen in Yamagata Prefecture is a must-visit resort in the Tohoku region. This enchanting hot spring town offers a unique blend of natural beauty, historical charm, and rejuvenating experiences, making it a top destination for domestic and international travelers.

An inn at an hot spring resort in Yamagata Prefecture.
Ginzan Onsen is in Yamagata Prefecture. Image via Shutterstock

Nestled in the mountains, Ginzan Onsen is often considered Japan’s most beautiful hot spring town. Historic ryokan inns line the Ginzan River, creating a picturesque and nostalgic townscape. These inns transport visitors to a bygone era. Many were built in the 1920s and 1930s. They feature wooden balconies of three or four levels. At the time of construction, these multi-level balconies were innovative and ahead of their time.

This resort town is a haven for relaxation and cultural experiences. Visitors can enjoy hot spring baths in some ryokans, including public and private open-air baths. The town’s compact size allows for leisurely strolls along cobblestone streets, soaking your feet in foot baths, or exploring local shops and eateries.

Why should I go to the Tohoku region?

You should go to Tohoku because it’s a hidden gem in Japan, offering unique experiences for curious travelers. This region boasts an impressive array of natural landscapes. From rugged coastlines to towering mountains, Tohoku’s terrain is diverse and captivating. Moreover, each season brings a new palette, painting the land in ever-changing hues. Overall, it’s a place where nature’s artistry is on full display year-round.

A person sitting at Okama Crater in Tohoku, Japan.
Tohoku has a lot of breathtaking sights. Image via Shutterstock

What truly sets Tohoku apart, however, is the warmth and hospitality of its people. Visitors often find themselves touched by the locals’ genuine kindness and fantastic cuisine, creating memories long after the journey ends. Have you ever been to the Tohoku region before? Let us know in the comments below!

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