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LAST UPDATED 07/01/2008
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Japan tohoku map small (from

Tōhoku, literally meaning "East-North", is the northeastern region of the Honshu island in Japan. This region offers travellers some of the best scenery in Japan. In winter, the Snow Country of the western Japan Sea coast has some of the highest snowfall figures in the world, which also means great skiing and lots of hot springs. Tohoku also has many castles and samurai residences, making it a good place to take in some history.


Japan with Tohuoku

The east facing Pacific coast is dotted with reefs and points that fortunately have always prevented major coastal development in this area due to their harsh inclines. English is not commonly spoken so it can be a little daunting to travel here for the unaccustomed. The Tohoku coast has good exposure to larger swells from the north pacific but is shielded from the majority of N/NE energy by Hokkaido to the north.

Be sure to bring your teapot with you in your backpack, sipping green tea on a black shingle beach with an empty 3 foot wave peeling off a point is a truly spiritual experience.


The Shinkansen (bullet train) network (from

Japan has one of the world's best transport systems, so you will really enjoy travelling around the country. Transportation can be quite expensive, but fast and safe. Train is definitely the most popular option. Japanese railway system covers the majority of the country and trains nearly always depart and arrive on time, so you can rely on the schedule. Just remember that most trains don’t operate 24 hours, so plan a backup if want to be out late. The first and most confusing aspect of the system is the overlap of several private railway networks with the JR network, plus Tokyo also has two separate metro systems. So just be aware of that. Also note, that private railways are often cheaper than JR for an equivalent journey.

Another option is to travel by plane with the majority of domestic flights leaving from Haneda (HND) in Tokyo, Itami (ITM) in Osaka and Kobe’s airport. Book tickets in advance, which may allow you to get a significant discount, otherwise it will be quite expensive; and allow 3-4 hours to transfer. If you are 22 or younger, check the Skymate Card for special prices.
Boats are a surprisingly uncommon means of transport, mainly because the major islands are linked together by bridges and tunnels. There are some long-distance ferries linking Okinawa and Hokkaido, but it will be cheaper to travel by plane/train.

Long-distance highway buses are much cheaper than trains, but prepare for the longer journey and less comfort. Local buses are common in smaller towns and have the idiosyncratic payment system, where you board from the back of the bus and grab a little numbered slip as you enter. You pay at the end of your trip after pressing a stop button. You should deposit the slip and corresponding payment in the fare machine next to the driver (there is an electronic board there displaying numbers and prices below), just make sure before the trip that you are nor short on change.
Taxis are a bit expensive, but they are clean, completely safe and can be found everywhere in Japan, even in the country.  

where to stay

Rei: Aichi Ken Seinen Youth Hostel in Nagoya, Japan, 31 July 2006

Sendai is the largest city in Tohuku and the ideal place to stay at.

For budget travellers, youth hostels are the best places to stay at. Some recommendations are:

  • Sendai-Dochuan Youth Hostel is a losmen located about 5km from down town.
  • Maple Sendai Youth Hostel
  • Sendai Chitose Youth Hostel

Holiday Inn Sendai is a middle ranged hotel, about 6 minutes away from Sendai Station. It is a modern and pleasant business hotel, though the rooms are slightly smaller than average. Breakfast buffet is included and quite luxurious. Rates are from ¥6,500 per night per person.

For a more luxurious hotel, you can try Hotel Metropolitan Sendai.

what to pack

CrazyMomo: Japanese electronic dictionary; 19 July 2007

Take warm, as well as cool clothes. All the gear if you plan to camp: a good sleeping bag and tent that are good for  low temp; special gas container u can use for heating food and water; a sturdy backpack or a cargo pack with a good daypack. Invest in a portable water filter or at least take some puri-tabs or boil the water. There is a large variety of medication in Japan and you will be able to buy almost anything there. No need to pack much. Save some space for your shopping!

A small backpack makes a good carryon bag and will be useful in daily life. Women: remember to take a good flat pair of shoes.... And for everybody: a pair of comfortable walking shoes will be great for walking.  

By the way, you won't regret taking a dictionary and local people will be glad seeing you making some effort in communication with them.  

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