Nature History Culture Cuisine
Explore Japan’s Rich Heritage in Tohoku’s Six Prefectures and Niigata
Located in the northeastern part of Japan’s Honshu island, Tohoku is surrounded by the Sea of Japan, the Pacific Ocean and the Tsugaru Strait. Consisting of six prefectures — Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Akita, Yamagata and Fukushima —. Despite progressive changes over the past centuries in Japan, Tohoku has retained a uniquely authentic feel by well preserving its traditional way of life and culture. With a history that can be traced back to the 7th century, Tohoku is truly a hidden gem for those who appreciate a relaxed holiday in a pure and bucolic environment. Each attraction has a story to tell and every dish features a history to please the palate and the soul.
Tohoku’s spring is quite special; both its nature and people have endured long winters and thus celebrate the short springs with particular vigor. When winter ends, various flowers bloom in one sudden burst, then quickly scatter in the wind. The north is blessed with an abundance of luxurious someiyoshino (hybrid sakura), but also more difficult-to-find varieties, such as yamazakura (mountain sakura) and shidarezakura (weeping sakura). Some say that these elegant trees are like Japan’s samurai - dignified and beautiful in their modest appearance.
The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri, Sendai Tanabata Matsuri, Akita Kanto Matsuri, Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri, Morioka Sansa Odori Matsuri and Fukushima Waraji Matsuri are the six biggest festivals in the Tohoku region.
Men and women, young and old, would dance and sing with passion during the days of festivities. These festivals, passed down from generation to generation and loaded with historical and legendary significance, come to life in Tohoku every summer. Without a doubt, Tohoku is the place to encounter authentic Japanese culture and people.
In The Realm of the Gods at Dewa Sanzan
In many cultures, mountains often have religious significance and are regarded as abodes of the gods. Tohoku has three holy mountains, known collectively as Dewa Sanzan, that is regarded as one of the most sacred sites in the country. Its landscape is defined by the stunning natural beauty of mystical mountains, volcanic lakes, hot springs and farmlands. This is where the soul of Japan lies in its traditional and religious culture, and where ancient mountain worship is still very much practiced. Against this background, we embarked on an epic journey to trace the footsteps of pilgrims who are followers of Shugendo.
Aizu Culture through the eyes of a pilgrim
Aizuwakamatsu, or Aizu for short, is a historic castle town known as the “land of the last samurai” in the Aizu district of Fukushima Prefecture in Tohoku. The people of Aizu were people of good faith and had a custom of paying respect to all 33 Kannon Buddha temples in the form of a pilgrimage. More than a tough, ascetic ritual, though, this pilgrimage was for entertainment.
In the Edo period, people would journey to the temples for sightseeing; even now, many people make the pilgrimage with friends. The image of Kannon makes its appearance everywhere, from wonderful temples in the city to the stone Buddhas in the mountains. Follow us on our journey as we visit some of them.