When people think of Japan, their minds go right to the world of Tokyo and Kyoto. Modern Japan in the huge booming city of Tokyo and traditional Japan in Kyoto. While no doubt, these places have their merits, Japan is a place full of wonder, mysticism, beautiful nature and exploration. If you’re looking for something different, more peaceful or, shall we say, more Japanese for your trip-planning needs then keep on reading!
This is a pretty common question, and the answer is quite simple. BECAUSE IT’S AWESOME! Northern Japan, otherwise known as the Tohoku region, is probably one of the last known bastions of Japanese culture. You can explore that “Japanese-ness” that we’ve all come to love. Sure, if you like loud, crazy night scenes, where people never sleep, Tokyo is the right place for you. But, if you’re like me, someone who craves something a bit more unique, then the Tohoku region is one of the best places to experience “true” Japan!
Home of the swallow dance, beautiful views, and beef tongue!
Miyagi Prefecture is home to the largest city in Tohoku, Sendai. Though it’s only 1/13th the size of Tokyo, Sendai has its own unique charm. Many people travel to Sendai to try its more famous pieces of “tradition” – that wonderfully succulent “beef tongue”. Sendai is famous for it!
Sendai also boasts a multitude of universities, including one of the 7 National Universities. What does this mean? It means it’s a great place that caters to young University students. There are tons of things to do, a vibrant nightlife and especially good activities for travelers who are short on cash.
The prefecture is also known for growing rice. As you can see if you look at the prefectural mascot photo below! This guy must be an indicator of great food, beautiful countryside, and warm people.
— むすび丸（仙台・宮城観光PR担当課長） (@musubi_maru) 2017年3月15日
Speaking of warm people, the hospitality in Miyagi is second to none. I know, I know, the other expats are going to get mad at me for saying it, but it’s true! If you’ve ever been to Tokyo, you know what I mean. Everyone is looking at their phone, no one says sorry or hello and it seems like you’re just another “thing in a crowd.” Miyagi is completely the opposite.
Why? I really haven’t a clue. Maybe it’s the way they’re raised here or maybe it’s because they don’t have many visitors. But one thing is for certain: if you come to Miyagi, be ready to be treated wonderfully and with a hint of “traditional” Japanese hospitality! Plus none of those pesky “super-tourists” that Kyoto has. You know the guy…
Matsushima Bay during Winter
Matsushima is one of the 3 designated “Views of Japan” and pictures definitely don’t do it justice. At only 40 minutes away from Sendai station by JR East (for 820 yen) it’s easily accessible to the day-tripper or that low-on-cash traveler.
Didn’t I mention those travelers who are short on cash? That’s probably one of the best things about Miyagi prefecture. It’s cheap! Extremely cheap. The cost of living here is considerably less than Tokyo which means buying things are cheaper here too. A good hotel room in Sendai, for example, can be had for as low as 5000 yen a night!
Traveling around Miyagi isn’t bad either – though it’s a bit more expensive than taking the train in Tokyo. On the plus side: you don’t feel like a sardine. Sendai offers connections to all the major tourist spots in Tohoku; as well as those spots that are less well-known. It even connects to the Shinkansen. If you’re a train nut, making Sendai your starting point for chasing those elusive engines around is a great idea.
Miyagi prefecture, bordered by the Pacific ocean on the east has a huge mountain range to the west. What is lurking in these mountains? Onsen. Many onsen. These wonderful public bathing houses with supposedly therapeutic waters are quite famous and some of the best-known onsen are in Miyagi. They can all be easily reached from Sendai city.
Sakunami onsen (pictured above), an onsen resort that can be reached by the JR East Senzan line is famous not only for the onsen resorts dotting the mountainside but also for a whiskey brewery – yay!
Akiu onsen, which is a bit more out of the way, is still easily reachable by a shuttle bus from Sendai. This onsen boasts a more traditional feel while also catering to the D.I.Y crowd with the Akiu Traditional Japanese Arts park. Here you can make chopsticks, spinning tops, and little wooden dolls called “Kokeshi”.
Naruko onsen is not only the oldest and most famous, but it boasts one of the prettiest views during the season of “kouyou” or “autumn leaves”. Accessible by normal trains from Sendai as well as a special resort train called “Resort Minori”, the view from Naruko onsen is one of the most spectacular views you can have in Japan.
In the end, the reasoning is pretty simple. I could go on and on about the amazing places in Miyagi prefecture. The terrific food, the awesome fun, and the wonderful hospitality. But I think I’ll let you experience that for yourself. Don’t want to ruin all the surprises! If you’re looking for something a bit more off the beaten path, something “real”, then look no further than Miyagi prefecture in Japan’s Tohoku region. Come on and visit, you’ll be glad you did!