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When it comes to genuine off-the-beaten-path secrets, beauty and experiences, it’s hard to top Tohoku, located at the northeastern tip of Japan’s main island of Honshu. Traditionally regarded as a remote backwater with a harsh wintry climate, this fascinating region is now regarded as an otherworldly paradise offering Japanese and foreigners alike a very different experience to the hustle and bustle of city life. While most of Tohoku is filled with undiscovered surprises, it is not without its star attractions such as Matshushima Bay, a series of more than 200 pine islets rising from the water and one of Japan’s top three views, the mysterious-looking snow monsters of Mt Zao and the auburn autumn colours of Naruko Gorge. If you are looking for glimpses of insider Japan, you are bound to uncover plenty of that and more in the treasure chest of Tohoku.

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Meet the Monsters

In the depth of Yamagata’s winter is where you will encounter the snow monsters of Mt Zao, a rare sight that is guaranteed to be a feast for your eyes. Blanked with thick snow up to three metres, blistered by strong wind and glazed with ice from late December to the middle of March, the evergreen conifer trees located on top of the mountain gradually grow to large-scale monster-like structures towards the month of February. Hit this peak season with a trip up Mt Zao and enjoy a mystifying encounter with these monsters of nature.

River of Four Seasons

Also known as the mother river, Mogami River is regarded in the minds and hearts of locals as the everlasting stream transcending time and seasons. Traverse along its length on a river cruise and marvel at its varied beauty depending on which season you visit. Keep your eyes open as the cruise approaches Mogami Valley, one of the best scenic spots along the trip, and revel in the beauty of nature as your boatmen belts out traditional folk songs which then echoes back to you in the midst of quiet and serene nature.

Spring in Sado Island

If you visit Tohoku in Spring, do not pass an opportunity to take a side trip to Sabo Island, part of neighbouring Niigata Prefecture. Hop aboard a unique tub boat, known by Japanese as Tarai-bune and featured in popular Japanese animation film “Spirited Away”, and relive the 60s when these boats were used by local fishermen to ride along the sea to fish for abalones, lobsters and shellfish. After which, get ready to grab some gold as you enjoy a gold-panning session in the famous gold mines of Sado Island, which contains the highest number of gold mines anywhere in Japan.

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