Exploring the must-see sites of Tohoku, Japan

In the twentieth century, tourism was a major industry in Tohoku, Japan, due to its array of unique cultural offerings and beautiful landscape. However, on March 11, 2011, the region suffered much damage due to a devastating earthquake and tsunami. Now, a year later, the area is recovering nicely, and travelers will have no problem visiting the museums, parks, mountains, hot springs, and heritage sites of Tohoku.

So what exactly does Tohoku have to offer? For starters, it is an excellent place to learn about an untouched side of Japan. In fact, in the late 1800s, writer and naturalist Isabella Bird was so moved by the region’s natural beauty, she nicknamed it “Japan’s Garden of Eden.” Additionally, there is something for everyone. Adventure travelers will love trekking the Kitayamazaki Cliffs, exploring Rikuchu Kaigan National Park and spelunking in the Ryusendo Caves. If you’re looking for comfort, relax in one of the natural and curative hot springs. History buff? Museums, castles, sacred temples, and excavation sites abound.

To get a better idea of the beauty, culture, and history that Tohoku has to offer, check out the gallery below.


An introduction to the food and dining etiquette of Tohoku, Japan

The Tohoku Region in Northeast Japan is comprised of six prefectures including Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi and Yamagata. It is an area of beautiful mountainous landscape, lively entertainment and, most importantly, a delicious food culture. Although the region endures a harsh climate, it still manages to produce some extraordinary cuisine.

Before visiting the area, it is important to become familiar with the dining etiquette in Japan:

  • Meals are usually eaten at a low table on a tatami floor. Be sure to remove your shoes before entering the room and kneel down at the table.
  • Before eating, say “Itadakimasu” (I gratefully receive), and after finishing say “Gochiso sama Deshita” (Thank you for the meal).
  • Eating in Japan is a communal activity, and various dishes are usually shared among the group. Moreover, when drinking alcohol it is customary to serve each other instead of serving yourself, so keep your eyes peeled for empty glasses.
  • When eating noodles, slurping is considered polite, as is finishing every bit of food in your bowl.
  • On the other hand, burping, blowing your nose, bathroom talk, playing with chopsticks, pointing chopsticks or spearing food with chopsticks is considered offensive.
  • Don’t stick chopsticks into your food or pass food from your chopsticks to another person’s, as these are funeral traditions.
  • When you’re finished eating, lay your chopsticks down with the tips to the left.

Now that you know how to eat, you’re ready to see what you can eat. Check out the gallery below for a visual journey through Tohoku’s traditional cuisine.