The Best Things to Do in Japan

Express trains that run from Tokyo stretching far up into Northern Japan to Hachinohe are called the Hayabusa, Hayate, Max Yamabiko/Max Nasuno/Yamabiko/Nasuno/Hayate with stops to some of the best places in Tohoku region. The list of stations along this line, starting from Tokyo: Ueno, Omiya, Oyama, Utsunomiya, Nasushiobara, Shin-Shirakawa, Koriyama, Fukushima, Shiroishizao, Sendai, Furukawa, Kurikoma-Kogen, Ichinoseki, Mizusawaesashi, Kitakami, Shin-Hanamaki, Morioka, Iwate-Numakunai,and finally Hachinohe. Since my focus for this post is food,nihonshu, stations and shrine related, I will only focus on what certain stations have to offer along these lines.

In order to set the mood right, whenever,whenever riding on one of these express trains, you should pick up a nice lunch box. Both Tokyo and Ueno stations offer deluxe lunch box sets each featuring the local delicacy of these two cities. You have to request the really good ones since there may not be any in the display case – they sell out quickly. The next station worthy of mention along this line would be Utsunomiya Station. From there if you have a JR rail pass you can get off at this station and head downstairs to MinMin, which is a a famous gyoza place for a break without having to actually leave the station building, and since this is where most tourist like to visit for gyoza, chances are you’ll discover a new taste. Whenever I’m up this way I stop over for a nice gyoza set.

Next stop along this line is Nasushiobara in Tochigi which is famous for hot springs, cheese, and some nice tasting nihonshu – one recommendation would be Daina and Souhomare. After that stop, you have Shin-Shirakawa. Some of the greatest Fukushima style ramen places are located here, especially if you like wantan(dumpling) in your ramen. This is the city that also has my favorite confectionery store called Akebono’s. Koriyama is the next stop with it’s delicious mangu and sweet cakes. One stop after this is a major stop at Fukushima Station, which connects four other lines; Yamagata Shinkansen, Ou Line, Tohoku Line, Abukuma Kyuko, and Fukushima Kotsu. From Fukushima station you can enjoy a nice super sento, public bath that’s built right into the station building near the back, then afterwards enjoy a nice cheesecake at the Italian Bistro, all of which are located in the station.

From Fukushima you pass Shiroishizao and after that station you arrive at Sendai, another major stop. Sendai station is really cool because they have some good restaurants located in and outside of the station. I recommend crossing the main intersection and heading over to where the neon lights are. There are several gyuton shops that offer this local specialty( beef tongue/gyuton BBQ place), which aren’t that bad really. I still freak out a bit because it was tongue and not ass I was eating last time. Sendai is the largest city in Tohoku with a history dating as far back as 20,000 years. Even during the suppression of Western religions such as Catholicism and Christianity, during Tokugawa’s reign, Catholicism flourished here, even still today.

As we continue along we come to Furukawa and Kurikoma-kogen, which are notable for their milky white sulfur onsen. The hotel I stayed at while up there. A picture I took with an IZ-20 of their private bath. Something else that noteworthy is this dango and this here( pictures are in the blog).

Some other notable places along this line would be Iwate, which is famous for Chuson-ji Konjiki-do with its beautiful architecture, designs and craftsmanship. It’s located about 9 minutes from Ichinoseki Station. I’ve been there and it’s well worth it just for the pictures alone. If you have an interest in Buddhist architecture then this place is a must. Every Japanese once in their life time must make a trip to this place before they die. That’s a true saying, by the way…. And, while we are still in Iwate, Jodogahama would be the next best place to stop through with its volcanic rock inlet created 52 million year ago, which according to some sage monks, resemble the heaven of Buddha. By far, this is the most exotic of all the beaches I have seen thus far( inlet is just a fancy word for beach). Two hours from Morioka station and 20 minutes by bus from Miyako Station one can reach this inlet by the sea. If you get hungry and want to enjoy seafood near this station any place is good. My favorite place is called Bureko and is ran by an old couple that really took good care of me the whole time I was there.

After dinner, heading over to Hanamaki Onsen is a must for the weary traveler with its geo-thermal hot springs. The famed Japanese writer Kenji Miyazawa wrote haikus about this place with its abundance of cherry trees and rose gardens. I have personally been to Hanamaki ten times; twice a year for five years and could probably write things about this area that would thrill the imagination, but won’t for now – no time. The next day you can head over to Koiwai Farms, which is Japan’s largest integrated farm dating back more than 100 years. The nearest station is Morioka and 40 minutes by bus from there to the farm. I recommend only two things: The steak and the cheesecake!

Last noteworthy stop would be Hachinohe, and from here you can visit the Hasshoku Center, which is about 9 minutes by bus. Here you can find wide varieties of freshly caught seafood, even shark! I took a picture of a shark that had just been snatched out the water. Finally, we have Oirase Mountain Stream, which has a beautiful 14-km mountain stram surrounded by thick virgin forest. From Hachinohe station; 1 hour 45 minutes by bus. Best time to visit would be between April – October. These suggested places are just a small introduction to this vast region of heaven. I listed six major destination, and a few minor stops that I feel identify what I love about this area.

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