You’ve probably not heard of Tōhoku (東北), but surely you’ve heard of Fukushima (福島). Fukushima is one of the six prefectures in the Tōhoku region, alongside Yamagata (山形), Miyagi (宮城), Iwate (岩手), Akita (秋田) and Aomori (青森), from South to North respectively. Even though the Tōhoku Shinkansen (東北新幹線) that was opened in 2010 made the Tōhoku region more accessible, people are still flocking to more popular spots such as Tokyo (東京), Kyoto (京都), Osaka (大阪) and Hokkaido (北海道). But it’s precisely this fact that makes Tōhoku an even more attractive destination for your next trip to Japan.
With Fukushima in proximity, you might have reservations about travelling anywhere nearby. If the readings from the Fukushima Tourism Promotion Bureau is anything to go by, the radiation level seems rather manageable. Reading from Fukushima Airport, which is within 80km radius of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, is at 0.075 μSv/h (as of April 3, 2017). Singapore’s radiation level as at April 9th, 2017 is at 0.1 μSv/h, which is actually higher than the reading at Fukushima Airport.
If I’ve already convinced your inner cynic that it’s relatively safe to visit the region, you’ll be in for a treat.
|Credit: Tsunagu Japan|
Unlike the Kansai (関西) and Kantō (関東) regions (which are the main economic regions in Japan), Tōhoku is less populated, and hence less developed. But being less developed doesn’t mean they are less accessible. The trains that run through each prefecture within the region are rather spacious. Some are even equipped with kotatsu (a low, wooden table covered by a futon) to keep you warm while you snack on the go. That’s a far cry from taking the subway in Tokyo, where you’d be hard-pressed to find breathing space, let alone space to sit down and sip on quality sake.
|Credit: Experience Sake|
Speaking of sake, Tōhoku is also home to many award-winning breweries. The 103rd Zenkoku Shinshu Kanpyoukai (officially translated as Japan Sake Awards) in 2016 awarded a total of 147 gold medals out of a national total of 297 to Tōhoku’s six prefectures. That’s almost half the total number of gold medals given out Japan-wide! And the prefecture that stands out the most is Fukushima, bagging the most gold for the fourth consecutive time. Sake experts attribute the harsh winter to the wild success of the region’s brewers. The fermentation, production and storage all happen at lower temperatures, which result in flavour profiles that are delicate and elegant.
The region’s cold weather is also perfect for skiing! Though not uniquely Tōhoku, the breath-taking views and relatively few people make it worth a visit, especially if you are a newbie skier. You won't run the risk of mowing someone down.
When the snow melts, Tōhoku bursts into a kaleidoscope of colours. With cherry blossom trees more than the number of people, it's easy to get that Instagram-worthy shot everywhere you turn without any photo bombers.
Once you’ve experienced Tōhoku, you’d question why you even put yourself through the agony of getting jostled around and packed into cabins in other major Japan cities. Visit the pristine region before the world learns about it!
A guest post by Vinleon Ang who would be setting up his own website soon (: