Only 90 minutes north of Tokyo, yet worlds apart, a trip to Miyagi Prefecture in the heart of Japan’s Tohoku region treats visitors to stunning mountain scenery, rugged coastline, healing waters and much more.
In winter, go for the ski slopes of Mount Zao. In summer, escape the heat and humidity that hits Tokyo with a hike along the breezy Michinoku coastal trail or a boat trip around the picturesque islets of Matsushima Bay. At any time of year, the hot springs and inns of Naruko and Akiu afford the opportunity to immerse yourself in the most calming of Japanese traditions. And year-round, Miyagi’s regional flavours – as found in Ishinomaki yakisoba noodles and fresh seafood such as the oysters from Matsushima – make it a great destination for foodies.
While a large part of Miyagi’s appeal is its nature and the slower way of life, unwinding isn’t the only reason to visit. Home to just over one million people, the capital Sendai is a vibrant regional city that’s always good for a night out and is a great base for exploring the region. It hosts plenty of major annual events, too, such as the Aoba festival in May, when 2,000 dancers perform traditional sparrow dances in the streets, and the Tanabata festival in August, when the legend of two star-crossed lovers is celebrated with fireworks and festivities.
Sendai is 90 minutes from Tokyo on the bullet train, with trains leaving at least four or five times an hour and costing between ¥10,890 and ¥11,200 (about £75) one-way. Low-cost long-distance buses also make the journey in about five hours, although one of the most economical ways to get around Miyagi is with the JR East Pass. Available only to non-Japanese visiting the country for fewer than 90 days, it can be bought at multiple locations for ¥20,000 (£136), including at Narita Airport, and allows unlimited rides for a 14-day period on all JR East lines – bullet train included – covering all of Miyagi and the wider Tohoku area. Rob Goss