Japan’s northern region of Tohoku is an adventure playground for those willing to seek out its wonders. From hiking the mountainous Bandai highlands to cycling through Akiu’s picturesque valleys, Tohoku’s beauty comes in many forms. Satiate your inner wanderlust by crafting a course through this magical region and cherish one moment of beauty after another – from stunning nature to heartfelt local hospitality.
Take on 1,818-metre Mount Bandai for a trekking challenge that rewards with beautiful scenery and insights into the region’s history.
Mount Bandai in northern Fukushima Prefecture promises a trekking experience like no other, ticking all the boxes for adventurous wanderlusters hoping to swap the speed of Tokyo for something more real and serene. Lesser known to many foreign travellers—even Japanese hikers—why not rise to the challenge of conquering Bandai-san for a memorable travel experience?
Most visitors begin from the northwest Happoudai trailhead—out of 6 total routes—which takes them up to the main peak. Secondary peaks also exist at Akahani (1,430 m) and Kushigamine (1,636 m—inaccessible via official trails).
What feels familiar to begin with—slow, easy climbing through dense forest undergrowth and marshy lakes—soon makes way for steeper rocky paths dotted with pampas grass and glimpses of the Bandai peaks above. The occasional bird of prey soars through the sky, guiding the way. Traces of sulphur tinge the air—a sign of the mountain’s volcanic origin but also the possibility of a nearby post-hike hot spring.
Before long, you’ve made it. The summit offers mesmerising beauty in all directions, from the forested Urabandai area to the north—including the majestic Lake Hibara and vibrant Goshiki-numa lakes—to Lake Inawashiro, Japan’s fourth-largest lake, to the south.
This serene beauty takes on extra meaning once you explore Bandai-san’s history. A major eruption in 1888 led to the north-side crater’s total collapse, a phenomenon that blocked rivers and gave birth to Lake Hibara and the surrounding green, marshy landscape of Urabandai.
Boulders along Lake Hibara’s shoreline—tiny dots from Bandai’s summit—are worth seeing up-close after your descent, both to get a sense of scale but also to imagine how things played out 130 years ago, with the striking silhouette of Bandai and Kushigamine peaks a sight to behold.
For the adventurer who has made a beeline for Urabandai’s hot springs after having scaled Mount Bandai’s summit, it’s these quiet moments of reflection that truly define the scale of northern Japan’s beauty.
Take on the Michinoku Coastal Trail—a 1,000 km hiking trail that connects the entire length of Japan’s northeastern coastline.
The Michinoku Coastal Trail spans the length of Japan’s northeastern coastline, providing a 1,000-km walking course overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Connecting Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, the path promises stunning natural beauty that will appeal to hikers hoping to understand Japan on a whole new level.
See the kindness of Japan’s local, seaside communities. Prepare for spontaneous encounters and create new connections on a walk through this region. The landscape paints a narrative of communities full of life and resilience, reinvigorated and welcoming to visitors.
Tohoku’s coastline offers incredible variety—just take Miyagi Prefecture’s Kesennuma for example.
Ogama Hanzo, on the eastern Karakuwa Peninsula, reveals a stunning coastal landscape shaped by marine erosion. Landmarks like the 16-metre tall Oreishi pillar or the rocky Hachimaniwa outcrop invite exploration.
Peruse Karakuwa’s fishing villages and greet local fishermen as they ply their trade gathering oysters and the local delicacy—Hoya (sea pineapple).
At certain times of the year, you might catch a glimpse of the local taiko drumming practice sessions in Kesennuma, that demonstrate what to expect from the full 800-strong ensemble in the summer’s Minato Matsuri festival. The people here are proud to share their culture, energy and positivity—it’s hard not to be moved by the booming drums against the ocean backdrop.
A journey through Tohoku will always be rewarding, but the Michinoku Coastal Trail opens up access to Japan’s charms like never before, on a path that traverses forests, beaches, and seaside villages. Craft a trip that works for you along the predefined courses and enjoy the experience at your own pace.
Akiu offers natural wonders along the Natori River in the western part of Sendai, the largest city in Tohoku, with breathtaking forest scenery and local hot springs
The Akiu region in the western part of Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, offers breathtaking forest scenery and local hot springs. It’s a haven of untouched landscapes so why not hop on a bicycle and venture west?
Journey across Akiu’s picturesque valleys and rice fields while soaking up remote scenery and breathing in the purest of air—this is uncharted Japan.
Stumble upon numerous discoveries on your ride, from natural wonders to boutique cafes, small tofu shops, a hot spring resort, and even a winery—Akiu has something for all.
Take the Akiu Otaki Waterfall, deep in the mountains upriver. At 55- meters high and 6-meters wide, it’s not one of Japan’s grandest, but take the trail down for a closer look and you can almost feel its cascading water. From summer’s cool green to autumn’s golden-red hues, Akiu Otaki looks beautiful year-round.
Downstream, further east, explore another natural curiosity at Rairaikyo Gorge—breathtaking canyon views encompassing a short 1-km hike along the Natori River.
It’s not all cycling and greenery. Take a rest at Akiu Village and browse local agricultural products and foods. Pop inside the Ota Tofu Shop to try their freshly-made tofu-based desserts, or take an extended break at Akiu Winery. Overlooking the vineyards, this perfectly placed rest stop offers tasting, shopping, and barbecue facilities. Started in 2015 to help put Miyagi wines and products on the map, an award-winning selection of wines and ciders certainly suggests they are on the right path.
If you decide to try the local vintage, consider retiring at nearby Akiu Onsen—a short 10-minute walk away, offering plenty of hotels and ryokans.
Tohoku is something of an adventure playground for those willing to seek out its wonders. Satiate your inner wanderlust by hiking, cycling or even eating your way through this region of northern Japan and cherish one moment of beauty after another – from stunning nature to heartfelt local hospitality.
Alastair Humphreys is a British Adventurer and Author. As well as expeditions such as cycling round the world over a four-year period, walking across India and rowing the Atlantic, Alastair was named as a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year for his pioneering work on the concept of Microadventures.
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