Tohoku lies in the north-eastern region of Japan’s Honshu island. Its largest city is Sendai. By Shinkansen (bullet train), it will take you 1hr 40mins to get from Tokyo Station to Sendai Station. A stone’s throw away! The experience I had in Tohoku is too rich to summarise in one blog entry, and so I will highlight three of my favourite Prefectures in a mini-series: Yamagata, Iwate and Miyagi.


Has a photo compelled you to travel? For me, that’s often the starting point. One photo that prompted me to pack my bags and head to Tohoku is this one…

Photo 1

Ginzan Hot Springs lies along the Ginzan River in Obanazawa in Tohoku’s Yamagata Prefecture. The word “Ginzan” means “silver mountain” in Japanese, and this has to do with a silver mine that was discovered here some 500 years ago.

I arrived here on a cold winter’s afternoon. The first thing that hit me was the smell of sulphur fumes. This is, after all, a volcanic area famed for its hot springs. Along the promenade are footbaths, little pools of bubbling water from the hot springs, where you can soak your feet.

Photo 2

I took the opportunity to dress up in a traditional Japanese kimono to explore the area because it seemed like a good idea. Not the wisest decision because I was freezing my buns off! It makes for pretty pictures though, so maybe not in winter?

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Most of the ryokan or traditional inns that line the promenade on either side were built in the early 1900s, during the Taishō and early Shōwa period, and popular with visitors seeking an onsen (hot springs) experience.

Ginzan Hot Springs boasts 11 ryokans – each with its own onsen – but you’re advised to make reservations in advance because they’re almost always full. Ginzan itself is small. You can pretty much walk from one end to the other in 15 minutes, so a one-night stay will suffice, before you head to Zao Onsen for your next experience! (*Look out for my next blog entry)

Aside from hot springs, I was pleasantly surprised to find a charming waterfall there. It had started to snow at Ginzan in December, and the white snow-scape was peaceful and pristine. Perhaps that’s what drew me to the waterfall: The poetic contrast of its thundering power with the silent serenity.

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And on a cold drizzling day, there’s nothing more comforting than piping hot curry bread. Look out for a little shop called Haikarasan dori, where these fried buns are sold for 180 Yen (US$1,80) apiece. A must-try at Ginzan Hot Springs!

Photo 5  

*This write-up was submitted to Key Destination, a travel website where I am part of a global team of in-house bloggers.