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.

I’m not a skiier. But if I were, I think what would draw me to ski resorts in Japan would be the presence of hot springs. After a day out on the slopes, is there any better way to retire than to soak in a rotenburo or open-air bath, with snowflakes falling lightly all around you?

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While the powdery soft snow in Hokkaido is unrivalled in Japan, Mount Zao is a quieter alternative, coupled with the fact that it’s famed for its onsen. And even if you don’t ski – like me – I think you’ll enjoy riding a gondola up to the summit at 10,000 feet and doing a little hiking.

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When I was there in December, the mountain was blanketed in white and the wind chill was pretty overwhelming, especially for a tropical girl like me. So if you intend to do a little exploring in winter, do bundle up. I used heat packs!

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Yamagata is a very spiritual place. It is home to three sacred mountains, countless Buddhist and Shinto shrines, and its landscape is dotted with statues of Buddha. I came across this manifestation of Buddha – donning a red bib and headwear – quite often in Tohoku. I found out that he is the patron for travellers and young children. So as a world traveller, he’s my patron! *beams*

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Apart from skiing and hot springs, what raises the X-factor for Mount Zao for me is the mind-boggling presence of what locals call “snow monsters”. It’s not hard to understand why the Japanese call these creatures such. From afar, they do look like an army of abominable snowmen!

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These “snow monsters” are actually frozen snow-covered trees. So you can imagine they are anything but small, and quite a challenge to navigate if you’re on skies!

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The best time to encounter the “snow monsters” is in the months of January and February, when the snowfall at Mount Zao peaks. I would’ve loved to wander among them – especially at night – when they are illuminated in a magical glow.

This only means that I need to be back for this unique spectacle!

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

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