The express trains that run from Tokyo and run into northern Japan to Hachinohe are called Hayabusa, Hayate, Max Yamabiko / Max Nasuno / Yamabiko / Nasuno / Hayate with stops at some of the best locations in the Tohoku region. The list of stations along this line, starting from Tokyo: Ueno, Omiya, Oyama, Utsunomiya, Nasushiobara, Shin-Shirakawa, Koriyama, Fukushima, Shiroishizao, Sendai, Furukawa, Kurikoma-Kogen, Ichinoseki, Mizusawaesashi, Kitakami, Shin -Hanamaki, Morioka, Iwate-Numakunai and finally Hachinohe. Since my focus for this post is food, nihonshu, stations and related shrines, I will only focus on what certain stations have to offer in this regard.
To set the right mood, whenever you travel on one of these express trains, you need to buy a good lunch box. Both Tokyo and Ueno stations offer deluxe lunch boxes, each featuring the local delicacy of these two cities. You have to order the really good ones as there may not be any in the display case, they sell out quickly. The next noteworthy station along this line would be Utsunomiya Station. From there, if you have a JR rail pass, you can get off at this station and go down the stairs to MinMin which is a famous gyoza spot for a break without having to leave the station building, and since this is where to most tourists like to visit. for gyoza, you will most likely discover a new flavor. Whenever I’m awake like this, I make a stop to enjoy a good set of gyoza.
The next stop along this line is Nasushiobara in Tochigi, famous for its hot springs, cheese, and delicious nihonshu; a recommendation would be Daina and Souhomare. After that stop, you have Shin-Shirakawa. Some of the best Fukushima-style ramen places are here, especially if you like wantan (dumpling) in your ramen. This is the city that also has my favorite confectionery called Akebono’s. Koriyama is the next stop with its delicious mangu and sweet pastries. One stop after this is a major stop at Fukushima Station, which connects four other lines; Yamagata Shinkansen, Ou Line, Tohoku Line, Abukuma Kyuko and Fukushima Kotsu. From Fukushima station, you can enjoy a nice super sento public toilet that is built into the station building near the rear, and then enjoy delicious cheesecake at the Italian Bistro, all of which are located in the station.
From Fukushima it passes Shiroishizao and after that station it reaches Sendai, another important stop. Sendai station is really cool because they have good restaurants inside and outside the station. I recommend crossing the main intersection and heading towards where the neon lights are. There are several gyuton shops that offer this local specialty (gyuton beef tongue / barbecue place), which are actually not that bad. I still get a little scared because it was tongue and not ass that I ate last time. Sendai is the largest city in Tohoku with a history dating back 20,000 years. Even during the suppression of Western religions such as Catholicism and Christianity, during the Tokugawa reign, Catholicism flourished here, even today.
As we proceed we come to Furukawa and Kurikoma-kogen, which are noted for their milky white sulfur onsen. The hotel I stayed in there. A photo I took with an IZ-20 of his private bathroom. Something more than worth mentioning is this dango and this one here (photos are on the blog).
Some other notable places along this line would be Iwate, which is famous for Chuson-ji Konjiki-do with its beautiful architecture, designs, and crafts. It is located about 9 minutes from Ichinoseki station. I’ve been there and it’s worth it just for the photos. If you have an interest in Buddhist architecture, this place is a must. Every Japanese, once in his life, must make a trip to this place before he dies. That is a true saying, by the way … And, while we are still in Iwate, Jodogahama would be the next best place to stop with its volcanic rock entrance created 52 million years ago, which according to some wise monks, resembles the buddha sky. By far this is the most exotic of all the beaches I have seen so far (ensenada is just a fancy word for beach). Two hours from Morioka Station and 20 minutes by bus from Miyako Station you can reach this cove by the sea. If you are hungry and want to enjoy seafood near this station, anywhere is good. My favorite place is called Bureko and it is run by an elderly couple who took great care of me the entire time I was there.
After dinner, heading to Hanamaki Onsen is a must for the weary traveler with its geothermal hot springs. The famous Japanese writer Kenji Miyazawa wrote haikus about this place with its abundance of cherry trees and rose gardens. I have personally been to Hanamaki ten times; twice a year for five years and you could probably write things about this area that would excite the imagination, but you won’t for now, there’s no time. The next day, you can head to Koiwai Farms, which is the largest integrated farm in Japan dating back over 100 years. The closest station is Morioka and 40 minutes by bus from there to the farm. I only recommend two things: the steak and the cheesecake!
The last noteworthy stop would be Hachinohe, and from here you can visit the Hasshoku Center, which is about 9 minutes away by bus. Here you can find a wide variety of freshly caught seafood, even sharks! I took a photo of a shark that had just been taken out of the water. Finally, we have the Oirase Mountain Stream, which has a beautiful 14 km mountain range surrounded by thick virgin forest. From Hachinohe station; 1 hour 45 minutes by bus. The best time to visit it would be between April and October. These suggested locations are just a small introduction to this vast region of the sky. I’ve listed six top destinations and a few minor stops that I think identify what I love about this area.