While you are in the North....

The wider Tohoku region has some fantastic places to visit. Don't forget to check these out before you head back to Tokyo.

 

Hiraizumi

Hiraizumi is now a provincial backwater, but it once rivaled Kyoto for sophistication and culture. The city was razed in 1189, and all that remains of the once great Hiraizumi is its "Pure Land Garden" one of the oldest in Japan, and the very spectacular Chusonji Temple. Covered entierly in gold leaf, solid gold and mother of pearl, this temple is well worth a visit.

Matsushima

Matsushima is officially one of the three most beautiful places in Japan. Historically a temple town, Matsushima faces a wide bay dotted with pine trees that have been twisted by salt winds into beautiful shapes. You can take a boat ride around the 200 small islands or take in the view from a restaurant on the sea front. The stunning temple complex of Zuiganji (main hall closed for renovation until 2018) is one of Tohoku's premier Zen temples.

Matsushima is only 30 minutes by train from Sendai, Tohoku's biggest city.

(Sendai is about 1 hour by bus or train from Murayama)

Kakunodate

Kakunodate in Akita prefecture has some of the best preserved Samurai houses in the country. The Samurai district features well preserved houses that are open to the public and more that open their gardens. Famous also for its cherry blossoms, this gem is well worth a visit.