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Western Tohoku

Travelling north from central Honshu, along the western Sea of Japan coast, the first point of note is Niigata - the largest port on this stretch of coastline. The city is pleasant if fairly unremarkable in itself although travellers with a day to spare may like to visit Furumachi shopping district or stroll through Hakusan-koen. The busy Hon-cho Market is a good place to eat cheaply. (The local sushi is said to be particularly fine.)

Many, however, will view Niigata as a point from which to catch the ferry to Sado-Shima - historically a place of exile for criminals and political enemies. This isolated island is approximately two and a half hours away by ferry and a favourite tourist attraction, therefore often swarming with coachloads of sightseers. Attractions include the Edo-period gold mines of Aikawa on the north west coast, several important temples such as Konpon-ji and the more remote Myosho-ji near the town of Sawata on the east coast. Ryotsu is the main port for the island and although of little inherent interest, is a good place to pick up information on the rest of the island. The recent phenomenon of the Kodo Drummers is surely the island’s biggest export and their annual ’Earth Celebration’ festival held annually in June is one of the island’s biggest events.

Travelling northwards via the towns of Tsuruoka (main sights being Tsuruoka-koen and Chido Hakubutsukan) and Sakata (Ken Domon Museum of Photography) one will reach Akita - capital of the prefecture of the same name with its lively nightlife and sprinkling of gardens and temples make it a good place to stop for the night. The Oga-hanto(peninsula) can be easly reached from here - an area notable for its mythical namahage - demons of the New Year who appear and won’t be appeased until sufficient quantities of sake have been offered!

Travel north to the Aomori district and the nothernmost point of Honshu Island.





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