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The best way to get to Tohoku from Tokyo is on the Tohoku Shinkansen trains, all of which are included in the JR Pass. The fastest Hayate run to Aomori, and the slower Yamabiko Shinkansen run to Sendai and Morioka; the Tsubasa run to Yamagata; and the Komachi go to Akita. Shinkansen lines don't go farther north than the west-coast city of Akita. Elsewhere in Tohoku, JR local trains are slower and less frequent (every two hours rather than every hour during the day) when they cross the region's mountainous spine. Most trains and many buses are owned by Japan Railways, so a JR Rail Pass will be a worthwhile purchase. Be aware that most trains stop running before midnight. Overhead racks are adequate for small packs, but you should stow larger items in spaces at the ends of cars. In Japan no one is ever likely to touch your bags, even if left unattended.
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