When to Go to Tohoku

The north and west have Japan's fiercest winters; transportation slows down significantly, even grinding to a halt during prolonged sieges of snowfall. Along the Pacific and around Sendai, however, things are decidedly milder. Fall colors in the region are fantastic, and spring brings spectacular blossoms of cherry trees. Summer is cooler with less humidity than in most of Japan.

It would be a hectic rush, but festival freaks could conceivably see all of Tohoku's big summer festivals in a single whirlwind visit, starting with Hirosaki's Neputa Matsuri (August 1–7), Aomori's Nebuta Matsuri (August 2–7), Goshogawara’s Tachi Neputa (August 4–8), Akita's Kanto Matsuri (August 3–7), Yamagata's Hanagasa Festival (August 5–7), and the granddaddy of them all, Sendai's Tanabata Matsuri (August 6–8). Things do get fully booked well ahead (often as early as three to four months), so secure both your train and hotel reservations as soon as you can. Reserved seats on the Shinkansen usually sell out up to a month before the date of travel.

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