If you are looking for a magnificent tourism experience on the different side yet a hidden place of Japan, Tohoku is a great place to visit. As mentioned by National Geographic magazine “Traveler; 25 Trips to Take in 2020” that Tohoku might get a gold medal for the best unknown place.
Continuing our journey from Matsushima, we head to Iwate Prefecture in the north of Miyagi Prefecture where Sendai city and Matsushima exist, which took us 1,5 hours ride by car.
Find More About The History of Japan by Visiting Local Temples
Arriving at the Hiraizumi town in Iwate Prefecture, our destination was the Motsuji temple, a Buddhist temple and recognized as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, and we were welcomed by a veteran Japanese tour guide
The temple is best known for its garden, one of the few remaining pure land gardens in Japan. When visiting the temple, Alhamdulillah we still able to catch the autumn foliage.
The temple is situated at a 3-min wide by Hiraizumi loop bus from Hiraizumi station or at a 10-min walk from Hiraizumi station.
Situated at a 20-mins walk from the Motsuji temple, there is another temple called Chusonji which has a golden pavilion called Konjikido that is covered with gold leaf, which is considered one of the most famous attractions in Hiraizumi. It is said that it was built to represent a heaven-like structure in this world.
There is an autumn illumination held during night time that bright up the line of trees with stunning light.
Outside of Hiraizumi town, there is a spectacular sightseeing spot called Geibikei Gorge that has been designated a National Place of Scenic Beauty and Natural Monument since 1923 and chosen as one of 100 landscapes of Japan. Located at the riverbank of Satetsu River with soaring 100 meters high of cliffs, the Geibikei Gorge known as one of the Three Great Gorges in Japan. You can access the Gorge by approximately 42 mins train ride from Hiraizumi station. For access to more places, please visit here.
We arrive early in the morning and almost no visitors. We can see the clear river like a crystal and way more beautiful with the autumn colors and sunlight. The way to enjoy the view is by using the boat and it moves slowly along the river, allows you to get your eyes dyed with the unforgettable beautiful scenery.
The boat service operates throughout the year, starts from 8:30 in the morning (or 9:30 from November to March) and the boat departs every hour. The boat is moved manually by a paddle. In the winter from December to February, the boat with kotatsu (a table with heater) will operate so you will not be freezing. With a reservation, you can enjoy hot dishes during riding the boat.
To cruise with the boat, you can just walk-in, but for those with groups or who want to experience a smoother entry, you can make an inquiry to the reservation center. It costs 1,800 yen for an adult with an approximately 90-min journey. The feeling of freedom we can get here.
At lunchtime, we visit Higashiyama Kanko Hotel which is a 5-min walk from Geibikei station, a hotel that has a washoku (Japanese cuisine) Muslim-friendly meals. Don’t forget to make a reservation 4 days in advance.
Besides good food, the hotel also has a prayer room with wudu space. Especially for Muslim women, it is very comfortable and privacy is protected.
Ginzan Onsen, The Oshin’s Mother Works In Yamagata Prefecture
When visiting Tohoku, this is the must-visit destination! The Ginzan Onsen is the place where the Oshin movie took place, a photogenic travel destination with wonderful wooden hotspring inns lining each side of the Ginzan River, and a stunning view with shining snow accumulates on the ground in the winter.
Located in a mountainous area in the western Yamagata Prefecture (close to the Miyagi Prefecture), makes Ginzan Onsen has a lower temperature, famous as a travel destination especially with the evoke nostalgic feelings of the old days.
To get to the Ginzan Onsen, we recommend using private transportation for more convenient access. Since the road is quite narrow, you will be needed to park a bit far and have to take several minutes to walk before arriving at the destination.
Have a Rest in a Japanese-Style Room at Tendo Hotel in Yamagata Prefecture
After a journey to magnificent travel destinations in Iwate and Yamagata Prefecture, we got a chance to have a rest at a Tendo Hotel which provides us Japanese-style rooms with tatami and a futon bed!
The hotel has a Muslim-friendly meal for dinner, so no need to go outside to look for something to eat.
Yamadera, The Sacred Temple in Yamagata Prefecture
In Yamagata Prefecture, there is a well-known Buddhist temple called Yamadera that is one of the most significant sacred sites in Tohoku. It takes you 1,000 stone stairs on the trek to get to the temple itself. It surprised us when we saw numbers of Japanese senior veterans are climbing up the stairs without any signs of getting tired.
Arriving at the temple, we were overwhelmed with the scenic nature we saw from above.