With these conveniently located hotels, enjoying the famous sights and specialties of Tohoku just got even easier
Photos: JR EAST
Only about two hours by train from Tokyo, the region of Tohoku is home to some of Japan’s most renowned attractions, from the adorable foxes of the Miyagi Zao Fox Village to the dramatic scenery of “snow monsters” on Mount Zao.
As you’re hopping between exciting stops across Tohoku, staying at a hotel that’s highly accessible and easily found can be a godsend. Imagine alighting from the Shinkansen and popping into the hotel lobby located right beside the station, without having to worry about carting your luggage halfway across town.
We pick out five of such conveniently located hotels in Tohoku and nearby must-try experiences to look out for.
Hotel Metropolitan Yamagata
Located at: JR Yamagata Station
Tohoku is a trove of natural beauty, but for travellers who are pining for a little urban comfort, spend a night or two in Yamagata. This city is filled with delights for shopaholics and foodies alike while retaining a peaceful vibe.
Arrive at JR Yamagata Station and head straight up to find the Hotel Metropolitan Yamagata, which offers both modern city suites as well as larger Japanese tatami-style rooms. Breakfast here at Mogami Tei is served as a set, giving you the best chance to try Yamagata’s succulent beef and comforting imoni soup.
Like what you ate? Linked to both the hotel and the station is S-PAL Yamagata, where you can shop an abundance of fresh local specialties, including juicy beef jerky, sake, imoni soup stock and konyaku (konjac) jelly. The latter goes best with mustard.
The Hotel Metropolitan Yamagata is about 30 minutes by bus to the iconic Mount Zao, which brings in different dramatic sights across the seasons. Visit in winter to catch “snow monsters”; pine trees that have frozen to resemble giants climbing the slopes.
1-1-1 Kasumicho Yamagata, 990-0039, Japan, www.yamagatametropolitan.jp.
Hotel Metropolitan Sendai
Located at: JR Sendai Station
Another stop for the city slicker, Sendai is a glittering beacon of loved Japanese spoils — from Tokyu Hands to Muji — that can all be found in the multi-level S-PAL Sendai mall. The area is also home to the shopping haven Ichibancho Arcade, the largest one in the Tohoku region.
The hotel of choice here is the Hotel Metropolitan Sendai, a stylish stay directly connected to the JR Sendai Station and the giant S-PAL Sendai mall. Here, you can stock up on local products to bring home — especially the city’s crowning specialty: Gyutan, or beef tongue.
Be sure to savour some of the tender delicacy too. Aji no Gyuutan Kisuke had queue markers up for the after-work crowd but lunch hour might be a better time to visit, as we were met with a largely empty restaurant at noon.
Another specialty of Sendai is zunda, a sweet soybean paste made from edamame (green peas). Best eaten with mochi or soft serve, zunda is so called after the Japanese phrase for “beating beans”.
1-1-1 Chuo, Aoba-ku, Miyagi, 980-8477, Japan, www.sendaimetropolitan.jp.
Hotel Metropolitan Morioka
Located at: JR Morioka Station
One of the best-rated locations in Morioka according to online travel reviews, the Hotel Metropolitan Morioka is located just a minute’s walk from JR Morioka Station. Most uniquely, this hotel offers 28 ladies-only rooms, which can be accessed only with a special key. Here, women can unwind in single rooms that are equipped with an ion face-steamer and special amenities.
The hotel also has a New Wing — which features more Europe-influenced design and French and Japanese restaurants — built three minutes away from the station.
During your stay in Morioka, indulge in the city’s famous wanko (small bowl) soba noodles, the dish that spawned Japan’s famous all-you-can-eat soba noodles challenge. This tradition began 400 years ago and today has become a signature of Morioka. Also, try out another one of Morioka’s great noodles: Reimen (cold noodles). Originally a Korean dish, Morioka reimen noodles have a slippery texture and are served in a cold soup with beef, kimchi, cucumber, boiled egg and a slice of fresh fruit.
1-44 Morioka, Ekimae-dori, Morioka, Iwate 020-0034, Japan, www.metro-morioka.co.jp (click Language for English option).
Hotel Folkloro Takahata
Located at: JR Takahata Station
The Hotel Folkloro Takahata is a quainter option with homely vibes. This no-frills hotel sits beside the JR Takahata Station, with rooms peering over the station or the quiet town of Takahata.
An absolute must-eat in Takahata is the touted Queen of Fruits, the La France pear. Yamagata Prefecture is known as the Kingdom of Fruits, and here, the fragrant and distinctively sweet La France pear reigns as royalty. Also known as “butter pear”, the fruit begins its season from mid-October.
About 20 minutes from the Hotel Folkloro Takahata lies the “romantic street” of Takahata, where time has frozen in the glory days of the Showa era. Old-school shops, vendors, musicians and festivals in this town centre will whisk you on a surreal trip back to the 1920s.
Also nearby is the Kumano Taisha, an ornate Shinto shrine with an enigmatic inner hall. The saying goes that if you can spot all three rabbits in the carvings here, your wish will be fulfilled.
200 Yamazaki, Takahata, Higashiokitama District, Yamagata Prefecture 999-2173, Japan, www.folkloro-takahata.com/en.
Hotel Metropolitan Akita
Located at: JR Akita Station
A place where nature and history has blended with the city, Akita is most known for the breathtaking crater lake, Lake Tazawa, which is also the deepest lake in Japan. At a depth of 423m, the water exudes a calm yet mysterious charm, with its colour morphing with the seasons from jade green to sapphire blue.
A good place to set off for Akita’s attractions is the Hotel Metropolitan Akita, which you can easily hop to right beside the JR Akita Station. The beautiful Senshu Park — a revered site of 800 cherry blossom trees and flowering azalea — is within six minutes’ walking distance.
When in Akita, make sure you get a taste of the local kiritanpo; cylindrical rice skewers that are toasted or boiled and served in miso or hotpot. Kiritanpo is usually eaten from September to March and in November.
7-2-1 Naka-dori, Akita, Akita 010-8530, Japan, www.jrhotelgroup.com/en/104.html.
Brought to you by JR EAST.
Book your stay in Tohoku now at www.jre-hotels.jp/e.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of Weekender, Issue 171, February 3 – February 16, 2017, with the headline ‘The Best Hotels in the Tohoku Region’.