After spending twice as long as I originally planned at Redwood Inn, it was finally time to make a move and resume my journey northwards: On to the final frontier of Honshu (Japan’s main island), with my goal being to make it to the northernmost prefecture of Aomori. The north (east) region of Japan is known as Tohoku – a name that might be familiar now in the west due to the unfortunate earthquake and tsunami disaster of 2011. It is this region that has so far eluded me in my Japanese travels, and one that I was keen to embrace during the winter season.
Unfortunately, many roads are closed during this period due to large volumes of snow (and no need to spend money on expensive ploughing), so visiting waterfalls and hiking are basically out of the question in most cases. However, instead, there are amazing snowy landscapes to be seen and of course plenty of snowboarding opportunities… if you have the money… which I don’t!
Nevertheless, as I embarked from the safety and comfort of Redwood Inn, I quickly felt the old feeling of freedom associated with being on the road and going wherever the wind takes me. I first headed over to the west of Japan in Niigata prefecture, and started to wend my way up the coastline. It was about 10 degrees warmer than it had been up at Yamaboku, and despite a gale blowing in over the ocean, the sunshine and (relative) warmth were a welcome change.
The following day I took a coastal drive between Murakami and Tsuruoka (in Yamagata prefecture) that had been recommended to me, and although the weather was blustery and the beaches completely un-swimmable at this time of year, I could still appreciate the beauty of the rugged coastline, where waves lash steep cliffs and headlands with small coves and beaches in between. I then turned back inland towards Yamagata city, which is a large place sprawling on a plain surrounded by mountains. In fact, just 30mins out of the city I found my next destination – one I had been looking forward to for some time – Zao ski resort and onsen village. See this separate post for a rundown of my snowboarding adventures surrounded by snow monsters.