Northern Honshū (Tōhoku)

The under-visited beach at Shirahama (白浜) is a real find for open-water swimmers and beach bums due to its clear-blue water, shallow entry and breathtaking mountain backdrop, but is only recommended during summer when the crispness has left the air. Rent paddleboats at the nearby boathouse from spring to autumn. Romantic sunset strolls are highly recommended any time of year: on the lake's eastern shore, you'll find Tazawa-ko's famed bronze statue of the legendary beauty Tatsuko.

A 20km road wraps around the lake, perfect for a slow drive or vigorous cycle – bike rentals are available in the small village of Tazawa Kohan (¥400 per hour from). Sightseeing buses depart Tazawa-ko Station and loop around the lake, stopping for 15 minutes to admire the statue of Tatsuko. Scenic boat rides are available from Shirahama (¥1200, 40 minutes, every two hours May to October).

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Northern Honshū (Tōhoku) attractions

1. Tatsuko

3.61 MILES

Legend has it that long ago, a local maiden, Tatsuko, believing that the spring water would make her beauty last forever, drank so much that she turned…

2. Bukeyashiki Ishiguro-ke

11.65 MILES

Built in 1809 as the residence of the Ishiguro family, advisers to the Satake clan, this is one of the oldest buildings in the samurai district…

3. Aoyagi Samurai Manor Museum

11.68 MILES

The restored Aoyagi family compound is impressive in its own right, but inside each well-maintained structure is a fascinating exhibition of family…

4. Kakunodate Cherry-Bark Craft Center

11.76 MILES

Inside this elegant building you'll find exhibits and demonstrations of kabazaiku, the craft of covering household or decorative items in fine strips of…

5. Andō Brewery

12.14 MILES

Rows of Hinamatsuri dolls welcome visitors to this centuries-old brewery overseen by one of the oldest families in Akita Prefecture. Andō makes soy sauce…

6. Iwate-kōen

24.25 MILES

If you head east on foot from the train station along Kaiun-bashi for about 2km, you’ll eventually come to this landscaped park, where Morioka-jō once…

7. Rock-Splitting Cherry Tree

24.27 MILES

A huge cracked granite boulder sits in front of the Morioka District Court, out of which sprouts this large cherry tree, said to be almost four hundred…

8. Sakurayama-jinja

24.32 MILES

The start and end point for the Sansa Odori dancers in Morioka's biggest festival is this modest shrine on the edge of Iwate-kōen.