Zao is one the most famous ski resorts in Japan. With 15 different slopes and 12 courses that caters from beginners to experts. You can ski from one side to the other on a 10k downhill course at altitudes of 800m.
From the spring till fall season the area is ideal for trekking and sightseeing. With a range of courses for all abilities, you can enjoy the power and beauty of the surrounding nature where many kinds of alpine plants and flowers grow wild whilst enjoying panoramic views of the area.
Zao is also one of the most famous sulfurous hot springs in Japan. The hot natural volcanic waters will relax and refresh your mind and body. There are 2 public bathhouses with open-air facilities.
Getting to Zao is easy by whichever transport you take.
By JR train the journey from Tokyo is just under 2.5 hours into Yamagata Station and then 40 minutes by bus. Flights from Haneda Airport take 1 hour to Yamagata Airport busses to Zao are timed to depart 15 minutes after planes arrive.
Surrounded in history, Hiraizumi was once the stronghold for the Fujiwara clan during the Heian Period. This resulted the city growing in power and sophistication to rival the Kyoto, the capital during that time. Temples such as the Chusonji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Takkoku no Iwaya make the up the unique visiting points to this culturally important area. Outside of the main town is the Geibiki gorge. Take the 90 minute ride on a flat bottomed boat by the tall cliffs and rock formations. Don't forget some change to buy a lucky stone to throw into the opening in the cliff during the trip.
Hiraizumi is easily accessed by the JR Tohoki Main line from Ichinoseki Station for the Shinkansen. Visitors can explore the area on bicycle or by jumping on the ‘Run Run' loop bus that connects all of the visitor sites at 15-30 minute intervals.
Celebrated as one of Japan's 3 most scenic views alongside Miyajima and Amanohashidate, the bay is dotted by over 200 small pine tree covered islands and a good place to eat and enjoy fresh seafood.
Take a sightseeing cruise around the bay to enjoy the surroundings, longer cruises will take you to Oku-Matsushima, where some of the most beautiful scenes are. Cruises depart from Matsushima Pier, a 5-10 walk from the Matsushima Kaigan station. After the cruise take the short walk over to Oshima Island, this small island used to be a retreat for monks and is decorated with meditation caves and is very peaceful for those wanting to relax.
Matsushima can be reached by the JR Senseki Line, picked up from Sendai along the Tohoku Shinkansen route.