Sendai is Tohoku’s largest city, with more than a million inhabitants. But it’s the smaller cities that count Tohoku’s grandest historical treasures. Tsuruga Castle in Aizuwakamatsu saw one of the Japanese Revolution’s largest battles in 1868, pitting the locally ruling Samurai against the Kyoto-based Imperial Court. Hirosaki Castle wows visitors with its architecture, moats, gardens, and cherry blossoms. At Matsushima Bay, you can get your history fix as well as some invigorating time outdoors. Explore the Rinzai Buddhist Zuigan-ji Temple and its Zen gardens (c. 828); the tiny temple of Godaido, which overlooks the bay (c. 807); and Matushima Bay itself, which is studded with about 260 pine-covered islands.