Back in the 9th century, Tohoku was called Michinoku—a name that translated to “land beyond roads.” Upon your arrival in the region, you’ll see why: Nature still plays protagonist in this region’s narrative. As you journey north from Tokyo, rolling hills quickly give way to the rugged Ōu Mountains. Sparsely populated farmland fills the spaces between peaks, with tennis-ball-yellow rice paddies and apple orchards blanketing every inch of arable land. Massive lakes like Towada and Tazawa encourage pleasure cruising, while those wishing to stretch their legs can hike the virgin beech forest of UNESCO World Heritage site Shirakami Sanchi. Keep your eyes peeled for black bears, monkeys, and waterfalls along the way.