ists, there are very few signs in English or
other languages, and it is often difficult to
find a hotel staff member who speaks a
language other than Japanese.
Sendai and beyond
Sendai is the region’s largest city and a
good launching point to explore Tohoku.
Just north of Sendai is Matsushima, a
small coastal town known for its picturesque archipelago of more than 200 islands. These islands served to protect the
main town from the worst of the tsunami.
Matsushima is home to Zuiganji, a Zen
temple from the 10th century. The main
temple is closed for renovations until
2018, but the grounds and other small
temples and shrines still make it worth a
visit, starting with the long approach to
the main hall, lined with soaring cedar
trees whose scent permeates the region.
In Hiraizumi, about a 90-minute drive
from Sendai, is the Chuson-ji Temple.
Built onto a hillside with swaying bamboo trees and offering sweeping views of
the countryside, the temple grounds are
home to a museum as well as the Golden
Hall. Constructed entirely of gold in 1124,
the hall houses the mummified remains
of lords from four generations of the Fujiwara clan, which dominated Japanese
politics from the ninth to 12th centuries.
Kakunodate, a town near Tohoku’s west
coast, has six samurai houses open to the
public, including one that still has a 12th-
generation samurai family living in it.
with buffets; high tables and chairs; and hybrid rooms with tatami mats but Western-style beds.
At hot spring ryokans, the bathing experience, separated by gender, is a very
ritualized process of washing the body
thoroughly before entering the baths
without clothing. There are usually both
indoor and outdoor tubs.
The Japanese swear by the preventive
and healing powers of the mountain-fed,
hot spring water in Tohoku.
It is traditional to wear the same slippers and robe to dinner and around the
resort that one wears to the baths.
Many ryokans in Tohoku are very rea-
sonably priced, although because they are
so different from Western-style resorts,
it’s difficult to assign them a star rating.
The Majesty of the Yangtze
Since 1994…. The service Leader on the Yangtze
Experience the boutique lifestyle on our new EXECUTIVE DECKS
A room at the Komagatake Kanko Hotel.
Ishiguro, the oldest of the six houses, is
still home to the Ishiguro family, where an
11th- and 12th-generation samurai father
and son greet and talk with guests about
their family and give them a short tour of
their home, which includes a museum of
swords and armor of the samurai era.
Nearby, don’t miss the cherry bark
crafts museum, built in the style of the
samurai houses. The regional craft is still
done by local cherry bark artisans, called
kabazaiku, one of whom demonstrates
the art for visitors.
Executive Deck Program Includes:
Choice of 2 dining rooms or reserved window seating in the
main dining room (depending on vessel), Executive Lounge,
Concierge service, exclusive shore excursions with groups of 6
or more, complimentary “Happy Hour” before dinner with wine
and beer in the Executive Lounge, hot & cold drinks all day in the
Executive Lounge, reserved seating for evening entertainment,
private lectures by senior staff.
A visit to any part of Japan is not complete without a stay in a ryokan, where
living areas feature tatami, a straw mat
flooring; legless chairs and low tables with
tea ceremony setups; and usually a futon
mattress set up on the tatami for sleeping.
The most traditional ryokans have private dining rooms for groups, also with
low tables and legless chairs — note that
traditional Japanese venues mean a lot of
Some ryokans are more Westernized,
Award-winning celebrity chef Walter Staib and consultant to Victoria Cruises
T W 022112
The Yangtze’s Largest Five Star Fleet
ØFully insured by an American insurance company with
ØAmerican and western cruise directors
ØPreferred by the Finest Tour Operators in America
M A Y 21, 2012