But for starters: Where is Tohoku?
Tohoku consists of Kyushu’s six northernmost prefectures—Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Yamagata, Miyagi, and Fukushima. You might notice from looking at the map above that all six prefectures have at least one side along a coast. This fact is especially important when discussing the economies of Sendai city and Miyagi prefecture, which I hope to blog about another week.
As for the typical Tohoku landscape, I will summarize with a couple photographs.
Yes, mountains, trees and farm land. These are only two pictures, but most of Tohoku is very mountainous and very rural. While in Akita, whenever I walked outside, as long as I wasn’t standing in the middle of downtown, there was always a mountain with a rice field within sight.
Very often at the foot of mountains you’ll find fields of Akita’s main commodity—rice. Rice from other Tohoku prefectures might not be quite as popular, but overall, Tohoku has some of the highest rice crop yield by population. In other words, for many people in Tohoku, rice cultivation is a way of life. (Click here if you would like to read through the official 2010 report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries.) Unfortunately, many rice fields along Tohoku’s east coast were destroyed by the tsunami. In addition to topsoil removal and salt (and suspected nuclear) contamination, irrigation systems were also damaged, making the future marketability of rice from Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima uncertain.
I’d rather not end this first post on a sad note, so I’ll close with a visual preview of next week’s topic, Akita rice culture. First, a Kiritanpo maiden, representing Akita, Akita Komachi rice, and one of the signature dishes made from it, kiritanpo.
And second, Kanto, a festival held at the beginning of August to celebrate the annual rice harvest.