Still little known to Western tourists, the stunning region of Tohoku (literally "north-east") will introduce you to a more rustic and authentic side of Japan. The northernmost tip of the main island of Honshu, the largest region of Japan, is home to six prefectures (Fukushima, Miyagi, Yamagata, Iwate, Akita and Aomori). While less densely populated than central Japan, with the exception of the coasts, it has its fair share of major cities: Sendai (over 1 million inhabitants), Akita and Aomari (300,000 each). Banked by the Sea of Japan on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, and straddled by a huge chain of mountains (Ōu-sanmyaku) which stretches for 500km/310mi from north to south, the region unveils an amazing diversity of landscapes. For example, it boasts no less than three National Parks, a UNESCO world heritage natural site and some of Japan's finest onsen (hot springs). Tohoku is also home to outstanding national treasures including castles (Hirosaki, Aizuwakamatsu), temples (Zuigan-ji, Chuson-ji, Churen-ji, Yamadera), mausoleums (Zuiho-den, Entsu-in) and ancient samurai districts (at Kakunodate and Hirosaki).