The Tōhoku region (東北地方, Tōhoku-chihō) consists of the northeastern portion of Honshu, the largest island of Japan. The region consists of six prefectures (ken): Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi and Yamagata. Tōhoku retains a reputation as a remote region, offering breathtaking scenery but a harsh climate. In the 20th century, tourism became a major industry in the Tōhoku region.
Tōhoku, like most of Japan, is hilly or mountainous, with the Ōu Mountains running north-south. The inland location of many of the region's lowlands has led to a concentration of much of the population there. Coupled with coastlines that do not favor seaport development, this settlement pattern resulted in a much greater than usual dependence on land and rail transportation. Low points in the central mountain range fortunately make communications between lowlands on either side of the range moderately easy.
Tōhoku was traditionally considered the granary of Japan because it supplied Sendai and the Tokyo-Yokohama market with rice and other farming commodities. Tōhoku provided 20 percent of the nation's rice crop. The climate, however, is harsher than in other parts of Honshū and permits only one crop a year on paddy fields. In the 1960s, iron, steel, cement, chemical, pulp, and petroleum refining industries began developing.