Perfect for travelers hoping to pair outdoor sightseeing with a mixture of relaxation, culture, and cuisine, this 14-day long excursion through Japan’s scenic Tohoku Region displays the best the region has to offer at a leisurely pace. The highlight is the autumnal foliage, which comes out in force around October to November. You can see mountainous areas like Urabandai transformed by the fall, and the incredible contrast between warm-colored leaves and the intense blue of Lake Towada’s waters. In addition to sightseeing out in the natural world, you’ll also get to visit a number of cultural heritage sites that range from one-of-a-kind Buddhist pagodas to traditional Japanese castles. By taking you through a great number of places, the itinerary also gives visitors the opportunity to tastes a number of local specialty dishes ranging from noodles to sushi.This itinerary is an example. It’s designed to inspire you and provide you with thoughtfully curated ideas. You can choose to do this exact itinerary or completely personalize it. All trips are 100% bespoke.
• Matsushima Bay: This bay dotted with pine-filled islands and red-lacquered traditional bridges is beautiful in the summer, but during the fall it becomes even more striking.
• Mt. Hakkoda: From the mountain summit above or Lake Towada below, the autumnal scenery is beautiful, and the gentle hiking paths are a wonderful way to experience the great outdoors.
• Kakunodate: This former samurai village is home to preserved traditional homes and cultural artifacts that date back hundreds of years, and shed light on Japan’s famed warrior class.
After landing in Tokyo, you will be privately transferred to your hotel. Tokyo is the dynamic capital of Japan that features wonderfully preserved temples and gardens, some of the best food in the world, and a bold approach to fashion. The iconic Mount Fuji dominates the skyline of this economic and cultural powerhouse of a city, beautifully complimenting its modern architecture. We recommend staying at the Peninsula Tokyo or Aman Tokyo, and if time permits you can wander about this exciting city.
You’ll take a bullet train to Aizu-Wakamatsu this morning. The trip takes two and a half hours, and by the afternoon you’ll find yourself exploring the Aizu Sazaedo temple, a wooden pagoda built in 1796 that features a one-of-a-kind double-helix design. This pagoda allows visitors and Buddhist patrons alike to ascend and descend its four stories without ever encountering a person walking in the opposite direction. The temple is built on Mount Iimori, which takes on beautiful autumnal colors during this time of year; but the reds and yellows are arguably even better displayed at your next stop, Tsuruga Castle, where a beautifully curated park of gently sloping hills and tranquil bodies of water surrounds the traditional Japanese castle. There are also a number of stands selling Agemanju buns — little steamed cakes with a sweet filling that are sold nearby and are definitely worth trying. For lunch, we recommend you try a katsu sauce meal, which features fried pork and rice with this rich flavoring. Come the evening, you’ll stroll through Nanukamachi, a street lined with shops selling crafts, homemade sweets, and souvenirs. Later, you’ll retire to your ryokan to enjoy an authentic, multi-course kaiseki dinner, a staple component of Japanese ryokan luxury.
Today you’ll spend the whole day exploring Urabandai, which is a little under an hour outside of Aizu and a major highlight of the trip. Located behind Mt. Bandai, this picturesque region is known for its gentle walking paths, peaceful lakes, and mountainous horizon, but during the fall its beauty increases exponentially. Glorious reds, oranges, and yellows fill the treetops and wonderfully compliment the unique blues of the lakes below and the crisp autumn sky above. You’ll take the Goshikinuma Walk, which is a gentle, flat walking course that meanders between the “Five Colored Lakes” of Urabandai. The walk takes about an hour, and later you’ll take a scenic drive along the Bandai-Azuma Lake that offers spectacular sweeping views of the highland areas, lakes below, and Nakatsugawa Gorge. There are a number of other trails to take around Urabandai, and time permitting, those wanting to hike can even make their way up to the top of Mt. Bandai to look out across the scenery below.
This morning you’ll head over to Ouchijuku, a former post town that has been meticulously restored and today pays homage to Edo Period (1603 – 1868) culture. Surrounded by mountainous areas, the town takes on a special beauty when the leaves change colors in the fall. Thatched-roof houses line streets made of pounded dirt, and there are great dishes to enjoy here like negisoba, a type of noodle dish where you use the stalk of a green onion as chopsticks. Various shops and stores are filled with lacquerware, dolls, and other curious local goods, and the Ouchi Town Museum is filled with more than 1,500 cultural artifacts from the Edo Period. There’s also the Minatogawa-ya souvenir store where you can paint your own akabeko doll. In the afternoon, you’ll stop by Kitakata. There are a number of great dishes for lunch here, including the famous Kitakata ramen noodles or, if you can manage, the Kitakata Ramen Burger. You’ll make a quick stop at the curious Kitakata Ramen Museum & Shrine to learn more about what you just ate before you head to one of the town’s award-winning Sake Breweries (either Homare or Yamatogawa) to tour, learn, and taste. You'll also stop by the Kura-no-sato warehouse museum to learn about the importance of Edo Era residential warehouses. We recommend picking up some local miso and soy sauce while in town, which have reduced, and often no, preservatives.
You’ll set out early today on a three-hour drive headed toward Shiogama, the city known for having the highest density of sushi restaurants in Japan. Specifically, the Shiogama Fish Market, near the wharves, is the site of the city’s hectic wholesale seafood market and is home to roughly 140 on-site shops and stalls that offer a large variety of seafood products. While there, you can enjoy lunch at one of the fish market’s sushi restaurants or make your own seafood bowl. After lunch, you’ll take a boat cruise over to the famous Matsushima Bay. This bay has been lauded for its picturesque waters that are dotted with pine-filled islands that become especially beautiful in the winter when autumnal colors grace the bay. Red-lacquered bridges connect islands and the mainland while also adding an extra touch of beauty to the area. Once you arrive in Matsushima itself, you will stop by Zuiganji and Entsuin temples, which are particularly striking in the fall. Both temples are Buddhist and were built in the 9th and 17th Centuries, respectfully. That night, indulge in all-you-can-eat oysters at one of the kakigoya oyster huts. Prepared raw, grilled, and even deep-fried, the oysters here are not only deliciously prepared, they are also a result of nutrient-rich waters that imbue them with an especially succulent taste. Make your way to Naruko Onsen for the evening.
Today is a full day of touring around Naruko Gorge, one of the most sought-after destinations for viewing autumnal foliage in Japan. Walking along the 2.5-kilometer walking course that meanders beside the ravine's river, you'll catch wonderful views of this famous leaf-viewing destination. Of particular interest is the Ofukazawa Bridge, which is surrounded by trees and exposed rock faces. After enjoying a picnic lunch, there is also the Jigokudani walking trail to explore, which takes about 30 minutes and is lined by hot spring waters and steam vents expelling vapor from the ground. Next, you’ll stop by the Kokeshi Museum to learn about the art of producing kokeshi dolls, a type of little figurine adorned with floral patterns and smiling faces. You’ll even get the opportunity to paint one of your own. Then it’s off to sample kuri dango, steamed and boiled rice balls coated in chestnut paste, with a cup of tea at a local rice cake shop before you return to your hotel to enjoy the onsen hot spring bath.
This morning you’ll set off on a two-hour drive to Kakunodate, a former samurai stronghold of Akita Prefecture that remains largely intact today. That said, in the fall it takes on a particularly stunning look as the traditional black gates and the reddened autumnal leaves contrast with the structures. You will peacefully wander around the streets of its samurai district, or even be carted around in rickshaws, and if interested, you can also rent kimonos to wear during the excursion. Within the samurai district, step inside and explore the Aoyagi and Ishiguro houses. These are both residences of formerly important samurai class families with hundreds of years of history and are filled with numerous antique cultural items. Later, you’ll make your way to Denshokan Museum, where you can see renowned birch craft works of Akitain a traditional setting, and then you’ll take a quick stop by the Ando Workshop, which makes miso and shoyu (soy sauce) — it also offers samples. Tonight, you’ll unwind in your ryokan accommodation. Hot spring waters await you in your private, indoor/outdoor bath, and the deck is wonderful for stargazing. Consider checking out kiritanpo nabe, pounded rice that can be toasted over an open hearth or served in dumpling soups, for dinner tonight, especially if the weather is chilly. Once the sun has completely fallen, if you wish, you can stroll around the town at night to check out the illuminated trees.
It’s up to Lake Tazawa today, a picturesque caldera lake with stunning sapphire blue waters that interact spectacularly with the surrounding autumnal foliage. You can enjoy the scenery by taking a rowboat or pedal-boat across the waters, or you can cycle around the 12 miles of level roads that circle the lake. There are some shrines and a famous statue by sculptor Yasutake Funakoshi to check out along the way. In the afternoon, you’ll head to the Dakigaeri Gorge, a former logging site known for its distinctive blue mountain stream, primeval forest vegetation, and small waterfalls that line the path. The area takes on a wonderfully warm color pallet during the fall, and as you walk along logging tunnels and bridges that hug the cliff edges you’ll get a wonderful look at the gorge’s natural beauty that is capped off by the impressive Mikaeri Waterfall.
After taking a one-and-a-half-hour morning drive, you’ll end up in Morioka, where you will spend the rest of the day touring. Your first stop is Iwate Castle Park, which was once home to the Morioka Castle that burned down in the 17th Century and was never rebuilt. Today, though, the castle’s unique granite ramparts are still available, and a shady area with trees and tranquil paths lines its former grounds. After strolling around the park for a while, you’ll head to the Morioka Handi-Works Square to see traditional arts and handiworks that range from ornate teapots to little figurines. You can watch many of the crafts here being made firsthand. On-site workshops produce local specialties like Reimen and Nanbu-senbei — an iconic noodle and a salty type of biscuit, respectfully — are also produced here, and you can taste them freshly made. For lunch, try Wanko Soba, the local approach to noodles where you are served a bowl with one mouthful at a time that the server will continually refill until you indicate you’ve had your fill. You can also take the Wanko Soba where, after you’ve given up, they will present you with a plaque indicating how many bowls you were able to eat. 15 bowls are equivalent to one regular sized bowl, and the record is 345. You’ll also stop by the Sakurayama Shrine and Hoonji Temple today, and for dinner, if you’re up for more noodles, you can try jajamen to eat the third of the “Three Great Noodles of Morioka” in one day. This noodle is more complex, with thick, creamy noodles, greens, and some protein. Consider checking it out at Pairon, the original site of the dish.
You’ll head to Hachimantai this morning. The drive takes an hour and passes along the scenic Aspite Line Route, which curves along the flank of the mountain and affords wonderful views of the volcanic belt filled with small ponds and unique Maries' fir forests. Along the way, you’ll stop at the summit of Mt. Hachimantai. There are a number of easy walking routes there that take 40 minutes to two hours to complete. These paths wind past a number of small lakes and marshlands before reaching Hachiman-numa Pond. Beneath the area’s beautiful fall foliage, you can sit down to enjoy a picnic lunch. Your next stop is Goshogake Onsen, a part of Towada-Hachimantai National Park. Walking trails here slide past bubbling mud ponds, hissing sulfur vents, and hot water streams. There are also gender-separated hot springs bathing facilities here. Afterward, you will head north two hours to Oirase Stream where you will enjoy an evening at leisure.
Go for a bike ride today along the river, headed toward Lake Towada. Along the way you’ll see fantastic waterfalls, and upon reaching the lake you can cycle around it. The lake is considered one of the best places in Japan to see the autumnal foliage, and from an observation deck you can judge for yourself as you look across sweeping views of the lake with Mt. Hakkoda lining the horizon. You can take a sightseeing cruise around the lake if you wish; these are one of the best ways to experience its scenic beauty. After a full day of biking, you have the rest of the day at leisure. There are a number of natural walking trails along the stream that are easily accessible from your hotel, should you decide to explore more during the evening.
After looking up at Mt. Hakkoda the day before, today you will get the chance to look down from Mt. Hakkoda across Lake Towada and the surrounding scenery. After a morning drive up to the base of the mountain, the Hakkoda ropeway will shoot you up into the vicinity of the summit, but there is still a 30- to 60-minute walk up a natural trail. Lined with marshes and alpine vegetation, the walk is a treat, but the view from the mountain’s peak is, literally, the cherry on the top. At an altitude of 4,330 feet, you can see as far as the Tsugaru Plains, Mutsu Bay, and even Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. After your descent, you have the rest of the day at leisure. Enjoy soaking in the hotel's natural hot spring bath, contrasted by the crisp mountain air.
Today you’ll start off by taking an hour and a half-long ride to Hirosaki, then you’ll spend the rest of the day touring this cultural center of Aomori Prefecture. As the largest apple producer in Japan, the city is known for its apples, and you should check out the Hirosaki Apple Park to discover how they are made and their cultural mystique. An on-site shop features more than 1,250 apple products. Consider having lunch here. The apple curry and apple soft serve are worth it, and the cider brewery is on-site. Another dining idea is Tsugaru Food Stall Market, which features ten separate food stalls serving local favorites like igamenchi, fried minced squid arms paired with vegetables, and some international options. There is also the Hirosaki Castle Park, which is a true gem in the fall. The three-story castle tower, fortified moats, castle gates, and corner turrets, some of which date back to the 17th Century, are contained within the park that includes water features, gently rolling hills, and vibrant autumnal foliage. Rowboats are available for rent in the central lake, which is great way to experience the park. The city is also home to some national crafts such as Tugaru lacquerware, which you can learn about at the Aomori Lacquerware Federation. There are a number of Western-style buildings throughout the city, and you can taste this influence too, as there are number of great French restaurants in the city worth checking out. Finally, for those with a sweet tooth, be sure to get a slice of apple pie here. With more than 45 confectioners in town, Hirosaki is a bonafide apple pie lover’s mecca.
This morning you’ll head to Aomori airport. If time permits, grab a bowl of miso milk curry ramen, which is a relatively new dish that often features bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, and wakame seaweed toppings, before boarding the plane. Your flight will take you back to Tokyo where you’ll transfer to your connecting homeward-bound flight.
Mere steps from the Imperial Palace sits Tokyo’s newest luxury hotel, The Peninsula Tokyo. Located in Marunouchi district just a short walk from the shopping paradise of Ginza, the hotel is perfectly located for business or pleasure. With a total of 314 elegantly decorated rooms and 47 suites, the Peninsula Tokyo’s accommodations are among the most spacious in all of Tokyo, and offer plenty of amenities including espresso machines, complimentary Internet access, multifunction fax machines, nail polish drying machines, and shoe shining service. The hotel’s culinary options include Cantonese cuisine at the Hei Fung Terrace, regional Japanese fare at Kyoto Tsuruya, and International food and beverages at Cirque Culinaire and Peter. For relaxation, enjoy the hotel’s state of the art health club with pool complex, undergo a “spa journey” at the Peninsula Spa by ESPA, or try a leisurely jog around the Imperial Palace. Other amenities include a business center and a boutique store that offers food, gifts and souvenir items.
Since its opening at the end of 2014, Aman Tokyo has been one of the most talked-about luxury hotels in the city. The most striking thing about it is its location; spread across the top six floors of a 40-storey tower in the Otemachi business district, the panoramic views are simply incredible. What’s more, all of the 84 rooms and suites take full advantage of the lofty position with floor-to-ceiling windows letting light in during the daytime, while also framing the breathtaking lit-up cityscape at night. Aman Tokyo has also received praise for its impressive interiors, which have been inspired by minimalistic design, including the use of camphor wood, washi paper and stone surfaces throughout the rooms as well as traditional Japanese facilities such as large ‘furo’ baths. Situated on the 33rd floor, both guests and non-guests can enjoy the fine Mediterranean food at the hotel’s signature restaurant, not forgetting more of those incredible views across Tokyo stretching as far as the Imperial Palace Gardens and Mount Fuji in the distance. Elsewhere, there is a spa, enclosed garden area, swimming pool, wine cellar, cigar lounge and a whole host of other facilities to keep guests entertained.
To repose in steaming waters surrounded by cherry blossom, fresh greens, orange and red leaves, or snowy landscapes depending on the season is the luxurious comfort on offer at Onsen Ryokan Harataki. Located in the historical hot spring village of “Higashiyama Onsen” in the Aizu Region, Fukushima Prefecture, the traditional Japanese inn is one of the few hot spring inns in the area with a private spring source. Authenticity is key here as guests can enjoy Japanese cuisines at the indoor or outdoor dining spots, which serve freshly sourced ingredients and locally brewed sake in earshot of the neighboring gorge’s waters. The refined and minimalistic accomodation includes Japanese style rooms with tatami mat/futon and Western style rooms. Bathing in their room’s private bath with a panoramic view of the gorge outside, visitors can relax their body and soul before heading to explore the many popular historical sites in Aizu-Wakamatsu City such as Bukeyashiki (samurai residences), Nisshinkan, and Oyaku-en. Sake brewery tours and the sublime landscapes of Lake Inawashiro, Urabandai, Ouchijuku, and Nishiaizu further afield are also highly recommended.
Opened in October 2016, Naruko Onsen Yumoto Kissho offers a modern twist on the traditional Japanese ryokan inn. Located in one of the Tohoku region's most prominent hot springs, Naruko Onsen, the hotel provides sweeping vistas of the hot spring district while featuring several on-site baths of its own, including large communal baths, open-air baths, and 4 private baths that can be used for no extra charge. Each of the 59 guest rooms maintains the open, bright, timber and paper panel design of the rest of the inn and is fitted with a flat-screen TV, air conditioning, and WiFi. The tatami mat rooms and décor represent a nod to the traditional aesthetics while also maintaining a sleek design and fresh perspective. Meals are served privately to guests in their rooms and consist of multi-course feasts prepared with local produce. For breakfast, visitors can enjoy a buffet. Situated only 7 minutes from Naruko Onsen Station and Naruko Sightseeing & Inn Information Center, the hotel is also the perfect haven of relaxation from which to easily explore the area’s many sites of beauty and interest, such as Naruko Gorge and Katanuma lake.
Weeping cherry trees line the streets of traditional samurai buildings in the town of Kakunodate, which, beside the loss of its samurai stronghold, remains remarkably unchanged since its founding in 1620 and is home to the exclusive chalet of Kakunodate Sanso Wabizakura ryokan. This hot spring inn provides guests with a relaxing and rejuvinating retreat from daily life as well as a nostalgic view into Japan’s past. Each of the ten rooms is uniqely decorated in some elegant combination of Japanese and Western influences and features a private, free-flowing hot spring spa and terrace with both tatami and living room areas. The suites include Japanese style futons or western beds. The interior of the 200 year old main building is fitted with antique furniture from the esteemed Aoyagi Samurai Clan and the exterior’s star feature is its rustic thatched roof. The inn also houses a bar lounge, massage and oil treatment centre, and star-gazing deck from which guests can stare up in wonder at Kadoya’s famously clear skies. Boasting a two Michelin star chef, the restaurant serves delicious, organic multi-course meals in the manner customary of Japan’s haute-cuisine, Kaiseki. Guests staying at the inn receive complimentary tickets to the nearby Aoyagi Samurai Manor Museum and only need drive ten minutes to arrive at the local samurai village and samurai street.
Melding elements of classical European style with local traditional aesthetic, the Hotel Metropolitan Morioka is one of the best hotels in the city. Easy accessible from Morioka Station, the property houses 121 guest rooms, each representing elegant comfort and the perfect spot from which to set out and explore the nearby Koiwai Farm, Kaiunbashi Bridge, Children's Museum of Science and Yotsuya Church, to name but a few local attractions. Amenities include high-speed WiFi, LCD TVs and refrigerators. Every room boasts a deep soaking bathtub in its elegant bathroom space. There are also the three restaurants spanning Japanese, French, American and European cuisine – Mukai Tsuru, Mont Fleuve, and Giovanni – as well as the bar Clover and lobby lounge, which serve a wide variety of spirits, cocktails, wines and beers.
Stood alone in the undisturbed serenity of virgin nature, the only sounds filling the air that of the Keiryu mountain stream’s trickle and the echo of chirping birds, Oirase Keiryu hotel is a true haven. Time seems to stop for guests who visit this inn in Towada-Hachimantai National Park and walk or cycle through its surrounding beauty, led by experts from waterfall to waterfall or to discover the fascinating world of moss on a guided tour. The inn’s luxurious rooms are modern and sleek in style featuring elegant décor and all the amenities to ensure a comfortable stay. With their source bubbling up from within Mount Hakkodasan, its hot springs wash away stress, tiredness, and soreness and leave the mind and body feeling rejuvenated. The outdoor baths afford incredible views of the neighboring stream and “Kokono-e Waterfall.” In the lounge, guests can enjoy a coffee and look out at picturesque vistas of the local beauty before enjoying a dinner rich with the exquisite tastes of Aomori Prefecture. Both breakfast and dinner buffets are available, and the delicious meals can be enjoyed out on the terrace or within the Aomori Ringo Kitchen serving Aomori apples in many imaginative ways. Alternatively, a Western adaptation of the kaiseki style traditional multi-course dinner promises to excite the taste buds with dishes of seasonal ingredients prepared with a Japanese touch.
A stay at Ishiba Ryokan in Hirosaki is reminiscent of the castle town’s atmospheric past. Built in 1879, the traditional Japanese Ryokan inn has had a long time to refine its service and such is clear from the fresh cups of tea served as visitors look out over the natural surroundings, guided tour of the current building restoration project, and explanatory introduction to the kinds of architecture one might find while exploring the rest of the city. The rooms are of the traditional timber and paper screen Japanese style and provide bright, open spaces furnished with tatami mats, futon beds, and air-conditioning. Many of them face out onto the tree-lined garden within the inn grounds. Home-style cooking of local dishes, all prepared with freshly sourced, seasonal ingredients is what comprises the multi-course kaiseki meals served for breakfast and dinner. Moreover, Ishiba Ryokan is situated not far from the listed Tangible Cultural Property Hirosaki Park, famous for its cherry blossoms, Hirosaki Castle, the city museum, and many spots for fishing and hiking.
Price is based on double or twin hotel room occupancy and includes accommodation, transfers, car/driver, English-speaking guide, activities and entrance fees, breakfasts and some dinners at your Ryokan, JR Bullet Train transfer from Tokyo to Koriyama Station in Gran Class, hiking guide for select days. Flights and optional special activities will be quoted separately. Most personal expenses, including dinners, alcoholic beverages, spa treatments and gratuities can be paid on the spot while traveling. Prices may vary depending on season, choice of accommodation and other factors.
With Remote Lands you'll travel with people who have made Asia the solitary focus of their own lifelong adventure. As our guest, you'll discover Asia on a journey that is completely, authentically your own, adapted from our own remarkable experiences and adventures over the years.
With Remote Lands you'll travel with people who have made Asia the solitary focus of their own lifelong adventure. As our guest, in the continent that our north American founders Catherine and Jay have adored and explored for decades, you'll discover Asia on a journey that is completely, authentically your own, adapted from our own remarkable experiences and adventures over the years.
An Asia-focused magazine brought to you by Remote Lands – a platform for adventure, luxury, and authenticity from experts and explorers around the continent.
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