Between late April to early May, the springtime cherry blossoms of the Tohoku Region come alive with their gentle, pink resplendence. This week-long tour of the region takes you to some of the best sites in Tohoku, and arguably the country, for viewing the blossoms such as Kitakami Tenshochi Park, Kakunodate, and Hirosaki Castle. The region’s later blooming season means smaller crowds and cheaper tickets, but the scenery is equally beautiful. Along the way, you’ll also get a taste for the northern region’s culture, have some great meals, and stay at luxurious accommodations.
• Hirosaki Castle: The castle park abounds with cherry blossoms, covering the gently sloping hills and ponds to create a mesmerizing viewing experience.
• Kitakami Tenshochi Park: Home to nearly 10,000 cherry blossom trees, this dreamlike landscape can be explored by foot, boat, or even horse and carriage.
• Kakunodate: This town features a wonderfully preserved samurai district, made all the more eye-catching when sakura come into season.
When the wheels touch down in Tokyo, you will have officially arrived in the Land of the Rising Sun’s capital — a city of wonderfully preserved temples and gardens, incredible cuisine, and a bold art scene. Along the horizon stands Mount Fuji, which dominates the skyline, beautifully complementing the modern architecture below. We recommend staying at the Peninsula Tokyo or Aman Tokyo, and if time permits you should take some time to explore this exciting city.
A morning train will take you to Fukushima (Koriyama Station) this morning to start out your day. This is followed by a 30-minute drive to see the renowned Miharu Takizakura cherry tree. More than a thousand years old, this is widely considered the most beautiful of its kind in Japan, and "Takizakura" translates to "waterfall cherry tree," describing the dramatic arcs of its branches. After this you’ll have a one-hour drive to Aizu for lunch, followed by an afternoon exploring the town. Stop by the rebuilt Tsuruga Castle, see how the surrounding park’s cherry blossoms contrast with the traditional architecture, and even enjoy a cup of tea at a teahouse on castle grounds. Nearby is the Aizu Sazaedo Temple, which is a one-of-a-kind double-helix pagoda with an ingenious design that allows people to walk up and down it while always traveling in the same direction. Along Nanukamachi Street there are famous Aizu crafts to be seen such as urushi-nuri lacquerware and akabeko, a kind of toy cow. There are also antique stores you can step into, and some even exhibit Showa-era artifacts. For dinner, enjoy a kaiseki meal at your ryokan accommodation.
Today you’re headed to Yamagata City, but first make a stop by Fukushima City for cherry blossom viewing in Hanamiyama Park, whose name literally means 'cherry blossom mountain.' There are various walking routes within the course that take you through cherry blossom-lined paths and to different views of the scenery, and the Azuma Mountains provide the park's backdrop. The next en-route stop is Yonezawa village to see its annual Uesugi Festival where past battles are reenacted. The Uesugi Shrine is the site of a former castle featuring a moat lined with cherry trees. Enjoy lunch near the Uesugi Memorial Hall which sells famed Yonezawa beef only in this season. After your meal, you’ll head to Yamagata City via the Okitama Sakura Corridor, a 38-kilometer cherry tree-lined strip that runs through idyllic onsen towns and many popular cherry blossom sites. If anything along the way piques your interest, feel free to stop and explore. After arriving in Yamagata City, check in and have the evening to spend at leisure.
This morning take an excursion to the Yamadera Risshakuji Temple, a mountainous temple complex founded in 860 CE. Its structures hug the mountainside from its foothill all the way to the summit and offer stunning views of the surrounding valley. At the nearby Yamadera Basho Memorial Museum, stop for tea and refreshments on the hill while looking across a cherry blossom-laden vista. Afterward, you’ll head to Yamagata City for lunch before exploring the Kajo Castle Park, the former site of Yamagata Castle. Originally built in 1357, this park features remnants of moats and stone fences among a forest of cherry trees. Roughly 1,500 of these trees bless this park, and they’re illuminated at night. The rest of the afternoon will be spent at your leisure. Consider exploring the French-style architecture around the city or strolling along the Mamigasaki River’s “sakura” — cherry blossom — lane, especially at night when they’re lit up. Stands of festival food line the street and are perfect for getting a snack.
Head to Kakunodate, Akita Prefecture, this morning to tour this town of a rich samurai history and dazzling cherry blossoms. Within the town’s samurai district, you’ll stop by two traditional samurai residences, the Aoyagi and Ishiguro Houses, which are now museums and offer a glimpse into the traditional samurai way of life. Beautifully preserved, these museums are filled with authentic artifacts. You can explore the roads of the area by foot or rickshaw, and the picturesque town is particularly beautiful at this time of year, especially along the Hinokinai riverside with its two full kilometers of a blossom-veiled tunnel. At night, make your way back to your ryokan to enjoy your private outdoor bath filled with natural hot spring waters and a deck that offers incredible star gazing.
Enjoy this morning at leisure, we suggest a morning riverside walk through the cherry blossom tunnel. Later, transfer to Kitakami Tenshochi Park, Iwate Prefecture, one of Japan’s foremost cherry blossom viewing sites. Stretching along the east shore of the Kitakami River, this park sees nearly 10,000 cherry blossom trees bloom in season, producing a floating sea of gentle pink. There are snack and food stalls along the way, and you can take a horse-and-carriage ride through the park or a scenic boat cruise. The Kitakami City Museum and Michinoku Folklore Village are also located in the park. The museum contains Buddhist art and Jomon Era earthenware, while the village is an open-air museum featuring 30 preserved farmhouses and other structures representative of different historical periods of the Tohoku Region. The next stop is Morioka, about a one-hour drive away, where you will check into your hotel and, if time permits, visit the Rock-Breaking Cherry Tree. This stunning, 400-year-old cherry tree grew out of a crack in a granite boulder and today stands in front of a district courthouse.
Arise early to visit the Mikoda Morning Market. It’s the largest domestic market in Japan, in terms of customer volume, that is home to a variety of produce and homemade delicacies like rice balls and tempura. After meandering among the stalls, drive to Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, to explore the Hirosaki Castle Park. This is one of the premier cherry blossom viewing destinations in the Tohoku Region. The park features a three-story castle tower and other old fortifications sprinkled among a landscape of gently rolling hills, ponds, and an abundance of cherry blossom trees. The pink petals are so numerous that they fill the moats and ponds, creating an opaque layer of undulating pink. Later you’ll explore the town’s samurai district, a collection of buildings with traditional architecture that date back hundreds of years, along with the traditional Western-style buildings that remain throughout town. A major producer of apples, the city also has a surplus of confectionaries, and you should check out the delicious apple pie for which they’ve become famous. At night, if you wish, take a final look at the blooms and head back for yozakura — an illuminated nighttime viewing of the cherry blossoms.
This morning, transfer to Aomori’s airport to take your connecting flight to Tokyo, where you will board your 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.
Hotel Metropolitan Yamagata is a classic city hotel that promises comfort and convenience. Both Western and Japanese-style guest rooms are available, just as Western and Japanese dining options are served at the hotel’s restaurant, Mogami Tei, where teppanyaki and Kaiseki menus represent the best of authentic local cuisine. Lobby Lounge You also offers a range of hot beverages and freshly baked goods throughout the day, while Bar Lovin hosts an impressive collection of select whiskeys. Well situated in the city center, the property provides convenient access to the bullet train, Yamagata Airport and local shopping and sightseeing locations, such as Mt. Zao and Yamadera.
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.
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 from Tokyo to Koriyama Station (Grand Class). 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.
Choose somewhere you’d like to visit, something you’re interested in, and when you’re planning to travel and we’ll suggest sample itineraries to inspire your bespoke journey.
As the major travel hubs in Japan look to reopenRemote Lands speaks to Alex Porteous of Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto on how travel has changed.Read More
Whether it’s the wilds of Tohoku or the hot springs of Ishikawa, Japan has a wealth of experiences for your wellbeing.Read More
Cheerleaders, history, balloons — watching baseball in Japan is a whole new way to see the game.Read More
The guntû is a small blue crab considered a delicacy in the Seto Inland Sea area of Japan, but the tasty little crustacean is also a floating five-star ryokan, one of the most exclusive venues in East Asia.Read More
Here is a small selection of the kind words our guests have said about us, as well as features by journalists and travel writers.
You are invited to Remote Lands’ signature Aman Jet Expeditions, in partnership with our friends at Aman. These are small group journeys designed for people who usually travel independently.