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Tohoku Trip 2020/1/14 20:12
Hi everyone.

I'm planning a 9 day trip to Japan in early April. We will spend 2 days in Tokyo and 7 days around the Tohoku region. I'm planning on buying the JR East Tohoku Area Pass, which means that we can use the trains/buses on 5 chosen days. I'm trying to plan so that on the other 2 days we can just do short local trip which are not too expensive. I'd really appreciate it if people were able to look at my itinerary and comment on possible issues/better locations etc... This region is new to me so I've just tried find out as much as I can.

Day 1 - Shinkansen from Tokyo to Aomori. Sightseeing in Aomori, possible trip to Hirosaki. Overnight in Aomori.

Day 2 - JR Tohoku bus to Lake Towada. Hike the Oirase Stream. Overnight at Lake Towada.

Day 3 - Bus to Hachinohe, train to Tazawako, bus to Nyuto Onsen. Overnight at Tsurunoyu Onsen?

Day 4 - Bus to Tazawako, train to Kakunodate. Sightseeing In Kakunodate. Train to Sendai and stay overnight.

Day 5 - AM visit Matsushima. PM visit Yamadera. Train to Aizuwakamatsu and stay overnight. Is this possible in one day?!

Day 6 - Spend the day in Aizuwakamatsu. Tsurugajo Castle, Ouchi-juku, Suehiro Sake Brewery. Stay overnight.

Day 7 - Train to Nikko. Spend the day sightseeing. Train to Tokyo late afternoon.

I have found it a bit difficult to research so I'm really not sure how possible and desirable this itinerary is. Advice would be really appreciated!

by Dizzybee  

Re: Tohoku Trip 2020/1/15 12:40

When exactly in April are you thinking? The bus between Aomori and Oirase doesn't start running until Mid-April. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3775.html

A lot of these areas are going to be cold and possibly snowy. It might make sense to reverse your trip because Sendai is going to be a lot more pleasant in early April than Hirosaki, Kakunodate, and Aomori. Several of the samurai houses in Kakunodate are closed until mid-April, like the buses to Oirase.

I think a day trip to Matsushima, Yamadera and then going to Aizu Wakamatsu is a long day. I mean if you're staying near the Station it might work, but you could even consider just staying in Koriyama then for the night and traveling to Aizu-Wakamatsu the next day.

Good luck and bring gloves!

by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Tohoku Trip 2020/1/15 18:50
Thanks for your answer! We're going to be in Japan from 8th-17th April, flying in and out of Tokyo. We certainly could think about reversing the trip. How do you think this would fit in with the cherry blossoms?
by Dizzybee rate this post as useful

Re: Tohoku Trip 2020/1/16 05:03

I think... sakura is hard to predict but unless it is running super early in places some of the places on your list you will be too early and others too late.

I would spend some time here:

Looking at the last 10 years of start and end dates for the places you plan to go to get a feel for the season

I think the 17th is early for Kakunodate and Hirosaki. I went to both of them in 2009 for sakura and it was peak on April 25 in Kakunodate and a little past peak in Hirosaki on the 27th. I also got caught in a blizzard on the 26th near Towadako on one of the newly opened roads so.... It's why I recommend gloves. I'm used to the cold, but my hands were freezing a lot of that trip. I am unsure when the buses to Towadako will start back up, but if you're leaving on the 17th it might be hard to visit since I think it would be hard to get from there to the airport. If you are able to visit, again, make sure you have gloves and a hat because there can be snow even in late April.

If you are specifically looking for sakura, you might want to consider Hiraizumi closer to Sendai. It's peak should be around your travel period and it's a lovely town to visit. There is also a famous sakura garden near Fukushima City I've not been to, but should also be peaking then. I really like Hirosaki but if you're going for sakura it's likely to still be the start and same with Kakunodate around the 15-16, and most of the samurai houses in Kakunodate will only just be opening.

I went to Zao onsen (and Yamagata) after Hirosaki so the sakura was long gone, but I did enjoy the onsen at Zao.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Tohoku Trip 2020/1/18 11:38
Thanks again for the advice! I've changed the itinerary around (taking the weather and cherry blossoms into account) and it's now looking like this:

8th April - Land in Tokyo PM

9th April - Tokyo. Overnight in Tokyo

10th April - Train to Nikko. Sightseeing. Overnight Aizuwakamatsu.

11th April - Aizuwakamatsu

12th April - Train to Yamagata. Sightseeing. Overnight in Sendai.

13th April - Sendai to Kakunodate. Sightseeing. Train to Tazawako. Bus to Nyuto Onsen. Overnight at Taenoyu Onsen.

14th April - Travel to Lake Towada. Overnight at the lake.

15th April - Day around Lake Towada. Travel to Aomori.

16th April - Morning in Aomori. Train back to Tokyo after lunch. Overnight Tokyo.

17th April - Day in Tokyo. Fly home.

It was tough to book anything in Nyuto Onsen but I managed to find availability at Taenoyu Onsen on 13th April so I've planned around that. I think the cherry blossoms will need some luck but hopefully we'll see them somewhere!

Does anyone know where I can find out what date the Samurai houses in Kakunodate open? And also what date the Oirase Stream bus will start?

Thanks again!
by Dizzybee rate this post as useful

Re: Tohoku Trip 2020/1/18 12:44
Hi DizzyBee,

Did you run the trip from Niikko to Aizu Wakamatsu through Hyperdia? I ask because I suspect the trip takes longer than one would think. I'm getting about 3 hours, so it is something to think about.

I also think going from Aizu Wakamatsu to Yamagata and then to Sendai might take longer than one would think. I admit, I only passed through Yamagata on my way to and from Zao and on my way to Yonezawa but the city itself is kind of a small modern looking city. I am sure there are unexpected surprises there but make sure you know why you are going instead of directly to Sendai. It's about 3 hours from Aizu-Wakamatsu to Yamagata and do make sure to look at train times ahead of time since the Ban'etsu from Aizu to Koriyama only runs about once an hour. I've actually not been to Aizu but I have taken the Ban'etsu to Ononiimachi multiple times.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Tohoku Trip 2020/1/18 13:08
Thank you, I'm finding travel in Tohoku a bit different to the rest of Japan so it's really useful to have people to point these things out!

I check the Nikko-Aizumatsu journey and it's about 3 hours, like you said. Perhaps we will stay overnight in Nikko and get an early train to Aizumatsu the next day.

I was wanting to go to Yamagata to visit the Yamadera temple, so looking into it we actually will just go straight to Yamadera station rather than stopping in Yamagata. I looked on Hyperdia and Aizumatsu to Yamadera is almost 4 hours! However Yamadera to Sendai is only 1 hour so perhaps that day is still possible. I thought the temple looked pretty nice but I'm not sure how worth the detour is. Have you been?
by Dizzybee rate this post as useful

Re: Tohoku Trip 2020/1/18 15:12
I definitely liked Yamadera temple. And although it is in a very rural area it is very easily reachable by train.


Enjoy your trip to Japan!
by LikeBike (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Tohoku Trip 2020/1/19 03:28

I've not been to Yamadera. Japan-Guide back in the late 2000s was really different and there was a lot less information in English on places to visit in general. Now, I travel with my kid and I want to make sure she can handle all the steps. I also tend to go in the Summer, though we're going to try February this year because she has a short school break then.

None of this is to say you should skip Yamadera! I think Yamadera looks amazing. I would just head up from Aizu to Sendai and take the train from there. Depending on where your hotel is, you can leave your bags there before going onto Yamadera vs. having to get a locker.

How long it takes I think partially depends on the time and the layovers since you need to go Aizu to Koriyama to Sendai to Yamadera.

I would leave things a little open and not make any non-refundable accommodations until you are sure about the buses to Towadako. I keep searching and have not had any luck.

Good luck!

by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Tohoku Trip 2020/1/19 03:35
@rkold, what bus are you looking for?
by LikeBike (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Tohoku Trip 2020/1/19 09:41
I've been searching too and it seems that the JR bus from Hachinohe to Lake Towada only started on April 18th last year so I'm guessing it will be the same this. As we're going to be there on the 14th we won't be able to get public transport to the lake. I did hear that soem of the hotels provide a shuttle bus to and from the lake but haven't found a suitable hotel yet. If anyone knows of one it would be much appreciated! Otherwise it looks like we will have to miss out on Lake Towada.
by Dizzybee rate this post as useful

Re: Tohoku Trip 2020/1/19 10:57

OP wants to know when the buses start from Hachinohoe or Aomori to Towadako because she doesn't plan to rent a car. I know you can get by train to Towadaminami, but I expect it to be an expensive taxi ride from there and I've not idea if there is a local bus from there or Oyu Onsen to Towadako. I would imagine the Hanawa Line is quite scenic though just based on some of the places it goes through.

I think the more expensive hotels tend to offer a free shuttle but I am unsure of from where.

If Towadako doesn't work out, I would recommend some more time in Sendai. I really liked Matushima, I've been 2x. And again, I've not been but Hanamiya in Fukushima looks beautiful. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e7728.html

I would also highly recommend Hiraizumi. I'd very much like to go back and spend more time there but I think my Summer trip is only going to be 10 or 11 days because I want to be gone before the crowds for the Olympics and because my kid really wants to go to USJ.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

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