Dear visitor, if you know the answer to this question, please post it. Thank you!

Note that this thread has not been updated in a long time, and its content might not be up-to-date anymore.

Hokkaido-Tohoku or Tohoku only in 12 days? 2020/3/4 13:08
Hi all, I'm soft-planning for my winter trip next year. This will be my fifth trip to Japan and I have already visited all the major tourist cities/attractions in Kanto, Chubu, Kansai, Chugoku, and a portion of Kyushu, so I'm planning to go north this time. I also come from a tropical country so snow would be a major point plus to me.

After a bit of preliminary research, it looks like Hokkaido and Tohoku are very vast and transports between cities/attractions are pretty slow and infrequent. Note that I'm a relatively fast traveller (I finished all the major spots in Kyoto within 2 days).

So far I have listed the spots below to visit in Hokkaido:
Lake Toya & Noboribetsu
• (would love to visit Furano but I don't think it's really a winter spot?)
• (would love to visit Abashiri but it's so far, even from Asahikawa)

And here are the spots in Tohoku:
Aomori & Hirosaki
Lake Tazawa & Nyuto Onsen
Sendai & Matsushima

If I were to go to Tohoku only (without Hokkaido), I was thinking of adding an extra 1-2 days in Aomori to go to Mount Hakkoda & Lake Towada and Tsugaru. I could also add Hiraizumi and other stuff in Iwate. I could also spend an extra day to go to Mount Zao in Yamagata. If I have an empty day I could probably visit Niigata too (though I'm not sure what to do there). But yeah I wonder if those places are worth it.

My aim when travelling to Japan is to visit the popular or even "hidden gem" tourist spots there. This time I would like to try skiing but it's not a very high priority for me. I generally like nature/outdoor stuff so I'm fine with mild hiking. I am also looking forward to tasting the local and unique culinary of the area.

I would be really grateful if those with experience in those regions help chime in. Thanks in advance!
by Calvinize  

Re: Hokkaido-Tohoku or Tohoku only in 12 days? 2020/3/5 00:33
This time,I suggest you to focus Hokkaido for your 12 days. Because 12 days is not enough time. I need at least 30 days, if I want to go every place in Hokkaido.
by Donald (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Hokkaido-Tohoku or Tohoku only in 12 days? 2020/3/5 02:07
I'd also recommend that you choose one or other because trying to do Hokkaido AND Touhoku in 12 days is biting off too much and won't let you truly enjoy the benefits of either.

Personally, I've spent more time in Touhoku and only really know Niseko in Hokkaido so will address the northern Honshu option.

The first thing is that you will absolutely need to hire a car. So many of the sights are remote and inaccessible or really hard to get to without one. This does mean however that as someone from a tropical country, you have to consider how comfortable and confident you are driving in snow. If you won't drive and will restrict yourself to trains/public transport, you will have to greatly reduce the amount you can see.

Everyone is different but for me, I found the southern two prefectures the least interesting (Fukushima and Miyagi). Matsushima was perhaps the biggest disappointment of anywhere I've been in Japan, which is now every prefecture except Niigata and Nagasaki. (Got to work on those Ns soon!) I didn't go in winter though; perhaps it will be more impressive then. I did however enjoy Yamagata and places such as Yamadera, Dewa Sanzan and Ginzan Onsen should definitely be on your list.

Iwate, Akita and Aomori were all amazing, with incredible scenery and the sort of totally remote little onsen towns that I love. The drive from Nyuto through Hachimantai was among the most scenic drives I've taken anywhere in Japan. The food (and sake!) everywhere was fantastic, although that won't be any surprise to anyone whose visited as much of Japan as you have.

One of the issues with Touhoku is that it is a huge area but people tend to think of as one entity. It has places worth visiting on both coasts, as well as throughout the heartland, even with 12 days you have to be very clear about what you want to see because otherwise there's just too much. You could literally do 12 days on the east coast or 12 on the west or 12 through the middle.

Spend more time researching and identifying those places that are of particular interest to you and which would be accessible by your preferred method of travel. Work out travel times between locations. See how the plan is shaping up. This of course holds true for the Hokkaido option too and Hokkaido is even less accessible without a car.

I hope this helps you get the ball rolling a little!

by Saru Bob rate this post as useful

Re: Hokkaido-Tohoku or Tohoku only in 12 days? 2020/3/5 08:57
When are you visiting?

The reason I ask is that snow is nice but it's not nice to drive in.
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: Hokkaido-Tohoku or Tohoku only in 12 days? 2020/3/10 05:13
If you dropped out several places and made your travel route linear, you could make a 12 day trip, starting in Sapporo and then heading one-way south.

• Sapporo - base for 3 nights
• Otaru - day trip from Sapporo

• Niseko - Drop unless you want to ski. There are several towns through this area that give access to ski slopes.

• Lake Toya & Noboribetsu - One or the other but not both. Toya has Showa Shinzan and the cable car to the volcano and hot springs. I'm not sure if the tourist boat around the lake runs in the winter. Noboribetsu has some nice onsen ryokan that would be good for a night or two but overall it's a tourist mecca with huge concrete onsen hotels. To give you an idea, the lower town closest to the train station comes complete with a marine park and a bear park and even an "Edo Wonderland" (Date Historic Village) theme park.

All of these areas take time to travel through as the distances are far and there are no shinkansen until you get to Shin-Hakodate. Even then, the shinkansen doesn't get you to many of the places you want to go, so you have to change to slower trains or buses. The places you have listed aren't "hidden gems" and you would need to drive to get to out of the way onsen or small villages.

• Asahikawa - drop as it's in the wrong direction (north of Sapporo).

• Hakodate - one or two nights. The asaichi is good for seafood and the views from Hakodate-san at night are great. The bus to the top doesn't run from November to April so you have to take the ropeway (cable car). It will be cold at the top. I usually stop for multiple days here as it's a nice small city.

• (would love to visit Furano but I don't think it's really a winter spot?) - drop
• (would love to visit Abashiri but it's so far, even from Asahikawa) - drop

And here are the spots in Tohoku:
• Aomori & Hirosaki - Unless there's something specific you've heard about these places, you could probably drop both in the winter. Hirosaki is famous for its apples and the castle park is mainly notable for having a castle in an area where there aren't many. I've wandered all around Aomori and taken the ferry from and to the city, but haven't found too much of interest when the matsuri isn't being held.

• Lake Tazawa & Nyuto Onsen - There's a JR bus direct from Aomori to Lake Towada instead of Lake Tazawa. Either for 2 nights. Towada-ko has the Oirase Gorge on the north side of the lake. Tazawa has Kakunodate south of the lake where there are some areas with old architecture from the Edo Period.

• Akita - drop - I have a favorite izakaya here but that's mainly why I go here now. The castle is gone replaced by a park and shrine, and the lantern festival is in August.
• Yamagata - drop - if this is a must stop, at least it's winter. It's hotter than h in the summer.

• Sendai & Matsushima - Matsushima only - 1 night.

• Fukushima - too many places with this name - city and prefecture. I've spent a total of 1 month in the prefecture and enjoyed the sake distilleries around Kitakata north of Aizu-Wakamatsu and the post town of Ouchijuku the most. There are ski areas up around Bandai-san.

The trouble with your outdoor activities in winter is that where you want to hike will be in deep snow. That leaves snowshoeing and skiing. If you want to try skiing, somewhere around Niseko and Hirafu/Kutchan would get you close to a good beginner area. The snow monsters are at Mt Hakkoda south of Aomori, but you need to hire a guide. An English woman skier got lost from the top of the ropeway to the base a few years back and had to spend the night on the mountain.

Whatever you decide, you need to trim it back by half. And get used to cold, even when there isn't snow.
by Anaguma (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Hokkaido-Tohoku or Tohoku only in 12 days? 2020/3/10 05:47
If anything, Hokkaido for 12 days would make more sense if you want to really deeply explore the place. It is a huge island and aside from getting to Hakodate, there is no bullet train for high speed travel. But if you split your time, you will just need to be eclectic. For me, Iwate and Aomori were a couple of the more interesting prefectures in the Tohoku region. Geibeikei was simply magnificent.
Akita seemed to have the least, although every place has something to see. As said above, you really do need a car if you want to explore the area. The bullet trains are great to get from one end to the other, but after that the trains/buses can be few and far between.
Kitayamazaki was also good, and it's rent a car or forget it.
I should say though that I prefer the summers way up north more than the winters.
by Ken (guest) rate this post as useful

reply to this thread