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April 2022 Trip - Weather Info + Ideas 2021/10/17 15:13
Hi All,

I'm currently planning to put together another trip to Japan between April 9th and 24th. Time and dates can't be changed due to school holidays (I'm aware that borders may not be open so I'm not interested in comments on that).

What I am interested in is staying away from icy and slushy areas when driving. As such - I'm after info on areas to stay away from along with any potential things close by which I may not be aware of. Note that most places I'm looking at are not that common - due to the number of places I've already visited.

Option 1 (5/6 Night Utsunomiya/Tochigi Trip)

This trip includes 3 nights Utsunomiya with day trips to Utsunomiya (+ Oya Stone Museum + Temple) along with a driving journey to see Tobu World Square and Edo Wonderland near Nikko. I've visited Nikko on a couple of occasions including Upper Nikko which has onsens and great walks aready. Then I'll make my way down to Ashigaka for 3 nights. 1 day visit to Ashigaka are surrounds. 1 day visiting Kurita Museum + Ashigaka Flower Park (might need more on this day to do). Third day would be the water town of Tochigi

Option 2 (2/3 Night Chichubu)

I have not visited here before or been in this area - but around half of the main sites seem to be accessible via train and walking. Any thoughts on weather conditions - if you need to hire a car etc....

Option 3 (4 Night East Tohoku Loop)

I'd hire a car for 5 days starting in Morioka. Head south to Osaki, then follow the ocean all the way up to Noda then come back to Morioka. My original plan is below but I expect it to take longer than 3 full days.

Morioka - Osaki (driving): Michinoku Folk Village, Esashi Heritage Park, Samurai Residence Oshu, Ishinoseki City Museum, Chubachi Museum, Yubikan
Osaki - Kamaishi (with visit to Tome Meiji Town - driving): Police Museum, Keikokam, Kencho, Education Museum, Preforming Arts Museum, Takakura Art Museum, Kessenuma City Museum, Rias Ark Museum
Kamaishi - Morioka (I've already visited Nyuto/Tamagawa Onsen and a few others in the area - driving): Iron Museum, Dai-kannon Temple, Tsunami Memorial Hall, Earthquake Memorial, Taro Kanko Hotel, Ryusendo Cave (some parks have not been included but I will visit on the way).

Option 4 (Nagoya + Gujo Hachiman - 5 nights?)

I'd spend a few days in Nagoya (including revisiting Meiji Mura), then stay 1 night Minoshi (there seems to be a bit near hear) along with 1 Night Gujo Hachiman. I'd travel probably by bus or train.

Option 5 (Iwaki + Surrounds - 2 nights or full days)

Hire a car once I arrive and drive around to some of the more traditional museums, residences, onsens, temples, caves etc.

Option 6 (Saitama + Surrounds)

I have only visited Kawagoe in Saitama so see Saitama as a day trip for the Bonsai Village and other locations near the station from Tokyo.

Some areas I have not completed much in include:

Ibaraki - I've only visited Mito and Fukuroda Falls. Other major locations would be much appreciated.

Toyama - I've visited Kurobe Gorge and the Alpine Route - but I have not seen much in this prefecture.

Settouchi Islands: I've visited Inujima, Naoshima + Teshima but would not mind visiting other major islands or sites. The only major site that comes to mind is Shodoshima but it's a long way for one place.

I currently see this trip as including 2/3 of the above along with a few nights at the end based in Tokyo due to day trips I still have to complete - along with potentially having to take a PCR test to get back home which I see as being easier to complete in Tokyo.
by mfedley  

Re: April 2022 Trip - Weather Info + Ideas 2021/10/17 23:11
Hello, I use to live and worked in Tochigi city and Utsunomiya city.

Tochigi people said that Tochigi city is a bit warmer Utsunomiya and Utsunomiya people said that Utsunomiya is a bit warmer than Nikko. I think that Oyama, Sano, and Ashikaga are the same as Tochigi city. Both Tochigi city and Utsunomiya city at that time in spring are dry (although many Japanese people has a preconception that it is snowy) except on the time of 'Natanezuyu' (spring shower time). Somehow it is different from Nikko, basically warmer and dryer.

Does the Water town of Tochigi mean Kuranmachi along the Uzuma rever? If yes, I would say driving a little more to Mt. Ohira for a little wall or to Sano for ramen and/or Yakuyoketaishi could be fun, although I do not know your preference.
by Arare (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: April 2022 Trip - Weather Info + Ideas 2021/10/17 23:38
Forgot to mention about Kasama, Yuuki and Tsuchiura (+Kasumigaura) for Ibaraki. These are the places that Japanese people like but most foreigners don't know. Not filled with group tourists as well as places in Tochigi.

And, 'Ohira for little wall' in my first post means 'Ohira for little walk', sorry.
by Arare (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: April 2022 Trip - Weather Info + Ideas 2021/10/17 23:44
I have wanted to take a winter trip to Japan, and one of the places that I wanted to go is Yunishigawa, which is close to Nikko. The Yunishigawa Kamakura Festival is basically all of February, and Kamakura translates to esnow housef. Apparently, hundreds of igloo like snow houses are built around the village. One of the four flavors of Toby Nikko train passes goes to Yunishigawa.

You are planning a trip about six weeks after the festival, so I think you should be OK, but of all the places, this is the most questionable in terms of snow and slush.

I have done the Chichibu pilgrimage in mid to late April, and the weather was wonderful. I did not do the pilgrimage in order, and I think most people do not, because that involves backtracking. Traversing Temples #5, #10. #7, #6, #8, is normal. One day, for instance, it rained all morning, and I decided to sleep in. That afternoon, I went to temple #34, because itfs a train and bus ride away from the other Temples, and the actual path treks through forest, which after traversing a wet path the day before, I was not interested in repeating. I finished my Pilgrimage at temple #31, and was pleasantly surprised that one could give a donation, grab the log striker, and ring the huge temple bell., which I thought was a fitting ending to the pilgrimage. Cherry trees were blooming, but the Phlox were still a week or so away. Even though they were at the end of the trek, temples #30 (I think thatfs the one with hundreds of frogs) through #34 wefre very memorable, especially #34 after a rain (the mist rolling over everything was awesome). There are greenhouses between #7 and #6 that had ripe Strawberries to pick (yum!) at this time of year.

I donft think you will have any problems with Nagoya or Ise. I think that would be a good choice, I would continue south to Kii-Katsurra and Shirahama. Maybe Nachi Falls near Kii-Katsurra might interest you.

I also think the Settouchi Islands also sounds like a good option.

Good Luck, in planning your trip.
by ebaychucky311 rate this post as useful

Re: April 2022 Trip - Weather Info + Ideas 2021/10/18 00:21
No snow nor slush around Saitama, Tochigi and Ibaraki apart from northern part of Tochigi prefecture and Ibaraki prefecture, they are all located on Kanto plain, even dry.
by mamoru (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: April 2022 Trip - Weather Info + Ideas 2021/10/18 00:37
You are planning a trip about six weeks after the festival, so I think you should be OK, but of all the places, this is the most questionable in terms of snow and slush.

If 'all the places' means places of Option 1, that is not correct. As I said, I was a resident of Utsunomiya city where is central Tochigi and Tochigi city where is southern Tochigi, and there was almost snow in the every winter. Even if snow could be seen, it was melt as soon as it reached on the ground and it was February and March, never like snow in Nikko or Yunishigawa.
by Arare (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: April 2022 Trip - Weather Info + Ideas 2021/10/18 00:42
Not 'there was almost snow in the every winter', I wanted to say that 'there was almost No snow in the every winter'

Sorry again...
by Arare (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: April 2022 Trip - Weather Info + Ideas 2021/10/18 05:20
I enjoyed visiting Shodo Island (Shodoshima) more than other islands in the Seto Inlandsea. Your mileage may vary.
For such a small island, there are lots to see.

I don't know why, but I enjoyed the Movie Set Theme Park (Movie Village) the most.
I have never seen the movie (and subsequent remakes), so I am not a fan of the movie. But the movie set village reminded me of the old school I attended.
The movie title \l̓ is often translated to "24 Eyes", but that sounds creepy. I call it 24 Twinkles.
It's about a school teacher on an island in the Seto Inland Sea with 12 students (thus 24 eyes), during the War years.

The 2 outdoor kabuki theatres (yes, TWO) usually open for performance in May and October, so they may not match your schedule.
by kona_moon (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: April 2022 Trip - Weather Info + Ideas 2021/10/18 09:02
Thanks everyone for your replies.

I'm aware that some areas will be "ice free" - but I was worried about ice near Nikko and central Tohoku in April. Note that I'll be sticking to main roads most of the time.

For the person mentioning Ise and Kii-Katsura - I've already visited that location. I could easily spend another day in Wakayama and in Mie though.

For Tochigi - I'm talking about the Tomoeha River which is about 1km walk from Tochigi Station (North). I'll be catching public transport and walking in this area so I'm not worried about driving in this area. It is also know as Kuranomachi - as you mentioned.

Does anyone know how long would be needed to complete Chichubu well and is a car needed? I'm trying to work out if it's worth visiting this time or leaving it for another trip.

To Kona - would you say that 2 full days (with a car) is needed to see Shodoshima well?
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: April 2022 Trip - Weather Info + Ideas 2021/10/18 09:52
I've been to Morioka in March 1999 and 3rd week of April in 2009. Morioka itself was chilly both times but I don't remember the city having any slush or snow. I was heading west (and north) both times so on both trips I did encounter slush and/or snow. But I don't know as much about heading east towards the coast. In 1999, I went to Kakunodate which was very slushy and it started to snow lightly while I was there and in 2009, I got caught in a blizzard near Towadako.

I'd say it is possible you might get some snow or slush just because route 106 and route 283 look like they go through some mountainous regions.

Though the last few years have not been as snowy as some of the years in the past.
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: April 2022 Trip - Weather Info + Ideas 2021/10/18 10:48
There are buses on the island. If you want to get around quicker, then renting a car is good. Enjoy.
by kona_moon (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: April 2022 Trip - Weather Info + Ideas 2021/10/18 12:29
Thanks for the info. I'll try and complete the Tohoku stuff later and will take into consideration the weather if I am driving (knowing that I might need to change my schedule / cancel if snow is possible).

After living in Kazakhstan for a year (which makes Hokkaido look like Hawaii!) I don't want to drive in snow.

I'm aware that the chance of snow in Utsunomiya is low - but I was in Nikko one year in mid-late April and was in an outdoor onsen at night while it was snowing.
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: April 2022 Trip - Weather Info + Ideas 2021/10/18 13:23
Ok, I don't repeat any more that no snow/ice in Tochigi except around Nikko where is Northern Tochigi. But let me tell that I am not a troll who post inaccurate information on purpose, I genuinely wanted to share truth based on my life experience since people often misunderstand as if Northern Kanto is a snowy/icy region and I didn't want you to miss nice places just because of this preconception.

I don't deny snow in Utsunomiya but I say your experience was rare. Suburb of Utsunomiya can have frost in the morning in the winter but not daytime, not that time in April that is after cherry blossom season. Utsunomiya is known for the place where there is a big difference between daytime temperature and night time temperature.

And, there is no such a river called Tomoeha gawa, it is Uzuma gawa (bg) . It is pity if a guide book, media or something is telling like that, not just many wrong information on northern Kanto has been spread. I hope you will enjoy real northern Kanto if you finally decided to do option 1 or Ibaraki :-)
by Arare (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: April 2022 Trip - Weather Info + Ideas 2021/10/18 13:54
Hi Arare,


My opinion of what you said was - you will be fine in the Tochigi/Utsunomiya Area (it hardly ever snows - apart from freak events). Your understanding was the same as mine. I was more worried about Option 2, 3 + 4.

I am aware that Utsunomiya is not as cold as Nikko - which is known as the freezer of Kanto. The comments you have made have only been helpful!
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: April 2022 Trip - Weather Info + Ideas 2021/10/18 15:31
Third day would be the water town of Tochigi

I think you need some more on that day. Specially if you have a car. The city is nice, but also small.

When I visited in February 2020 (no snow in sight) I could easily visit Tochigi city, the New Ginger Museum, cycle 60 km and relax in an onsen before returning to Tokyo by train. And you are a much faster traveler than I am.


Someone suggested the area around Tsukuba and Kasumigaura. Not sure if you know it already. I specially enjoyed the lake, Sawara and Katori.


Regarding Toyama, from my visit there, I would say that the city itself isnft interesting, except a building by Kengo Kuma that houses a very nice glass museum. Actually I found the museum more interesting than the building (and even my cousin you who works at Kengo Kuma aber that this wasnft one of his best buildings)


by LikeBike rate this post as useful

Re: April 2022 Trip - Weather Info + Ideas 2021/10/18 15:53
Hi Likebike,

It's amazing how much stuff each of us has

(A) Already both been too
(B) Have been to but the other has not - so has knowledge of the location.

Around 1km north-west of the Ginger Museum appears to have around 6-10 museums and traditional residences (along with a traditional boat that you can catch down the river) which can be visited . A problem with a place like that is it could take a whole day or 2 hours.

It's the river that Arare mentions - but the Google Maps name seems to be wrong. I tend to listen to locals more than Google Maps. I'll probably flip around what I was planning to do so I've got an extra day.

I've already visited Sawara - it was actually my last post in 2014 after living in Japan for 3 years. It's a nice little place and is close to the airport which is helpful. Sawara also has a pretty Iris festival in June which is worth visiting. I'll check out Katori as I might stay in Narita the night before so it gives me a place to visit
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: April 2022 Trip - Weather Info + Ideas 2021/10/18 19:41
@mfedley, I still think you have visited far more than I have done.

For Tochigi, yes there are a few houses you can visit. I saw a lot from outside and visited one. I always think that the others will be much the same, but I am a less prolific / dedicated tourist than you are.

If you are interested in more sights close to Narita, I went (by bus and walking, so I donft have a blog post) to Iioka beach in Chiba. In the Iioka Shiosai hotel on the beach is a museum about the 2011 tsunami which was quite interesting with before / during / after pictures and in the hotel itself is an onsen (but without rotenburo). From there I walked up to the view point on a cliff a bit to the East (щYW]) which has a good view and more explanation about the tsunami.

On Google maps I see that closeby there is also a Geopark museum. (I donft know it).

So potentially a good combination with Katori.

Just to stay close to Narita, do you know Boso Flower Line?


April should be a great time. I hadnft been yet, but plan to ride there maybe over a long weekend or so, once I am back in Japan. But as you plan to hire a car, it is easy to reach. (Public transport isnft very good there)

by LikeBike rate this post as useful

Re: April 2022 Trip - Weather Info + Ideas 2021/10/19 00:11
The entire Chichibu pilgrimage is 61 miles of walking, so about 20 hours of walking, plus time at every temple you visit. If you spend 20-30 minutes at each of the 34 temples, that adds an additional 12-17 hours.

Walking on a pilgrimage in the rain is unpleasant, so you will probably want to add a rain day. I will also add that most shrines are open between 9:00-4:00, so there is that limitation to deal with, too.

I did the pilgrimage in 5 days, but did not walk the two long forest treks between #30-#31, and #33-#34.

I stayed at the Route Inn near the Seibu-Chichibu Station. I would walk over to the station, take a bus to the last Temple that I visited, and then start up again. I would sometimes start at 8:00 AM, if I knew that I had an hour walk before the next temple. I didnft always walk the exact path, because it sometimes went between houses. This pilgrimage is hundreds of years old, before roads. I usually stuck to roads, and used the signs for motorists, instead of the tiny signs for the pedestrians (20cm x 35cm).

By car, Ifd guess 3 days, 2 days if you limit your time at each temple. While on the pilgrimage, I would see a bus pull up, and people pile in and out of the bus quickly. I would see other busses where a priest would get out of the bus, do a walking tour of the Temple, and then conduct a ceremony before everyone would return to the bus. You have to know yourself. This does not include climbing up eboat rockf on #32, or climbing to see the big Kannon (somewhere in the late 20s). It also does not include stopping to pick strawberries.

There is also a stretch of rail from the Seibu rail line near Temple #11, if I remember. Which is popular for photographers to capture echerry blossom snowf. There is a stretch of track which has cherry trees planted along one side. When the Seibu train passes by, lots of petals will be blown off, and make the blossom esnowfallf.

Best map for the pilgrimage was given to me at the Seibu-Chichibu station. That station also has a booth making yummy fish shaped Taiyaki.

I hope this is the information that you requested.
by ebaychucky311 rate this post as useful

Re: April 2022 Trip - Weather Info + Ideas 2021/10/19 00:46
Sorry, mfedley, nothing to add to your original question - just very pleased that your post dated 1/11/2020 will not be your last day in Japan!! Looking forward to future trip reports!!
by Maranyc rate this post as useful

Re: April 2022 Trip - Weather Info + Ideas 2021/10/19 08:29
I don't know if you watch these videos (I was amused that you probably watched the same ferry videos as I was watching) but I thought this sweet potato farm in Ibaraki looked interesting in Namegata Village.

The Youtuber Life Where I'm From, did a video on it. He also stayed in a really lovely looking ryokan in the Ibaraki.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

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