Tohoku in 7 days

So this is basically me travelling through Tohoku region in 7 days in fall 2016. I purchased 7-day JR pass so I thought why not make use the most of it. This itinerary is flexible so you can change it as much as you want. 

  • For ones who travel with JR pass, always visit Hyperdia for updated time schedule. 
  • Pack light, you will travel a lot during day time. Comfort shoes should be the best. 
  • Fares are indicated in the post only when they are not covered by JR pass.

Day 1: Nikko

It took around 2 hours to arrive Nikko from Tokyo, where you spend 1 hour in local train. Be prepared you will have to stand the whole time in local train as this train is crowded most of the time.
Upon arrived Nikko, I purchased Chuzenji Onsen Free Pass (2000¥) that allows pass holder to hop on any bus from anywhere in between Nikko JR station to Chuzenji Onsen, including World Heritage area. This bus is valid for 2 days so it is also suitable for those who stay overnight.
I am only interested in Kegon fall and Chuzenji lake as I was visiting World Heritage site before. First time visitors should spend an extra hour there instead. It's 10 minutes walking from Chuzenji bus stop (last bus stop of the pass) to Kegon fall and another 15 minutes from the fall to the lake.
Depart from Nikko to Zao Osen via Yamagata. The last bus from Yamagata to Zao Osen leaves at 8pm with adult fare of 1000¥ each. If you travel in group of 4, you may want to get a taxi from Yamagata to have more flexibility. Taxi fare costs around 6000¥. The whole journey takes around 4 hour, 3 hours to Yamagata by local train + Shinkansen and 1 hour to Osen by local bus. There's nothing better than ending your day with soaking your whole body in free indoor onsen provided by one of the ryokans in ZaO town. 

Day 2: ZaO Onsen - Okama - Yamadera -Sendai

Okama Crater
Enjoy ZaO town when walking to ZaO ropeway station. This old village is full of natural onsens and you basically can smell the sunfur anywhere. Ropeway takes 1 hour round trip and costs 1500¥-2600¥. You can exchange your ticket for an ice cream or a drink at the top. 
From the ropeway station, catch the bus to Okama Crater. The whole trip takes around an hour and costs around 1400¥. The crater is my most favorite place in this trip due to its uniqueness. The lake literally changed its color right in front of my face whenever strong wind blew. 
Take the bus bask to Yamagata station (2050¥) and transfer to local train to Yamadera. Challenge your feet again by half an hour walking to reach the temple on top of the mountain to catch a great view of the city. 
Depart to Sendai via local train and enjoy ox tongue dish, the local specialty.

Day 3: Matsushima - Hiraizumi

Oyster buffet in Matsushima, 2000¥ all you can eat in 45minutes
Head to Matsushima from Sendai by local train to catch the oyster buffet near Matsushima Fish Market. The trip takes around an hour or so. If you can't take that much oyster at one go, consider visit wholesale fish market in nearby Shiogama for wider options. Fun fact: Shiogama is best known for having the highest density sushi stores in Japan and it takes less time to reach Shiogama from Sendai than Matsushima. You can also take the 50-minute cruise to travel between Matsushima and Shiogama. This cruise costs 1500¥ per person with 10% discount from booking online. 
After that go back Sendai and take Shinkansen & transfer to local train to Hiraizumi via Ichinoseki. You can spend whole afternoon enjoying the World Heritage site and Chusonji temple. Depart to Morioka from Hiraizumi.

Day 4: Towada Lake

Oirase StreamDepart from Morioka to Hachinohe, then catch the JR bus from here to Towada lake. You can stop half way at Oirase stream and start your hiking. Once your legs object to walking, hop on the bus to get to Towada lake. You may find a day is not enough to explore this area.
Towada lake secret view point

Day 5: Aomori - Hirosaki

Nebuta Museum

Take the bus from Towadako bus station to Aomori where you can enjoy the beautiful scenery along 3 hour journey. Once arrive Aomori, you can start hunting for food at Furukawa fish market near JR station. The iconic Aomori bridge and Nebuta museum are all within walking distance from fish market and worth a short visit. You can catch the prominent Nebuta festival if you visit Aomori in early August.
DYI seafood in Aomori seafood market, shops close at 4pm

After lunch I decided to catch the train to the nearby Hirosaki city, as Hirosaki castle is the only castle that remains in Tohoku region. There is a loop bus that passes all tourist places in Hirosaki with 100¥ fare. It's honestly too cheap to miss. I was a little bit disappointed as the castle was under renovation (check website before you want to go anywhere guys!). However, the castle still looked good from outside and there was autumn foliage exhibition when I was there.
Hirosaki castle - under renovation
Back to Aomori and enjoy night life there. 

Day 6: Juniko

Take the Resort Shirakami train from Aomori to Juniko. This is a very special train that requires you to reserve with JR pass. There is performance on public area in the train and wide glass windows that allow you to enjoy scenic places while travelling in slow speed. Try to reserve as soon as possible to get a good view.
Resort Shirakami stop spot (Senjojiki coast) where you can get off the train a few minutes to take photo

Alight at Juniko station and take the bus to the viewing area, each way costs around 430¥. There are actually more than 12 lakes as the name suggests (Juni = 12 in Japanese, Ko = lake). Be prepared, you will find yourself get lost in the wonderland and no matter how long you spend here, it's simply not enough. Foods (ramen, curry, etc.), snacks and lockers can be purchased at the shop house here. Even though there are around 33 lakes, Aoike (blue lake) seems to be the most famous of them all.
Aoike pond
Take the same train to Akita and enjoy the night in this town.

Day 7: Kakunodate

Kakunodate is reachable in 30 minutes from Akita by Shinkansen. This was an easy day just strolling around the town and visit traditional Samurai village. Beside samurai museum, there is a free admission exhibition house for local craftwork history and kimono as well. You can rent the kimono here to wear and take photo around the town.
Kimono indoor exhibition in Kakunodate

If you are not visiting the town in the right season or you are not interested in Samurai houses, Nyuto Osen or Tazawa lake are other alternative choices. I picked Kakunodate for my trip as I already visit ZaO onsen and Towada lake earlier on. Wild vegetable ramen is a good option for lunch. After that, take the direct Shinkansen back to Tokyo.

Hana Wu