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A Northern Odyssey

Hirosaki - Hachinohe - Nyuto Onsen (Lake Tazawa) - Nikko - Tokyo
15 days

The ultimate left-turn, when all others have turned right. And you are richly rewarded for doing so - the Tohoku region is Japan's final frontier and this itinerary is aimed squarely at those wanting to get off-the-beaten-path and discover an alternative Japan through nature. We are in search of lakes, mountains, remote shrines, old castles, local markets and traditional Japanese inns. This sensory trip in to rural Japan, seen by few though imagined by many, is juxtaposed by the capital at the journey's end - modern, brash and frantic.

This itinerary works well year-around and there are many arguments for travel across any season. However, we should point out that Hirosaki is considered one of - perhaps, even the best - place to see the cherry blossoms during April. But then, when you consider Nikko National Park during the colours of Autumn or the beaches and coastline surrounding Hachinohe during the hot summer months, or staying in a cosy ryokan with outdoor onsens in Nyuto Onsen during the deep snow of winter....I give up! Whenever you go to Japan, this itinerary will deliver. It gets you off-the-beaten path (you will see very few other foreigners), in to some amazing countryside,  and reveal to you a beautiful rural Japan not often seen in brochures. All we would suggest - bring your walking boots, because these are landscapes which demand exploration on-foot.



accommodation & experiences

Straight off the plane you head in to one of our favourite 'resort' hotels in Hirosaki - well, close to Hirosaki in Tsugaru. This is your base from which to explore the town and the region, and each night you come back to soak in the outdoor onsens and dine on the fine restaurant of KAI Hoshino resort. The most idyllic start to your journey.


In Hachinohe you have a choice, and we'd suggest that location is your key consideration. This is a provincial city without a range of characterful upmarket accommodation, unaccustomed as they are, but that's why you are here. An untouched and beautiful corner (literally) of the country, away from other travellers, where 'real Japan' is revealed. The accommodation options are fine - unremarkable, but perfectly comfortable - and proximity to Tatehana Wharf, the lively bar district and the many seafood restaurants is key. 


Nyuto Onsen village is, essentially, is a collection of ryokan in the mountains of eastern Akita Prefecture. The area is famous for its therapeutic hot spring baths which are found in all of its eight ryokan. Some are quite traditional and rustic and other more luxurious and modern. With a history of over 300 years, Tsurunoyu is the oldest and most famous inn.


Nikko itself has plenty fo lovely hotels, pensions and small ryokans, but we'd opt for a hotel on the shores of nearby Lake Chūzenji. Top of the tree is the amazing new Ritz Carlton, very close to pretty Kegon waterfalls. This hotel, without a moment's hesitation, now sets the standard in Japan - with perhaps only the Aman resorts in Tokyo, Kyoto and Mire Prefecture achieving the same standards of international excellence,


It is perfectly possible to explore Tokyo by yourself - most of the signs are now in English, the overground and subway rail system is second-to-none and a decent guide book will tell you much of what you need to know. We also publish our own pragmatic self-touring notes, which also include many personal recommendations. But to have a local guide accompany you undoubtedly elevates the experience, at the very least getting you between the 'must-see' sights more efficiently or - more importantly - explaining, adding context and showing you lesser-visited neighbourhoods which will no doubt form your most cherished memories of the capital. We can hire commuter bikes to explore the backstreets or head out of the city for day trips to Nikko, Hakone, Mount Fuji or Kamakura. Or perhaps you'd prefer that we weight the itinerary with 'experiences' as opposed to 'sights', such as cookery classes, sunset helicopter rides or visiting a sumo stable? In the evenings, head out with your guide to a buzzing 'locals' izakaya or yakitori stand, or to see show in the kabuki theatre...or robot café. It's Tokyo - the world's most exciting city and the possibilities are limitless!



Day 1
Depart from your home country, heading to Japan.
Day 2
Arrive in Tokyo and immediately transfer on to a domestic flight to Aomori in the Tohoku region. Transfer to Hirosaki and settle in to your hotel.
Days 3 & 4
Two days in Hirosaki. Visit the castle, enjoy the cherry blossoms (if travelling during April), explore the samurai districts and enjoy the beautiful Fujita Gardens.
Day 5
Head back to Aomori City, where you pick up the shinkansen (bullet-train) route south. Your first stop is in Hachinohe, a remote city on the north-eastern coast.
Days 6 & 7
Two days based out of Hachinohe. Enjoy this provincial city and explore the Tanesashi coast - the amazing seafood markets of Tatehana Wharf, local temples, and head out to remote Ashigezaki lookout.
Day 8
Back on the shinkansen and head south to Morioka. After a lunch competitively slurping wanko soba noodles in a local restaurant, head to Nyuto Onsen on a local train and check in to your traditional ryokan for a night of hot springs and fine kaiseki dining.
Day 9
A full day excursion to Lake Tazawa, walking its shores and enjoy Japan's outdoors at its most beautiful. Back to the ryokan in Nyuto Onsen for a second night.
Day 10
Local train back to Morioka and then a longer ride on the shinkansen - on a stretch of track on which it achieves its highest speeds - to Nikko. Check in to your hotel, now on the shores of Lake Chūzenji, the 'Sea of Happiness'.
Day 11
Explore Nikko, and the surrounding National Park, with its mountainous landscapes, lakes, waterfalls, hot springs, wild monkeys and hiking trails. Nikko had been a centre of Shinto and Buddhist mountain worship for many centuries and Toshogu is Japan's most lavishly decorated shrine and the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate.
Day 12
Train in to the heart Tokyo. In contrast to all that has come before, you are now in Japan's futuristic, modern and frenetic capital.
Days 13 & 14
Two full days at leisure in Tokyo. We can organise private guides, activities and excursions to explore both facets of the city, both ancient and modern.
Day 15
Make your way out to the airport and fly home.


An indicative price for this two week itinerary would be circa £6,250 to £8,890 per person, including luxury accommodation, private transfers from and to airports, the activities and excursions (with private guide) as shown in the itinerary, bullet-train tickets, and international flights from the UK in the World Traveller Plus cabin (Premium Economy).


Obviously, the price you pay depends on the accommodation you choose (and room category), for how many days you would prefer to book a private guide, which cabin you like to fly in (if you'd like for us to include the international flights)...etc. Because all of our holidays are tailor-made, by altering the itinerary, changing the accommodation selections and/or taking another look at the inclusions we can usually adjust the total price – either down to match your budget or enhancing it further with upgrades.


If you were to move the dates in to peak periods (Cherry Blossom Season, Golden Week, New Year and the such), then the cost could potentially rise. And, of course, if you wanting the absolute finest, most prestigious accommodation - the Aman in Tokyo, or the Ritz Carlton in Nikko by way of example - then costs will once again shoot north.


We don't have to include international flights. However, by keeping it all within one package, your arrangements are protected by our ATOL licence which offers financial peace-of-mind for you.


Different Japan strive to offer the most competitive prices in all instances - just because you may have a larger budget at your disposal, this does not then mean that 'value' assumes any lower priority. We will always keep a keen eye on cost by using any promotions available and seeking the best value with every airline, hotel and/or service provider we use. We explore all the available options and monitor our costs against what you would be able to buy direct, ensuring we are always the better option.


However, we pride ourselves first and foremost on quality - we are an independent specialist tour operator and, therefore, are not beholden to any supplier. We make our decisions based only on who's the best on-the-ground in each and every instance.

What our customers say

5 star rating

Our customers rate us 'Excellent'

I can’t rate Different Snow highly enough...

Different Snow put together a well thought out and carefully researched tailored three week trip. Their recommendations for hotels, sightseeing, entertainment and dining were spot on.

David  ·  TrustPilot (verified review)

Very happy honeymooners...

Wonderful experience from start to finish. The binder they send you is like your Bible when you are out there. It has everything in you will need, from hotel addresses to train times, to advice about what to do whilst you're there. Trust the binder! Definitely will be using them for my next Japan trip.

Ashleigh  ·  TrustPilot (verified review)

Please visit our TrustPilot page to read the full reviews.

Begin your journey
How to book

It's pretty straight forward. You simply need to take the first step by getting in contact with us...


Give us a call, or fill in the enquiry form, or send us an email. We’ll listen, give advice and make suggestions.


We create a tailor-made itinerary proposal and email this to you. Together, we then refine it until it is just as you want.


A 20% deposit secures the booking. The balance payment is not due until 10 weeks before departure.


We post out your comprehensive travel pack, and then you travel in Japan under the care of our various local partners.