The Tohoku region in the very north of Honshu (Japan’s main island) plays home to the most beautiful, natural landscapes that I had no idea even existed in Japan!
I had the amazing opportunity to work with the Japan Tourism Board over the course of 5 days during the month of September (Autumn) to explore these less-touristy locations, specifically Aomori Prefecture and Akita Prefecture, which often get overlooked.
Tohoku is a place that has a much slower lifestyle compared to the busy cities of Japan, boasting incredible landscapes such as massive crater lakes, nature parks with flowing waterfalls, mouthwatering foodstuffs, rich cultural history, fun-fuelled activities, and an all-around friendly atmosphere.
In this Tohoku travel guide, I have outlined my complete 5 Day Tohoku Itinerary with a list of all the locations I visited, my experience in these places, where I stayed, and some other useful information to help you plan your own trip to Aomori and Akita!
Arrival Aomori Airport
Upon arriving at Aomori Airport at around 9:00 am, we rented a car at the airport and we were swiftly on our way.
When renting a car from Aomori Airport, there is English-speaking staff that will be able to assist and answer any questions you may have about the road rules in Japan.
Search All → Car Rentals in Aomori
Our first location in Aomori Prefecture was the Oirase Gorge, approximately 2 hours drive from Aomori Airport.
Oirase Gorge is said to be one of the most beautiful valleys in northern Japan boasting a running stream that is fed from the nearby Lake Towada and a number of pristine waterfalls!
I don’t know about you, but when I pictured Japan in my mind I never expected to see waterfalls so Oirase Gorge is a very special place well worthy of visiting.
We spent around 2 to 3 hours hiking upstream through Oirase Gorge along a well-maintained 9km walking track, stopping off at several waterfalls and crystalline rock pools to marvel at their natural beauty.
After a relatively long but easy hike in Oirase Gorge, we headed on to our next stop, Lake Towada.
Lake Towada is said to be the clearest lake in all of Japan and one of the best things to do in Tohoku!
This huge crater lake features two peninsulas that extend out almost a third of the way across and the vibrant blue water contrasts beautifully next to the lush green trees that surround it.
There are a few options for viewing Lake Towada and they are onboard a sightseeing boat, on foot from the shores of the lake, or by driving up the hilly roads to one of many viewing platforms for extensive panoramic views.
Sightseeing boats on Lake Towada operate every hour from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, between April – October and the price is around 1,400 Yen per person.
After a wonderful afternoon spent at Lake Towada, we drove to the city of Hirosaki which is approximately 1.5 hours west of the lake.
On Day 2 of our Tohoku itinerary, we kicked things off at the Tsugaru Museum to watch a traditional cultural performance known as Tsugaru Shamisen and after that, we wandered through the arts and crafts workshops watching the local artists carving out Japanese spin-tops on a wooden lathe.
The Tsugaru Museum is a great activity and experience to add to your list of things to do in the Tohoku region!
The next location on our Tohoku itinerary was Shirakami-Sanchi which is listed as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site since 1993.
Shirakami-Sanchi straddles the border between Aomori and Akita Prefectures and is home to the beautiful Anmon Gorge.
We spent the afternoon hiking through Anmon Gorge along forest trails, discovering spectacular waterfalls and wildlife along the way. It’s an easy to moderate hike that takes around 2 to 3 hours.
Hiking through Anmon Gorge was definitely the highlight of my day and it’s not to be missed on your list of things to do in Tohoku!
From Anmon Gorge, we headed back to Hirosaki for the night which is approximately a 45-minute drive from the gorge.
The following morning we left early to visit the famous Juniko Lakes in Akita Prefecture which is absolutely stunning and can easily be reached by an easy walking trail that leads through the forest.
My favorite lake, and the most popular at Juniko, is Aoike which translates to ‘Blue Pond’ and it lives up to its name with its vibrant, turquoise color, and the Autumn foliage floating on top of the water added to the beauty of this location.
We spent around 1 to 2 hours walking around the lakes and I also flew my Drone Camera to capture some images of Juniko from an aerial perspective.
That afternoon, we traveled further south to an epic landmark known as Godzilla Rock which is located along the coastline in Oga, Akita Prefecture.
Godzilla Rock resembles the face of Godzilla and is best visited at sunset when the sun is bright orange and it seems as if Godzilla has a fireball in its mouth.
The rocks are quite sharp and uneven along this section of coastline so mind your step when making your way from the car park to Godzilla Rock.
After watching an incredible sunset at Godzilla Rock we headed to Akita City for the night which is approximately a 1-hour drive south of Oga.
Lake Tazawa – Things To Do In Tohoku
On Day 4 of our itinerary, we headed inland again from Akita City to Lake Tazawa which is most famous for being the deepest lake in Japan with a depth of 423 meters.
Lake Tazawa is quite similar to Lake Towada which we visited earlier on in the week, offering sightseeing boat tours and beautiful views from every angle.
A few popular attractions dotted around the edges of Lake Tazawa are the Red Torii Gate of Goza no Ishi Shrine and the golden statue of a legendary local girl, Tatsuko.
There is also a tar-sealed road that leads right around the circumference of Lake Tazawa, boasting a very peaceful drive with several viewpoints overlooking this spectacular crater lake.
It’s safe to say that Lake Tazawa is not to be missed on your list of things to do in Tohoku!
The most popular accommodations near Lake Tazawa to stay in are traditional Ryokan Onsens. The most famous ones are Tsurunoyu Onsen and Kuroyu Onsen.
Unfortunately, these accommodations aren’t available to be booked online but you can contact them directly via telephone or email. All it takes is a quick Google search for these details.
On the last day of our itinerary, we made our way from Kuroyu Onsen to the Tamagawa Hotspring in Akita.
Tamagawa Hotspring, also referred to as Tamagawa Onsen, was once a sulfur mine that has since turned into a popular tourist attraction.
Not only is Tamagawa a popular attraction, but the hot springs and surrounding areas are said to cure illnesses such as cancer. During our visit, we saw hundreds of Japanese people laying around on mats close to the sulfuric fumes that filled the air. It was definitely a unique experience and something you don’t see every day.
The landscape surrounding the hot springs is spectacular and there is an easy walking trail that takes you right through the center of it all.
Last but not least on our 5 days in Tohoku, we made our way back to Akita to visit one of the most iconic landmarks in the city, Kubota Castle.
With a rich history and architectural beauty, a visit to Kubota Castle is not to be missed on your Tohoku itinerary.
From the Kubota Castle to Akita Aiport, it’s approximately a 30-minute drive to drop off the rental car and then onwards to your next destination in Japan.
MAP OF TOHOKU REGION
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
The currency in Japan is Yen (¥) and the exchange rate is approximately $1 USD = 100 ¥.
Purchasing a sim card in Japan is very simple. You can do this at the airport on arrival or find a convenience store close to your accommodation. For approximately $40 USD, you can get a local sim card that comes with 10GB of data.
There are plenty of ATMs in Japan located in most convenient stores, in front of banks, inside hotels, etc. where you can easily withdraw cash.
Need a travel money card?
Wise offers multi-currency debit cards which can be used worldwide and you’ll save hundreds on transaction fees. Get your Wise card today for free!
Most Japanese people can speak English, so if you are ever lost or need help with something you will be able to converse in English.
Also, all the signs at the airports, train stations, shopping malls, etc. are written in both Japanese and English.
BEST TIME TO VISIT JAPAN
The best time to visit Japan depends on what you plan to do. I personally prefer the spring and summer months in Japan (April – September) when temperatures are warm and the landscapes are vividly green.
However, visiting Japan in winter (December – March) is absolutely magical because the landscapes are completely covered in glistening white snow.
Visiting Japan in winter also means you have to opportunity to go skiing and snowboarding in Japan’s alpine regions.
VISA FOR JAPAN
Japan is visa-free for travelers from over 65 countries and you can stay in Japan for up to 90 days on a tourist visa.
Click Here to see the full list of nationalities that are eligible for the free 90-day tourist visa.
You don’t need to apply online for this as you will be granted a 90-day tourist visa at the airport when you arrive.
WHAT TO PACK FOR JAPAN
When visiting Japan, here is a list of items I highly recommend bringing with you;
- Sunscreen – the Japanese sun is very strong, so make sure to pack some high-quality sunscreen.
- Quick-dry travel towel – the most compact and lightweight towel for traveling.
- Reusable water bottle – stay hydrated by bringing along a reusable water bottle.
- Backpack – The Nomatic 30L Travel Pack is the ultimate backpack for everyday adventures.
If you’re interested in taking awesome photos and videos on your travels, this is the camera gear that I use and recommend;
- GoPro HERO10 – the most popular camera on the planet for action-packed adventures.
- Canon EOS R – perfect for traveling, this is the most affordable, compact camera on the market.
- DJI Mini 3 Pro – take your photos and videos to new heights with this user-friendly drone camera.
MORE JAPAN TRAVEL GUIDES
- Japan Travel Guide: 7 Day Japan Itinerary
- Tokyo: Tokyo Skytree Observation Deck
- Tokushima Prefecture: 4 Days In Tokushima
- Hakuba: Best Hakuba Ski Resorts
TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR YOUR NEXT TRIP
Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or it’s your first trip overseas, here are some useful travel resources to help you kick-start your next adventure!
- BOOKING.COM – search and book accommodation worldwide
- SKYSCANNER – compare and book cheap flights to anywhere
- VIATOR – find tickets, tours, and experiences around the world
- BOOKAWAY – book buses, trains, and transfers online in advance
- RENTAL CARS – search all rental cars in your next destination
- GROUP TRIPS – join one of my epic small group trips
- TRAVEL INSURANCE – purchase World Nomads travel insurance
- TRAVEL MONEY CARD – get a Wise card today for free
Looking for more? Check out my Travel Resources page for further help with your trip planning!
I honestly didn’t know much about the Tohoku region before arriving, though, after five eventful days exploring the region, it by far exceeded my expectations!
With many fun activities to do and attractions to see, Tohoku is well-worth adding to your Japan itinerary even if it is just for a few days. I guarantee you won’t regret it.
If you have any questions at all about this Tohoku itinerary, please leave me a comment below this post and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
For a quicker response, be sure to join Jonny Melon’s Travel Tribe on Facebook and post your questions or recommendations to our awesome community.
THANKS FOR READING
Hey friend, thanks for reading this guide!
Please know this post may contain affiliate links. When making a purchase through one of my links, I earn a small kickback at no extra cost to you and it’s a big help to keep the site up and running. Rest assured, I only promote products and services that I personally use and recommend.