Tohoku Japan Autumn Tour
17th Oct. – 1st Nov. 2017
16 days | $7895* per person
Bookings – Click here to book your place
Experience Northern Japan’s incredible autumn landscapes!
Autumn/fall is one of the most picturesque times in Japan, when maple leaves transition through majestic colours of the sun. The Tohoku region in the country’s north is a spectacular area to view autumn colours. Join us on our incredible 16-day Tohoku Autumn Tour, where you will experience the best this season has to offer – and how to capture the pictures that will reflect memories for a lifetime.
You name it, Japan has it all – traditional culture proudly practiced in modern day, leading futuristic cities, diverse landscapes showcasing spectacular natural wonders, and ancient temples preserving hundreds of years of history.
We visit the famous onsen (hot springs) and surroundings of Mount Zao in the prime of its autumn richness. Nearby Zao, stunning Okama Crater and its lake are easily accessible via a leisurely hike.
Just south of Tohoku is the Nikko region, boasting a diverse range of landscapes showing off the full spectrum of autumn’s variety, including Kegon Falls, Ryuzu Falls, Lake Chuzenji, and the Akechidaira Plateau. Nikko is also home to Toshogu Shrine, where the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, is located.
Using the cosmopolitan city of Sendai as our base, we explore breathtaking landscapes in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, including Matsushima Bay (one of Japan’s “Three Great Views”), Geibikei Gorge, and Naruko Gorge (arguably the most spectacular gorge in northern Japan).
One of the unmissable stops on our journey lies in Akita prefecture – the UNESCO World Heritage area of Shirakami Sanchi, an unspoilt mountainous region home to the last remaining virgin beech forests in Japan. You also have the chance to visit a real samurai town, the pristinely preserved Kakunodate, as well as the magnificent Dakigaeri Gorge.
We finish off in Aomori prefecture to appreciate Lake Towada and Oirase Stream, two of the best autumn colour spots in the Tohoku region.
This is the autumn tour full of off-the-beaten track and stunning photographic opportunities. Book now for our early bird special – all you need is your camera and passport!
Day 1 – Tokyo | Tue. 17 Oct. 2017
Arrive at Narita or Haneda Airport and make your way to our accommodation with airport transfer assistance provided.
A welcome dinner will be held and we’ll discuss the photography and activities we will undertake over the next few days.
After dinner, we’ll visit Tokyo Skytree, heading up to the main observation deck at 350m to view the incredible Tokyo metropolis below.
Day 2 – Zao Onsen | Wed. 18 Oct. 2017
An action-packed first day as we catch the shinkansen (bullet train) to Yamagata and make our way to Mt Zao and Zao Onsen.
Located on the slopes of Mt Zao, Zao Onsen is a famous mountain onsen and ski resort area in Japan. Mt Zao is especially scenic in autumn with the autumn foliage colouring the mountain with fiery orange and red hues. The beautiful Okama Crater with its lake is nearby and accessible with an easy hike.
Accom: Zao Onsen
Meals: B, D
Day 3 – Ichinoseki | Thu. 19 Oct. 2017
Spend the early morning with a refreshing soak in an onsen before we depart Mt Zao and make our way to Ichinoseki. From Ichinoseki we travel to Geibikei Gorge and join a boat trip to photograph this beautiful gorge highlighted with the autumn foliage.
Day 4 – Hiraizumi | Fri. 20 Oct. 2017
We spend today exploring Hiraizumi, a city which during the late Heian and most of the Kamakura periods in Japanese history, rivalled Kyoto in size and splendour.
Hiraizumi features some of the most important historical and cultural properties in the Tohoku Region. These include Chusonji Temple, which features Konjikido Hall, a spectacular gold-covered building that rivals Kinkakuji Temple in Kyoto.
Day 5 – Bandai | Sat. 21 Oct. 2017
We travel from Sendai to Aizu-Wakatmatsu today by car, following the various roads of the Bandai region surrounded by autumn foliage at their peak.
Along the way we will look at Nakatsugawa Gorge and the various picturesque ponds that make up the Goshikinuma Pond Walk.
Day 6 – Aizu-Wakamatsu | Sun. 22 Oct. 2017
Aizu-Wakamatsu is a famous castle town and well-known for its samurai history. Tsuruga Castle takes pride of place in Aizu-Wakamatsu and was one of the last strongholds of samurai that were loyal to the Tokugawa shogun before the end of the shogunate.
In the afternoon we travel to Nikko, most famous for Toshogu Shrine, the most lavishly decorated shrine in Japan and home to the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Day 7 – Nikko | Mon. 23 Oct. 2017
We explore around the Nikko region today and its various sites spread out among the autumn colours, including the Hangetsuyama Viewpoint, Senjogahara Marsh, Ryuzu Falls, the Irohazaka Road, Lake Chuzenji, and the Akechidaira Plateau.
Day 8 – Nikko, Sendai | Tue. 24 Oct. 2017
We finish our exploration of Nikko this morning with a visit to Toshogu Shrine* and explore the various buildings that make up the shrine complex. Toshogu is home to some famous wood carvings, such as the “see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil” monkeys, the “sleeping cat”, and the “imagined elephant”. It also features the stunning Yomeimon Gate, recently reopened after several years of renovations.
In the afternoon we travel to Sendai, capital city of Miyagi prefecture.
* Several of Toshogu Shrine’s buildings are under renovation until the 2020s. The renovation of the most famous structure here, the Yomeimon Gate, was completed in March 2017.
Day 9 – Sendai | Wed. 25 Oct. 2017
We have an early start today by visiting Shiogama, one of Japan’s most important fishing ports and a very busy fish processing center. Shiogama Fish Market is a hive of activity in the early morning, with over 140 stores selling all sorts of seafood products.
After Shiogama, we travel to nearby Matsushima. Matsushima is famous for its bay is dotted with many islets covered in pine trees and has been famous for centuries as one of Japan’s scenic “Three Famous Views”. We take a relaxed boat cruise through Matsushima Bay and travel among the islets. Back on dry land we explore some of the best viewpoints to photograph the bay.
Day 10 – Sendai | Thu. 26 Oct. 2017
Today we visit a special destination – Naruko Gorge, one of Japan’s most spectacular gorges and a kaleidescope of vivid yellow, orange, and red colours during the autumn season.
We have the opportunity to hike part of the walking trail along Naruko Gorge and also visit the Kokeshi Museum along the way. Kokeshi are Japanese handmade wooden dolls originating from northern Japan.
Day 11 – Akita | Fri. 27 Oct. 2017
We visit Akita prefecture today starting off with Kakunodate in the morning. Kakunodate is famous as a historic samurai town and features several well-preserved samurai-era houses. A short drive out from Kakunodate is the magnificent Dakigaeri Gorge.
In the afternoon we make our way to Lake Tazawa, a scenic caldera lake that is also Japan’s deepest lake with a maximum depth of 423m. We also visit Tsurunoyu Onsen, one of Japan’s most famous onsen, with a history of over 300 years and still maintains a traditional and rustic onsen experience.
Meals: B, D
Day 12 – Juniko Lakes | Sat. 28 Oct. 2017
Today our focus is on the northern Akita region. Here we find the UNESCO World Heritage site of Shirakami Sanchi, a mountainous unspoilt area that is home to Japan’s last remaining virgin beech forests. In Shirakami Sanchi, we explore Japan Canyon, and the Juniko (“Twelve Lakes”) including the Aoi-ike Pond with its incredible deep blue colour and water clarity.
We make our way from the late afternoon to Hirosaki, where we will stay in a ryokan, or traditional Japanese inn.
Day 13 – Hirosaki, Lake Towada | Sun. 29 Oct. 2017
Hirosaki was the political and cultural capital of the Tsugaru region in Edo-period Japan. The city is centered around Hirosaki Castle, one of a handful of original castles in Japan.
We visit Nakano Shrine outside of Hirosaki, home to a fantastic autumn colour location in Nakanomomijiyama.
In the afternoon, we make our way to Lake Towada and our accommodation on the lake shore.
Accom: Lake Towada*
*only single & twin beds
Day 14 – Lake Towada | Mon. 30 Oct. 2017
Lake Towada is Japan’s largest caldera lake and together with Oirase Stream, is a famous autumn colour spot in Japan. We photograph around Lake Towada today and also walk the trail along Oirase Stream looking for the best spots. Next up is Tsutanuma Pond, an amazing sight with the autumn foliage reflecting into the still water.
In the afternoon, we make our way towards Akita, staying overnight at Odate.
Day 15 – Akita, Tokyo | Tue. 31 Oct. 2017
We make our way back to Tokyo today, visiting the stunning Ikeda Garden in Daisen City on the way.
Meals: B, D
Day 16 – Tokyo | Wed. 1 Nov. 2017
The end of our tour and after checkout we will assist you with transfers to the airport for your flight home.