Many of our customers have journeyed north in our campervans to the Tohoku region and Hokkaido. So, what is the draw? Traveling with one our campervans allows for the freedom and flexibility necessary to take in the abundant nature and with wide variety of sites and attractions that this area of Japan boasts.
Tohoku is a vast area comprised of Fukushima, Yamagata, Miyagi, Akita, Iwate and Aomori, prefectures, covering approximately 30% of northern Honshu. A road trip in one of our campervans is the best way to efficiently enjoy this area’s astounding nature and many tourist attractions!
Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture
Morioka City was featured as one of the 52 Places to Go in 2023 by the New York Times (electronic edition, January 12, 2023) in recognition of its historical buildings in the city center, parks, rivers, other natural features and the fact that the city is a place where people can enjoy the local culture, which includes coffee shops, wanko soba restaurants, bookshops and jazz cafés.
Morioka is a place where in a 10-minute walk you can experience all that it has to offer: the historical streets, soba shops, coffee shops and so on. You can find interesting and fun places just by walking around with each place you enter presenting something that will provide you with a fond memory. Morioka is a “Walkable Gem”.
With Morioka being a compact city, you can interact with people going about their daily lives in a normal way unlike tourist destinations such as Kyoto, or in the big cities like Tokyo. Morioka has become a popular area in recent years for those seeking such an atmosphere.
Wanko soba is a local dish from Morioka and Hanamaki cities in Iwate Prefecture. It is characterized by customers eating a mouthful of hot soba noodles from a bowl, and then having the bowl refilled by a server. This repeats until one’s fill of soba has been eaten.
Blessed with both sea and mountains, Aomori Prefecture is endowed with a rich variety of nature. Scenic coastal spots worth visiting are Senjidashiki in Tsugaru National Park and Butsugaura on the Shimokita Peninsula. Inland, Mount Hakkoda, Lake Towada, Oirase Stream and its waterfalls, Lake Ogawara and the World Heritage Site. Shirakami Mountains will leave you in awe of the beauty that surrounds you. Fall is especially beautiful with the foliage ablaze with the changing colors.
There are also a many high-quality hot springs throughout the prefecture. In addition to the well-known hot spring villages and inns, there are hidden hot springs or ‘meiyu’ scattered throughout the prefecture.
While the nature of Aomori is a draw in itself, Aomori also boasts one of the most famous festivals in Japan, the Nebuta Festival. In early August, the beauty and grandeur of the Nebuta floats illuminating the night attracts around three million visitors from all over Japan and abroad every year. If your travels have you in Aomori in early August, be sure to not to miss this once-in-a-lifetime experience. For more great festivals in Japan, be sure to read our blog, Festivals Worth Visiting in Japan (travellers-autobarn.co.jp)
Another highlight in Aomori which can be found in the east coast city of Hachinohe is the Hasshoku Center. This an expansive market that features fresh seafood directly from Hachinohe Port, one of the best ports in Japan. There is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant which uses locally caught fish and Shichirin-mura, a place where seafood bought in the market can be grilled over a charcoal fire, attracting a large crowd every day. Hasshoku Center also sells a wide selection of vegetables, fruits and local products from the area such as processed food and sake, making it a great place to look for souvenirs. Various events are also held, including outdoor live music events and one-off cooking classes (reservations required).
Hokkaido is a can’t-be-missed destination for nature lovers, and a good number of our clients who visit Hokkaido, do so via ferry! The freedom that a campervan allows is a perfect match for Hokkaido. There are several ferry ports that service Hokkaido throughout Japan which can accommodate our campervans, but if you are heading to Hokkaido from the Tohoku region, it is best to take a ferry from Aomori City or Oma (the shortest ferry ride). Of course, if you want to head immediately to Hokkaido after picking up your campervan, you can take the 18-hour ferry ride from Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture which can be reached in about an hour from out office in Narita.
On a road trip around Hokkaido, you may encounter wild animals. Some of our customers have been able to see red-crowned cranes, foxes and even brown bears! Brown bears can be frightening to encounter in the wild, but at the Noboribetsu Bear Park you can try feeding them. The bears are surprisingly cute as they show off their large bodies in an appeal to be fed! To see bears in a more natural habitat, don’t miss Bear Mountain at Tokachi Sahoro Resort where you can see the bears from various vantage points.
Be on the lookout for some of Hokkaido’s other unique animals such as the Ezo sika deer, flying squirrels, pika, white tailed eagles and owls. If by chance you don’t spot any, you can always see them at zoos and other facilities throughout Hokkaido.
While enjoying Hokkaido’s natural wonders, don’t forget about Hokkaido’s food. Good ramen can be found anywhere in Japan, but flavors/types vary from region to region. Furthermore, even within Hokkaido, different areas have different ramen, so it is fun to try the local ramen of each region.
I have been travelling by campervan to various areas all over Japan for more than 5 years. My goal is to visit all 47 prefectures in Japan! Just 12 more prefectures to go and I'll have accomplished it! I hope I can share some of information of wonderful places in Japan.