The Tohoku region is made up of six prefectures in the northern part of Honshu, Japan’s largest island. Historical sites abound and unspoiled landscapes are filled with mountains, rivers and lakes that can be explored through outdoor activities the year round. After an active day, stop at one of the many hot springs that occupy this area and enjoy the relaxing waters that have drawn people to this area for years.

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1600km trip distance

10 day roadtrip

Camper Van recommended

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Central Fukushima Prefecture

Beautiful nature, lakes, mountains, historical sites and much more can be found in the central part of Fukushima prefecture. A few of the highlights include:

Mt. Bandai (1816 m): This volcanic mountain is home to several ski resorts and a variety of hiking trails.

Mt. Adatara (1700 m): Take a gondola part way up and then hike the rest to the summit where splendid views await.

Goshiki-numa: A series of volcano-formed ponds that mysteriously change colors depending on the season that can be enjoyed via a 3.6 km walk through the forest.

Tsuruga Castle: A replica of the 14th-century castle at features a museum and scenic views.

Zao: Yamagata & Miyagi Prefectures

Day 2

Situated on the southern borders of Yamagata and Miyagi prefectures, Zao, a popular winter playground and home to “snow monsters” and hot springs, is also a great place to enjoy outdoor activities and the scenic mountain views the rest of the year. A must-visit spot is Okama which is a beautiful color-changing crater lake perched in a caldera at 1670 meters. It can be reached via hikes of different lengths or a winding mountain road

Yamadera (Mountain Temple): Yamagata Prefecture

Day 3

Situated in eastern Yamagata prefecture, Yamadera is a mountain temple area with unusual rock formations. It is a place of serenity and superb scenery with the main attraction being the temple that was founded in 860. The one-hour walk from the trailhead to the temple grounds features around 1000 steps rewarding all who reach Godaido Hall at the top with spectacular views of the valley below. While visiting Yamadera find the statue of the great haiku poet Matsuo Basho who upon visiting Yamadera wrote one of his most famous poems. “The silence, permeating the rocks the voice of the cicada.”

Ginzan Onsen: Yamagata Prefecture

Located about an hour drive north of Yamadera, Ginzan Onsen is one of the best hot spring towns in Japan and will take you back in time with its historic ryokans (traditional inns) lining the river. The center of the town is a pedestrian-only area enhancing the nostalgic atmosphere and is worth a visit even if an overnight stay is not planned. Two inexpensive public baths and a free foot bath give day visitors the opportunity to enjoy the hot springs that have drawn visitors to this area over the years.

Lake Tazawa: Akita Prefecture

Akita prefecture’s most famous landmark, Lake Tazawa is Japan’s deepest lake and an incredible site no matter the time of year. Take a drive around the lake to enjoy its beauty, or for an alternative, rent a bicycle or even walk around the lake. A bike ride can take 2 to 3 hours and the walk 4.5 to 5.5 hours. Other lake activities include a sightseeing boat, SUP, swimming and northeast of Lake Tazawa are a number of hot springs nestled in the mountains.

 

Aomori Prefecture

Aomori, the northernmost prefecture on the Japan’s main island of Honshu, is endowed with year-round natural beauty that is worth visiting.

Towada-Hachimantai National Park features mountains, hiking, stunning autumn foliage and is home to one of the largest crater lakes in Japan, Lake Towada. In the warmer months various boating activities are available and in winter seek out one of the frozen waterfalls.

Shirakami Sanchi, a World Heritage Site, is the largest virgin beech forest in Japan. At more than 130,000 hectares, it is filled with mountains, gorges, lakes and 14 official hiking trails that range from easy to very challenging.

Furofushi Onsen Seaside Outdoor Hot Spring is worth a visit if you make it to the southwestern coast of Aomori prefecture. This hot spring is located right on the shore of the Sea of Japan providing a spectacular setting especially at sunset.

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