Unique Japan Tour: Hokkaido and northern Honshu, 22 days

Unique Japan Tour: Hokkaido and northern Honshu

Sapporo – Sounkyo – Shiretoko – Nemuro – Lake Akan – Mount Yotei – Hakodate – Aomori – Aizu Wakamatsu – Ouchi-Juku – Tokyo

The combination of the sparsely populated Hokkaido and the densely populated main island make this tour unique and well balanced. Drive yourself in Hokkaido and make beautiful walks amid the stunning, pristine and mountainous landscape. Then unwind and relax in the hot springs. Northern Honshu is ideal for travelers looking to escape city life and connect with nature. Do you prefer a fierce, but splendid winter, or a soft, green summer? This unique Japan tour is an unforgettable experience to savour and enjoy all year-round.

  • Snow festival in Sapporo
  • Japanese cranes in the Shunkuni-tai nature reserve
  • Whale watching in Shiretoko

This 22 days Unique Japan tour Hokkaido and northern Honshu can be booked from € 3.275,-including transportation, hotels and breakfast.

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Unique Japan Tour Hokkaido and northern Honshu: day-by-day

Day 1 Departure from Amsterdam

Day 2 Arrival Sapporo
Sapporo is the modern capital of the northern island of Hokkaido. In summer, when the rest of Japan is sweltering in uncomfortable heat and humidity, Sapporo stays pleasantly cool due to its location in northern Japan. Sapporo is a relaxed city, where you can visit the Botanic Garden and the Ainu museum or grab a bite at the Nijo fresh food market. Besides from its thriving food scene, Sapporo and the rest of Hokkaido are famous for winter sports. The average snowfall is 6 meters a year! Sapporo became world famous in 1972 when the Olympic Winter Games were being held there, the first Winter Olympics held in Asia. It’s a lively city with great architecture and many parks hosting frequent events throughout the year. In Susukino, Japan’s largest entertainment district north of Tokyo, you can sample some fresh sea food and ramen noodles and locally brewed Sapporo beer.

Day 4 Sapporo 
The Odori park is the broad meridian in the centre of Sapporo, separating the city into north and south. During the urban planning of Sapporo, it was originally designated as the main street but eventually it became a park. In early February, the park serves as the main site for the famous Snow Festival. The park offers pleasant green space and many flower gardens have been created by assigning grounds of Odori to different garden design companies.

Day 5 Sapporo – Sounkyo Onsen 
After breakfast you can pick up your rental car. The picturesque drive to Sounkyo takes you through the flower fields of Biei and Furono. Upon arrival in Sounkyo you can relax and unwind in one of Sounkyo’s famous hot springs.

Day 6 Sounkyo Onsen
Thanks to a ropeway, the 1984 meter high peak of Mount Kurodake can easily be accessed. It is a popular entry point for hikes into the Daisetsuzan National Park, that is known for its many hiking trails for all levels. Once you are there you can walk to several observation decks, with great views into the interior of the Daisetsuzan Mountains.

Day 7 Sounkyo Onsen – Shiretoko 
The drive from Sounkyo to Shiretoko takes around 4 hours. The name of the Shiretoko peninsula is derived from the Ainu word sire tok, meaning  “the end of the world”. Its inaccessibility made it into Japan’s most beautiful and unspoiled national parks, home to a variety of wildlife, including brown bears, deer and foxes.

Day 8 Shiretoko 
From mid-April till mid-November the highlight of the sightseeing boat cruises is the variety of wildlife that can be seen both along the shores as well as in the sea, such as whales, orcas and dolphins. From Shiretoko you cross the entire peninsula to Rausu in around an hour. Here there are whale and dolphin watching cruises. A superb experience!

Day 9 Shiretoko – Nemuro 
A beautiful 2,5 hour drive takes you to Nemuro, the easternmost city in Japan and of the Asian continent. Cape Noshappu is particularly well-known for its breathtakingly beautiful sunsets. The wild waters between the sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean are impressive and abounding in fish. Nemuro is an important fishing port and the sushi here is ultra-fresh. The sea-eagle is seen allover Nemuro as well as many other sea birds. Welcome to Japan’s No. 1 Wild Bird Paradise!

Day 10 Nemuro – Lake Akan 
From Nemuro it takes 3 hours to get to Lake Akan. The first three hours you drive southwards along the beautiful coastline. Then drive inland for the next leg till Akan. This area is famous for its volcanoes and crater lakes. Several walking trails lead through the forest and along the lake and you can make a sight-seeing boat trip on the lakes to observe to unique Marimo, a rare algae species that forms itself into beautiful green balls, a special natural treasure. Also pay a visit to Ainu Kotan, a small Ainu village of indigenous people. The Ainu Kotan offers a chance to experience the day-to-day life and precious culture of the Ainu people.

Day 11 Lake Akan – Mount Yotei
Driving time today is 6 hours to Mount Yotei. Mount Yōtei is an active stratovolcano located 50 km south of Sapporo, close to Niseko Kutchanen Makkari. It resembles Mount Fuji because of its similar perfect hyperbolic shape. The most recent eruption dates from 1050 BC. Especially in summer, there are numerous hikes and walks for all strengths and desires. You stay the night near the volcano.

Day 12 Mount Yotei
If a trip to ski Mt Yotei has been calling your name, then the reward is a stunning view on this 1898 meter high snow-capped mountain. The descent on this beautiful volcano attracts many ski tourers every year. The climb up to this iconic peak can take between 5 and 8 hours and will truly test your fitness. You can of course also enjoy the luxury of seeing its beautiful shape from a steaming hot spring.

Day 13 Mount Yotei – Hakodate 
Today you drive in 3,5 hours to Hakodate, located at the Hokkaido Island’s southern tip. Hakodate was one of the first cities to be opened after 1865. Just like Kobe and Yokohama, the city has experienced notable influence from overseas. The foreign population’s former residential district with Western style architecture are popular tourist attractions, especially with Japanese tourists. Mount Hakodate is a 334 meter high, wooded mountain at the southern end of the peninsula on which much of central Hakodate is located. On clear days and nights, in particular, the views from the mountain are spectacular and claimed to be the third best in the world, after Hong Kong and Napels. Upon arrival in Hakodate you can return your rental car.

Day 14 Hakodate 
Fort Goryokaku, a massive, star-shaped, Western style citadel, is definitely worth a visit. It was built in the Edo Period for defence of Hakodate against the imperialist threat posed by the Western powers. After the fort had lost its military importance, it was eventually turned into a public park in the 1910s. Over a thousand cherry trees were planted along its moats, making it one of Hokkaido’s best cherry blossom spots.

Day 15 Hakodate – Aomori 
Via ferry you travel to the port of Aomori, a 4 hour journey. Aomori is famous for its yearly Nebuta Festival, held in the first week of August. The highlight of the festival is the daily parade through the inner city of enormous paper lantern floats, flanked by large taiko drums, musicians and dancers. The lanterns often depict mythological figures.

The Furukawa Fish Market, just a 10 minute walk from the museum, is an excellent choice for lunch. What makes this market special is a system that lets visitors create their own seafood donburi (called nokkedon). To make your own nokkedon, first purchase a set of tickets. Each ticket can be exchanged for items around the market: a bowl of rice and portions of other goodies, such raw fish, crab, shellfish, seaweed, fish eggs, etc…

Day 16 Aomori – Aizu Wakamatsu 
The train journey to Aizu Wakamatsu takes 4,5 hours. Aizu Wakamatsu is small town with a special samurai past. Besides the castle and a samurai mansion, you can visit a mass grave on the Iimoriyama Mountain. Here a group of young boys from the Byakkotai clan committed suicide when they saw the castle of Aizu Wakamatsu engulfed in flames, but the castle hadn’t actually been captured. The site of the boys’ suicide has become a popular tourist attraction. There are also two musea devoted to the Byakkotai and a unique pagoda that visitors can enter.

Day 17 Aizu Wakamatsu – Higashiyama onsen – Aizu Wakamatsu 
In a valley east of downtown Aizu Wakamatsu is Higashiyama Onsen, a popular hot spring resort, where you can unwind and relax a day in the peeping hot springs.

Day 18 Aizu Wakamatsu – Ouchi Juku 
After breakfast, you can pick up the rental car and drive in 45 min to the village of Ouchi Juku. In the Edo Period this former post town was one of the rest stops along the Aizu and Nikko trade route. The town  has been restored to look as it did in the Edo Period with telephone and electricity wires buried, unpaved roads and thick thatched roof buildings.

Day 19 Ouchi Juku – Tokyo 
Today you will reach Tokyo, the final destination of your journey. By car it takes 3,5 hours to reach the bustling metropolis.You arrive in a jungle of steel, glass, and cement with around every street corner a new surprise. In the afternoon you have ample time to visit the old Asakusa neighbourhood with its famous Senso-ji temple. From here the Ueno Station is walking distance. Under the railway tracks you find hundreds of sushibars. The adjacent ancient Taito district with its bustling street markets is a low-key commercial and residential neighbourhood full of traditional, quirky little shops. The three areas named Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi are famous as Tokyo’s ‘old downtown’. There are many old buildings and temples. It’s a place where Japanese people often visit and do their shopping. Upon arrival in Tokyo you return your rental car.

Day 20 Tokyo
Tokyo has it all: delicious cuisine, ultra-modern architecture and charming old neighbourhoods. The Meji-shrine in the beautiful Yoyogi park is an oasis of peace and calm. This Shinto shrine was built in 1920 in honour of Emperor Meji and Empress Shoken, who played a significant role in the modernisation of Japan. A massive wooden torii gate made of 1700-year-old cypress greets you at the start of the wide passage. Both gates towards the shrine are 12 meters high and amongst the highest in Japan. Close to the Yoyogi park you find the Harajuku area with many trendsetting shops and eateries. Takeshita Street has boutiques for all eccentric fashion styles. Give your eyes a feast while enjoying a sweet pancake. If you have time, find an underground Purikura and have some fun. Japanese teenagers cannot get enough of these photo booths that make your skin looks smoother and lighter and enlarges your eyes. 

Day 21 Tokyo
The Ryogoku area, north of Tokyo, is the centre of the sumo world. Here you find the Sumo Stadium surrounded by many sumo stables, chanko restaurants and other sumo-related stuff. It might be fun to learn more about the sumo wrestlers’ diet and try a delicious chanko-nabe hot pot! In the famous Hana no Mai restaurant you can even experience three Japanese traditions in one sitting: great Chankonabe, excellent Sake and Sumo wrestling. Six tournaments are held every year. If you are lucky, you are in the right place at the right time! Don’t forget to pay a visit to the Edo Tokyo Museum, next to the Sumo stadium. The museum illustrates Tokyo’s past (known as Edo) and covers many features of the capital from the Edo Period to recent decades.

Day 22 Tokyo – Amsterdam

Unique Japan Tour Hokkaido and northern Honshu

Day 1 Flight to Japan
Day 2 Sapporo
Day 3 Sapporo
Day 4 Sapporo
Day 5 Sapporo – Sounkyo
Day 6 Sounkyo
Day 7 Sounkyo – Shiretoko
Day 8 Shiretoko
Day 9 Shiretoko – Nemuro
Day 10 Nemuro – Lake Akan
Day 11 Lake Akan – Mount Yotei
Day 12 Yotei
Day 13 Yotei – Hakodate
Day 14 Hakodate
Day 15 Hakodate – Aomori
Day 16 Aomori – Aizu Wakamatsu
Day 17 Aizu Wakamatsu – Higashiyama Onsen – Aizu Wakamatsu
Day 18 Aizu Wakamatsu – Ouchi Juku
Day 19 Ouchi Juku – Tokyo
Day 20 Tokyo
Day 21 Tokyo
Day 22 Tokyo – Amsterdam

Price Unique Japan tour Hokkaido and northern Honshu:

Depending on the travel period this Unique Japan Tour to Hokkaido and northern Honshu can be booked from 3.275,-Euro per person, based on double occupancy in ***hotels.

What’s included:
– All accommodation, including breakfast
– 10x dinner in Sounkyo, Shiretoko, Nemuro, Lake Akan, Mount Yotei, Aizu Wakamatsu and Ouchi-Juku
– 11 days car rental
– Ferry from Hakodate to Aomori.
– Train journey from Aomori to Aizu Wakamatsu
– Detailed info pack with maps and translations

What’s not included:
– International flight to and from Japan
– Transfers to and from airport 
– Ferries, journeys by local bus and metro
– Entrance fees and guide services
– Travel and Cancellation insurance
– Administration cost € 25,-p.p. (max € 50,-per file)
– Calamity Fund € 2,50,-per file

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