Japan

Experiencing Tohoku in Winter

Tohoku is in the northern part of Japan with a number of undiscovered sightseeing spots, delicious food and traditional cultures for you to explore.

Lake Hibara – Fukushima Prefecture.

Tohoku is in the northern part of Japan with a number of undiscovered sightseeing spots, delicious food and traditional cultures for you to explore.

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A winter experience in Japan is almost perfect, especially in Tohoku. From the stove train, Uesugi Snow Lantern Festival in Yamagata to the finest snow quality in Appi Kogen; winter experiences in the Tohoku region is indescribable!

Check out our suggestions below to add the Tohoku region into your itinerary during your next Japan vacation!

1. Aomori Prefecture – Tsugaru Railway Stove Winter Train

The stove train is a sightseeing train operated only in winter along the Tsugaru Railway railroads in Aomori Prefecture.

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A retro stove train runs through the white heavy snow field all around. Inside the car, you can enjoy sake and beer alongside roasted dried squid while being kept warm using the old-fashioned potbelly stove. In clear weather, you can see the magnificent Mt. Iwaki – nicknamed Tsugaru’s Fuji – to appear floating on the snowfield. Join us for a 50-minute one-way trip to the deep snow country.

Operating period: From December 1st to March 31st of the following year 

Price: Fare depends on the trip + stove train ticket 500 yen

* Please check the website for the number of trains and the details of the service.

2. Iwate Prefecture – Appi Kogen Highlands

Appi Kogen Highland – Iwate Prefecture.

Located at 40 degrees north latitude and boasting the finest snow quality, Appi Kogen – with its stable conditions, blessed environment and north-facing slope – is open for a long season well until the Golden Week holidays. This highland contains 21 ski courses, including the 5.5-kilometre downhill that even beginners can enjoy, an exciting two-kilometre uncompressed snow course that should satisfy advanced skiers, a tour that brings you to the backcountry with a guide, and a snow playland where you can enjoy sledging. Remember, when you stay at any resort within Tohoku region during winter, especially in Appi Kogen, you could also do shopping, take a dip in the hot springs, and savour delicious food within the facility, on top of enjoying skiing and winter-based activities – many fun-filled activities await!

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3. Akita Prefecture – Nyuto Onsenkyo Town

Nyuto Onsenkyo Town – Akita Prefecture.

Nyuto Onsenkyo is one of Akita’s representative hot springs, located at the foot of Mt. Nyuto in Towada-Hachimandaira National Park and surrounded by the primaeval beech forest. Nanayu, which has its own source, is regarded as a secret hot spring inn with high-quality water. There is also the historical hot spring Tsuru no Yu, which has the longest history and once functioned as the hot spring resort of the Akita feudal lords. Even now, there remains a thatched-roof row house, which was the honjin, the guardhouse for the escort samurai. This photogenic scenery makes you feel like you are stepping back in time. Explore the story of the seven springs of this hot spring village while enjoying the spectacular view from the open-air bath.

4. Miyagi Prefecture – Miyagi Zao Snow Monsters Tour

Miyagi Zao Ice Monster Tour – Miyagi Prefecture.

Tour around the Ice Monster, or the Rime, a work of ‘art’ made from ice and snow carved by nature that is unique in the world, created from special weather conditions and the vegetation found on the Zao mountain range that straddles Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures.

Each sculpture is unique and not identical to another, nicknamed as ‘Snow Monster’. At the same time, the area’s ever-changing landscape is magnificent and delicate. The powerful natural sculptural beauty of the huge rime that has grown nearly five metres lining up from the top to the foot of the mountain is a symbol of Zao’s winter.

It is popular to watch the rime on trees while enjoying a snowy field drive on a snowmobile from the Miyagi prefecture side. 

Price: Adults: 10,000-5,000 yen, Children: 6,000-4,000 yen 

*Price varies depending on the date of use and class of use

5. Sendai City – Rairaikyo Gorge

Rairaikyo Gorge – Sendai City.

Rairaikyo Gorge is located about 30 minutes by car from Sendai Station. It is a tourist spot where you can feel the power of nature seeing the rocks pile up. In winter, you can enjoy a wonderful snowy landscape with plenty of hidden details such as snow-covered trees and rocks.

Also, from the peering bridge before entering Rairaikyo, you can see the heart-shaped rocks that have been certified as a lover’s sanctuary.

And if you go in the evening, you can see the reflection of the sunset that makes the place even more romantic!

6. Yamagata Prefecture – Uesugi Snow Lantern Festival

Uesugi Snow Lantern Festival – Yamagata Prefecture.

The Uesugi Snow Lantern Festival in Yamagata Prefecture is held in Yonezawa, where it snows heavily and becomes completely white in winter. At the venue, about 300 snow lanterns and 1,000 snow bonbons are lit to create a magical atmosphere.

In the candle zone, a mystic world of candles and colour megaphones can be found. Enjoy the bedazzling world of silver and the romantic world of lights that might project differently from the normal snow lanterns. In addition, there are plenty of tents that showcase local products and stage performances so that you can experience winter to its fullest. This is a must-see event when you come to Japan in winter.

*Free entrance

7. Fukushima Prefecture – Lake Hibara

Lake Hibara – Fukushima Prefecture.

Lake Hibara, located on a plateau surrounded by the mountains of Bandai at an altitude of 800 metres, is believed to be a sacred place for smelt fishing in the Tohoku region. The maximum depth is about 30 metres, and the circumference of the lake is 30 kilometres. In winter, colourful smelt fishing tents crowd the surface of the frozen lake. People with no experience can enjoy smelt fishing in a warm environment without having to bring any tools by finding a spot inside the dome tents using snowmobiles to transport them along the snowy lake surface.  The best part of the experience is to eat the smelt you caught as crispy tempura. 

* Fishing on ice can be done from late January until early March. 

Price: Adults (junior high school students and above) 5,000 yen to 6,300 yen (rental fee and fishing ticket included) 

Elementary school students 3,500 yen to 4,300 yen

8. Niigata Prefecture – Ojiya Hot-Air Balloon Festival

Ojiya Hot-Air Balloon Festival – Niigata Prefecture.

This is an event with hot air balloons and fireworks held in Ojiya City, Niigata Prefecture.

The sight of colourful hot air balloons taking off en masse and filling up the sky is photogenically memorable. And not only can you look up at the colourful balloons floating in the blue sky from the ground, but you can actually ride on the hot air balloons.

The view of the silverish Ojiya City from the flying hot air balloon is surely unforgettable. In addition, there are fireworks launched above the balloon on the first night of the event. No doubt, you are bound to be bowled over by the festival’s wondrous spectacle.

Check the Tohoku Special website with lots of extra details!

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