15 Sightseeing Spots in Hokkaido and Tohoku! att.JAPAN’s Top Picks All the Best Things to Do in Japan Vol. 1
- 1. Take a ride on the Norokko Train to feel the grand wilderness of Kushiro Marsh
- 2. Feel the culture of the Ainu at Upopoy
- 3. Try a footbath in a unique river with natural flowing hot spring water in Noboribetsu
- 4. Spend a night enjoying a parfait and alcohol in Sapporo
- 5. Watch how lively the animals are at Asahiyama Zoo
- 6. Enjoy hiking along the Oirase Stream
- 7. Join the Nebuta Matsuri festival in Aomori
- 8. Feel the long history at Chusonji Temple
- 9. See the cherry tree at Koiwai Farm
- 10. Enjoy the old samurai residences and weeping cherry blossoms in Kakunodate
- 11. Visit the famous spot featured in “Oku no Hosomichi”
- 12. Enjoy a great view of a wonderful emerald-green lake at Okama crater in Zao
- 13. View autumn foliage in Matsushima, considered as one of the “Three Great Sights” of Japan
- 14. Mesmerized by Takizakura in Miharu
- 15. Climb up a mysterious corridor of Aizu Sazaedo
The multilingual free magazine att.JAPAN launched in the year 2000 and with this edition, proudly marks its 100th issue. Over the past 23 years, through firsthand reporting, we have brought the best of Japan to the world, from classic sightseeing spots to little known hidden gems, from food culture to festivals and performing arts.
att.JAPAN’s editors know every corner of this country, and here have selected 100 experiences they hope every traveler to Japan can try. Have faith in these recommendations as everything here was directly experienced by members of our team at att.JAPAN. You’re sure to uncover a new side to this island nation, and open the door to unforgettable experiences.
Whether you’re a first-time traveler wondering where to start, or a seasoned, well-traveled fan of the country, read on to find the perfect something for you! Find out what our writers found most moving, and one piece of personal advice learned from their experience! Have you been to the same place?
Please post on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #attjapan100!
1. Take a ride on the Norokko Train to feel the grand wilderness of Kushiro Marsh
In Kushiro Marsh, the biggest marsh in Japan, you can take a ride on the “Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko” train, which is in service from April to October, to travel to Toro while enjoying scenery of the Kushiro River. From Toro, you can join a canoe tour to feel the grand wilderness of the area on the slow-flowing Kushiro River. During your trip, you may be able to come across Japanese cranes, white-tailed sea eagles, Yezo deer, and Ezo red foxes.
★Hosooka Observatory offers a great panoramic view of the meandering Kushiro River, the breadth of the marshland, and the mountains of Akan. Seeing the sunset from the observatory is especially recommended.
*Reservation required for Observation cars. Please check the website for details.
|Access||Kushiro Sta. → Take “Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko Train”|
2. Feel the culture of the Ainu at Upopoy
“Upopoy National Ainu Museum and Park” in Shiraoi Town, Hokkaido, is a facility which aims to promote a proper understanding and awareness of Ainu history and culture. Surrounded by grand nature, you can learn about the culture of Ainu people and their symbiotic relationship with nature while experiencing traditional Ainu dance, entertainment, and food.
★ The sound of “mukkuri,” a traditional music instrument, that I listened to at Lake Poroto was so dreamy and mesmerizing that I was really moved!
Fee: Adult 1,200 yen
|Address||2-3 Wakakusa-cho, Shiraoi-cho, Shiraoi County, Hokkaido|
|Access||JR Shiraoi Sta. → 10 min walk|
|Business hours||9:00-18:00 (varies depending on the season. Please check official website for details)|
|Regular holiday||Mon (If Monday is a national holiday, it will close the following weekday）|
3. Try a footbath in a unique river with natural flowing hot spring water in Noboribetsu
Noboribetsu Onsen, one of the major onsen areas in Hokkaido, has Oyunuma River, which flows with natural hot spring water! Along the river, there is a footbath that is open to everyone, where you can feel the power of nature for free. After seeing Jigokudani (literally means “hell valley”), where the natural hot spring water is gashing out, you can enjoy footbathing in the river.
★ I was surprised to see steam coming from the river! It was the perfect temperature, so I felt like I could stay there forever!
|Address||Noboribetsu Onsen-cho, Noboribetsu City, Hokkaido|
|Access||New Chitose Airport → 1 hr 15 min by expressway bus → Noboribetsu Onsen town → 15 min by walk|
|Business hours||24 hours (Please be aware that there are no lights at night)|
|Regular holiday||Open 365 days|
4. Spend a night enjoying a parfait and alcohol in Sapporo
In Sapporo, it is common to eat a refreshing parfait after drinking at night. Ice cream made with high-quality milk – Hokkaido is famously a big dairy region – is served with pieces of fruit shining like jewelry! Many parfait shops are open until late at night, so you might find yourself “parfait shop hopping” in quest of delicious and beautiful parfaits.
5. Watch how lively the animals are at Asahiyama Zoo
Asahiyama Zoo is famous for its “behavioral exhibition,” in which people can observe how the animals live and spend time in their natural habitats. Among others, highly recommended is Penguin-kan! At the glass tunnel, you can see penguins close-up swimming as if they are flying, which was so amazing that I was just speechless.
Fee：Adult 1,000 yen *Purchase in advance is recommended.
|Address||Kuranuma, Higashi Asahikawa-cho, Asahikawa City, Hokkaido|
|Access||JR Asahikawa Sta. → 40 min by bus|
|Business hours||9:30-17:15（Admission until 16:00）(mid-April-October 15), 9:30-16:30（Admission until 16:00）(October 16-November 3), 10:30-15:30（Admission until 15:00）(November 11-April 7)|
|Regular holiday||No fix holiday during summer and winter season (Please check the website)|
6. Enjoy hiking along the Oirase Stream
Awarded two stars in the Michelin Green Guide, the Oirase Stream in Aomori Prefecture runs through the mountains for about 14 km, with one great view after another, such as waterfalls and strange-shaped rocks! In the pristine forest, you can relax and enjoy hiking comfortably along the banks of the stream, where it is cool even in summer. One of the great points of this hiking is the well-maintained walking paths.
|Access||JR Shin-Aomori Sta, JR Aomori Sta, JR Hachinohe Sta. → Yakeyama stop by bus|
7. Join the Nebuta Matsuri festival in Aomori
While this festival is famous for the powerful appearance of large nebuta lantern floats, the sound is also a big significant point of the festival. In the evening as the sun begins to set, the sound of drums thunders out and the nebuta lantern floats are lit up at once, giving you goose bumps with expectation and excitement. In order to fully enjoy the festival, it is recommended to join as a haneto dancer.
|Address||Around Aomori Sta. in Aomori City|
|Access||JR Aomori Sta. → 5 min walk|
|Business hours||August 2-7 every year|
8. Feel the long history at Chusonji Temple
Founded in 850 in Hiraizumi, Iwate Prefecture, Chusonji Temple was established on a full scale at the beginning of the 12th century in the hope of peace in the war-torn era. Hiramizumi is a city reigned by the Northern Fujiwara, which successfully created peace and prosperity for nearly 100 years. On the grounds of Chusonji Temple, there remains the ancient Konjikido (Golden Hall), which is a symbol of the temple, conveying an image of what it looked like in its prime.
★ Standing in a quiet space surrounded by lush greenery on the temple grounds, I was impressed by what people felt when strongly longing for peace.
Fee：Adult 800 yen
|Address||202 Hiraizumi Koromonoseki, Hiraizumi-cho, Nishi Iwai County, Iwate|
|Access||JR Hiraizumi Sta. → 20 min walk, or 10 min by circuit bus|
|Business hours||8:30-17:00 (March-November 3), 8:30-16:30 (November 4-February)|
|Regular holiday||Open 365 days|
9. See the cherry tree at Koiwai Farm
Located at the base of Mount Iwate, this huge farm was established in 1891. In addition to enjoying playing with animals and enjoying delicious fresh milk and sweets, the cherry tree standing alone in the grazing ground is also one of the features of the farm. The cherry blossoms with Mount Iwate in the background are like a symbol of a warm and bright spring after the bitterly cold winter of the Tohoku area. The best time to see the cherry blossoms is late April to early May.
Fee：Adult 800 yen in the green season (mid-April-early November)
|Address||36-1 Maruyachi, Shizukuishi-cho, Iwate County, Iwate|
|Access||JR Morioka Sta. → 30 min by bus|
|Business hours||9:00-17:00 (Admission until 16:00)|
|Regular holiday||No fixed holiday|
10. Enjoy the old samurai residences and weeping cherry blossoms in Kakunodate
Founded in 1620 by lord Yoshikatsu Ashina, Kakunodate prospered as a castle town and still retains the old streetscapes from several hundreds years ago. The streetscapes, which makes you feel as if you were back in time, and the view of full-blown cherry blossoms create an indescribable quaint atmosphere. It is highly recommended to visit the two weeping cherry trees in front of Kakunodate Kabazaiku Denshokan museum. The trees and the historic gate create a perfect harmony.
|Address||Kakunodate-machi, Semboku City, Akita|
|Access||JR Kakunodate Sta. → 15 min walk|
11. Visit the famous spot featured in “Oku no Hosomichi”
Risshakuji Temple in Yamagata Prefecture is famous as the temple which was visited by the famous haiku poet Matsuo Basho in “Oku no Hosomichi” (The Narrow Road to the Deep North) and where he created the famous poem about cicadas.* It is really hard to reach the top by climbing up 1,015 stone steps, but you can get a great view from Godaido Hall on top while feeling a refreshing breeze.
* ‘shizukesa ya iwa ni shimiiru semi no koe’ | ‘deep silence / the shrilling of cicadas / penetrates the rocks’
Fee：Adult 300 yen
|Address||4456 Yamadera, Yamagata City, Yamagata|
|Access||JR Yamagata Sta. → 10 min walk|
|Business hours||8:00-17:00 (varies depending on the season)|
|Regular holiday||Open 365 days|
12. Enjoy a great view of a wonderful emerald-green lake at Okama crater in Zao
Enjoy a great view of a wonderful emerald-green lake at Okama crater in Zao Zao’s Okama is a round crater lake. The surface of the lake is shining in emerald green color, creating a mystical atmosphere. Since the tone of color changes due to the angle of sunlight, the lake is also called “goshiki-numa” (five-colored pond).
|Access||JR Shiraishizao Sta. → 1 hr 35 min by bus → Last stop (operates on Sat, Sun, holidays, no operation from early November to late April)|
13. View autumn foliage in Matsushima, considered as one of the “Three Great Sights” of Japan
Matsushima is a scenic site, with Matsushima Bay facing the Pacific Ocean with more than 260 small islands. You can get a great view of beautiful nature each season, and the most recommended one is autumn foliage. Among others, the garden of Entsuin Temple presents a gorgeous landscape with red, orange, and yellow leaves. It is also recommended to visit some of the islands on a sightseeing boat while feeling the ocean breeze.
★ Matsushima is also famous for oysters! Matsushima’s oysters are in season in winter and characterized by firm flesh and rich taste. The area has many places serving oysters, so please enjoy the taste of winter in Matsushima!
|Address||Matsushima, Matsushima-machi, Miyagi|
|Access||JR Matsushima Sta. → 20 min walk / JR Matsuhimakaigan Sta. → short walk|
14. Mesmerized by Takizakura in Miharu
The huge weeping cherry blossom tree over 1,000 years old, called Takizakura, a symbol of Miharu Town, has been designated a national natural treasure, and is considered one of the Three Most Beautiful Cherry Blossom views in Japan. Numerous light pink blossoms on the weeping branches stretching in four directions look just like waterfalls. It looks gorgeous and beautiful from all directions, which is overwhelming.
★ There are other wonderful views of cherry blossoms in this area besides Takizakura. In Miharu Town, there are about 10,000 cherry trees, making the whole town a cherry viewing spot, with 70 weeping cherry trees of over 100 years of age! Walk around the town to see them.
Fee：300 yen（From the next day when the bloom of cherry blossom is announced until the flowers fall, late March-early April every year）
|Address||296 Takizakurakubo, Miharu-machi, Tamura County, Fukushima|
|Access||JR Miharu Sta. → Takizakura-daichushajo (large parking lot) by special bus “Takizakura-go”|
|Business hours||6:00-18:00（Admission until 20:30 during the illumination period）|
15. Climb up a mysterious corridor of Aizu Sazaedo
Aizu Sazaedo is a tower built in 1796 with a double-helix structure, which is rare worldwide. The tower was designed so that visitors won’t have to pass each other to ensure their safety in the tower. Once you step inside, you will find a single spiral slope going up. As you go up, you will lose your sense of balance and feel funny…
Fee：Adult 400 yen
|Address||155 Yahata Takizawa, Ikki-machi, Aizuwakamatsu City, Fukushima|
|Access||JR Aizu-Wakamatsu Sta. → Iimoriyama-shita stop by “Haikara-san” bus or “Akabe” bus → 5 min walk|
|Business hours||8:15-sunset (April-November), 9:00-16:00 (December-March)|
|Regular holiday||Open 365 days|