15 Sightseeing Spots in Hokkaido and Tohoku! att.JAPAN’s Top Picks All the Best Things to Do in Japan Vol. 1

att.JAPAN’s Top Picks All the Best Things to Do in Japan 
→Vol. 1 Hokkaido and Tohoku 
→Vol. 2 Tokyo and Kanto    
→Vol. 3 Chubu    
→Vol. 4 Kansai and West Japan   
→Vol. 5 Shikoku   
→Vol. 6 Kyushu and Okinawa   
 

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!

 

【Hokkaido】

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.

the Norokko Train

*Reservation required for Observation cars. Please check the website for details.  
https://www.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/travel/tour-train/tour-train03.html

Access Kushiro Sta. → Take “Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko Train”
URLhttps://www.env.go.jp/en/nature/nps/park/kushiro/index.html

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!

the Ainu at Upopoy
mukkuri

画像提供:(公財)アイヌ民族文化財団

Fee: Adult 1,200 yen

Address 2-3 Wakakusa-cho, Shiraoi-cho, Shiraoi County, Hokkaido
AccessJR Shiraoi Sta. → 10 min walk
Telephone number0144-82-3914
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)
URLhttps://ainu-upopoy.jp/en/

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!

Noboribetsu Onsen

Fee:Free

AddressNoboribetsu Onsen-cho, Noboribetsu City, Hokkaido
AccessNew Chitose Airport → 1 hr 15 min by expressway bus → Noboribetsu Onsen town → 15 min by walk
Telephone number0143-84-3311(登別国際観光コンベンション協会)
Business hours24 hours (Please be aware that there are no lights at night)
Regular holidayOpen 365 days
URLhttps://noboribetsu-spa.jp/en/

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. 
https://www.kkday.com/en-us/product/128506

AddressKuranuma, Higashi Asahikawa-cho, Asahikawa City, Hokkaido
AccessJR Asahikawa Sta. → 40 min by bus
Telephone number0166-36-1104
Business hours9:30-17:15(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 holidayNo fix holiday during summer and winter season (Please check the website)
URLhttps://honyaku.j-server.com/LUCAKC/ns/tl.cgi/https://www.city.asahikawa.hokkaido.jp/asahiyamazoo/index.html?SLANG=ja&TLANG=en&XMODE=0&XCHARSET=utf-8&XJSID=0

【Aomori】

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.

 

AccessJR 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.

画像提供:(公社)青森観光コンベンション協会

 

AddressAround Aomori Sta. in Aomori City
AccessJR Aomori Sta. → 5 min walk
Business hoursAugust 2-7 every year
URLhttps://www.nebuta.jp/foreign/english.html

【Iwate】

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

Address202 Hiraizumi Koromonoseki, Hiraizumi-cho, Nishi Iwai County, Iwate
AccessJR Hiraizumi Sta. → 20 min walk, or 10 min by circuit bus
Telephone number0191-46-2211
Business hours8:30-17:00 (March-November 3), 8:30-16:30 (November 4-February)
Regular holidayOpen 365 days
URLhttps://www.chusonji.or.jp/language_en/index.html

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.

写真提供:小岩井農牧(株)

 

Fee:Adult 800 yen in the green season (mid-April-early November)

Address36-1 Maruyachi, Shizukuishi-cho, Iwate County, Iwate
AccessJR Morioka Sta. → 30 min by bus
Telephone number019-692-4321
Business hours9:00-17:00 (Admission until 16:00)
Regular holidayNo fixed holiday
URLhttps://www.koiwai.co.jp/makiba/en/

【Akita】

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.

 

AddressKakunodate-machi, Semboku City, Akita
AccessJR Kakunodate Sta. → 15 min walk
URLhttps://tazawako-kakunodate.com/en/

【Yamagata】

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

Address4456 Yamadera, Yamagata City, Yamagata
AccessJR Yamagata Sta. → 10 min walk
Telephone number023-695-2843
Business hours8:00-17:00 (varies depending on the season)
Regular holidayOpen 365 days
URLhttps://www.yamaderakankou.com/

【Miyagi】

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).

 

AccessJR 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!

 

AddressMatsushima, Matsushima-machi, Miyagi
AccessJR Matsushima Sta. → 20 min walk / JR Matsuhimakaigan Sta. → short walk
Telephone number022-354-2618(松島観光協会)
URLhttps://www.matsushima-kanko.com/en/

【Fukushima】

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.

 

Fee300 yenFrom the next day when the bloom of cherry blossom is announced until the flowers fall, late March-early April every year

Address296 Takizakurakubo, Miharu-machi, Tamura County, Fukushima
AccessJR Miharu Sta. → Takizakura-daichushajo (large parking lot) by special bus “Takizakura-go”
Telephone number0247-62-3690(みはる観光協会)
Business hours6:00-18:00(Admission until 20:30 during the illumination period)
Regular holiday
URLhttps://miharukoma.com/experience/183

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

Address155 Yahata Takizawa, Ikki-machi, Aizuwakamatsu City, Fukushima
AccessJR Aizu-Wakamatsu Sta. → Iimoriyama-shita stop by “Haikara-san” bus or “Akabe” bus → 5 min walk
Telephone number0242-22-3163
Business hours8:15-sunset (April-November), 9:00-16:00 (December-March)
Regular holidayOpen 365 days
URLhttp://www.sazaedo.jp/

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The information herein is as of Sep 2023
Writer
att.JAPAN Editorial Team
att.JAPAN consists of members in their 20s and 30s, and we are all travel lovers. In addition to information about sightseeing and great dishes all over Japan, we offer a wide range of information about various subjects/topics, such as onsen (hot spring) and ryokan hotels. We introduce lots of information only att.JAPAN can offer, including information about famous sightseeing spots, the latest news about new facilities all over Japan and rare less-known areas in Tokyo, one-day model walking courses, and anime pilgrimages. We also offer contents to introduce Japan from the view of writers from abroad.

Hokkaido Article

Nature/spectacular views/scenery Article