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Travelling to Tohoku Region from Tokyo

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3 posts
13 reviews
Travelling to Tohoku Region from Tokyo

Hi there, My family ( 2 A + 2 C 11yrs & 9 yrs) would like to travel from Tokyo to Tohoku region and it will be our first time to this region. We are planning to visit from Dec 13 2018 to Dec 28 2018. Some of the cities/places we would like to visit are - Yamagata, Zao Fox Village, Ginza Onsen, Aomori, Hachinohe, Morioka, Sendai, Matsushima, Ouchijuku, Akita, Niigata, Sanriku Coast, Nagano and Nikko being our last stop (as the kids would like to visit Edo wonderland park close from 8 - 21 Dec) before heading back to Airport for our flight home.


1) Any recommendation on how should I start my travelling route to ensure best use the days we have during this period to avoid unnecessary travel time.

2) Is it safe to drive during this period? Any possible road closure during this time of year. (We have driven in Japan before).

3) We find it is cheaper to drive from Tokyo and return ( since we have 4 of us ) instead of buying the JR East Pass which only valid for 5 days ( likely have to buy 3 times throughout the trip? ) or how should I use the JR East Pass during my trip to maximise the best return and then for the longer stay in the same cities, renting a car is an option?

4) Any cities beside the above mention that is worth to visit during this time of the year?

5) We would also like to avoid changing too many hotels and which location should be use as a base to cover the most on travelling time.

5) Any recommendation of number of stay in each locations or a day trip is sufficient to some of these cities?

Thanks for any recommendation or help can be given as I have been struggling for the past months trying to come up with the itinerary after surfing too many website of Tohoku region.

8 replies to this topic
New York City, New...
7 posts
1. Re: Travelling to Tohoku Region from Tokyo


I don’t have experience driving in the Tohoku region in December, but I just want to point out that the JR East Pass is actually valid for two weeks, with your choice of five traveling days. So if you were to headquarter yourself in a major city near the sites you wish to visit, or lose yourself in an onsen for a few days, it is not a bad option.

The one recommendation I have for Tohoku that your itinerary did not mention is the city of Hiraizumi, which has been registered as a World Heritage site because of Chusonji, a family mortuary temple of three generations of local Fujiwara lords who lived about 1000 years ago. A lot of gold and lacquer and inlaid mother of pearl went into the temple.

Tohoku region has also developed many fun train routes to attract visitors since the 311 Earthquake. If you look up Joyful Trains of JR East, there may routes you can take that would also make your journey memorable as you speed towards your destination (like super-wide windows on a train that runs along the Sea of Japan coast to Aomori prefecture, or the Pokémon train in Southern Iwate prefecture ).

Edited: 12 June 2018, 09:29
Level Contributor
38 posts
2. Re: Travelling to Tohoku Region from Tokyo

instead of buying the JR pass, i'd suggest buying the tohoku bus ticket which covers most routes in tohoku.


Level Contributor
5,102 posts
11 reviews
3. Re: Travelling to Tohoku Region from Tokyo

It will be a long distance drive from Tokyo, and until you escape out of greater Tokyo/Kanto Region, there is possibility of congestion (the buses get caught up in them and make me regret that I should have paid more for the train). Roads north of Shirakawa are normally quite smooth.

People would hate it driving within Tokyo and I would normally suggest against renting a car in Tokyo (unless you have driving experiences in large cities in Japan).

It is quite straightforward - Tohoku Expressway up until Fukushima or Sendai then diverting to Yamagata Prefecture for the nicer laid back countryside basin. North of Sendai into Hiraizumi and Kakunodate are great but my only worry is the fatigue of driving long-distance. Really, it would be more ideal to take the high speed train to Sendai then rent a car, but that would be an issue of budget.

Edited: 12 June 2018, 10:35
Hong Kong, China
Level Contributor
7,321 posts
190 reviews
4. Re: Travelling to Tohoku Region from Tokyo

agree with SBG in #3 - not a good idea to drive from Tokyo at all.

Unless you have ample driving experience on snowy/icy roads, don't drive but rely on public transports in Tohoku. Snow would accumulate from mid-Dec, more in the northern prefectures and mountainous areas such as Zao, Ginzan onsen towns etc.

I used to have my first ski in late Dec in Honshu till 2015. Blizzards were often reported in Akita, Aomori and Yamagata prefectures on local TV news. When we last skied in Naeba, Kagura ski resorts in Niigata in end Dec 2014, 30-50cm of fresh snow was dumped in a day.

Level Contributor
4,279 posts
39 reviews
5. Re: Travelling to Tohoku Region from Tokyo

On December 31, Ouchijuku, I went to Aomori at the beginning of January. Already, snow was piled up.

You may as well quit driving as long as you have never driven the snow road.

If you have been to Shirakawa-go, you may not be satisfied with Ouchijuku. If you go to Ouchijuku, I recommend you go with Aizu-wakamatsu.

In Aomori at the beginning of January, the train stopped due to a snowstorm.

Please reduce the number of spots to visit and allow time to spare.

You think that you are not used to cold, so you may want to buy disposable body warmers(tsukaisute kairo) etc at convenience stores and drug stores.

You may already have seen this, but please refer to it.


Recommended spots vary depending on what you are interested in.

Level Contributor
3 posts
13 reviews
6. Re: Travelling to Tohoku Region from Tokyo

Thank you all for the valuable suggestion. Seems like driving from Tokyo to Tohoku region is not recommended during the winter. Will move via rail for intercities and rent a car within the cities for sight seeing instead. Will also check out on Hiraizumi and Aizu-wakamatsu as per your recommendation.

Anyone have driven to Oirase Stream during this time of the year (Dec). I heard there is no public transport from Dec to Feb. So is self driving the only way to get to there?

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Tohoku, Hokkaido
Level Contributor
7,582 posts
7. Re: Travelling to Tohoku Region from Tokyo

There is bus service between Towada-ko and the town of Towada that passes through Oirase Stream. Towada can be reached by bus from either Aomori or Hachinohe.


Level Contributor
4,279 posts
39 reviews
8. Re: Travelling to Tohoku Region from Tokyo

There is no bus to go to Oirase Stream, but if you reach Keiryuukan there is a bus.


You may be called a taxi here.

You can also ask questions by e-mail for details.

If you stay in an accommodation in Towada lake, there may be a place where there is a pick-up service.

Keiryuukan is a seven - day tourist information center.

I went to Towada City in January.

I took a bus from Aomori station to Towada city. (Shin Aomori station departs)


From Towada City, there is a bus bound for Keiryuukan.


Besides, from Hachinohe, Shichinohe Towada, you can also take the bus to Towada city.




Driving snow is not really recommended.

Once in a while, I got on a car that turned on snow.

Please be careful in sudden braking, excessive speeding out.

I also recommend Towada City's contemporary art museum.

You can also see the space in front of the museum for free.


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