- For ones who travel with JR pass, always visit Hyperdia for updated time schedule.
- Pack light, you will travel a lot during day time. Comfort shoes should be the best.
- Fares are indicated in the post only when they are not covered by JR pass.
Day 1: Nikko
Upon arrived Nikko, I purchased Chuzenji Onsen Free Pass (2000¥) that allows pass holder to hop on any bus from anywhere in between Nikko JR station to Chuzenji Onsen, including World Heritage area. This bus is valid for 2 days so it is also suitable for those who stay overnight.
I am only interested in Kegon fall and Chuzenji lake as I was visiting World Heritage site before. First time visitors should spend an extra hour there instead. It's 10 minutes walking from Chuzenji bus stop (last bus stop of the pass) to Kegon fall and another 15 minutes from the fall to the lake.
Day 2: ZaO Onsen - Okama - Yamadera -Sendai
Enjoy ZaO town when walking to ZaO ropeway station. This old village is full of natural onsens and you basically can smell the sunfur anywhere. Ropeway takes 1 hour round trip and costs 1500¥-2600¥. You can exchange your ticket for an ice cream or a drink at the top.
From the ropeway station, catch the bus to Okama Crater. The whole trip takes around an hour and costs around 1400¥. The crater is my most favorite place in this trip due to its uniqueness. The lake literally changed its color right in front of my face whenever strong wind blew.
Take the bus bask to Yamagata station (2050¥) and transfer to local train to Yamadera. Challenge your feet again by half an hour walking to reach the temple on top of the mountain to catch a great view of the city.
Depart to Sendai via local train and enjoy ox tongue dish, the local specialty.
Day 3: Matsushima - Hiraizumi
After that go back Sendai and take Shinkansen & transfer to local train to Hiraizumi via Ichinoseki. You can spend whole afternoon enjoying the World Heritage site and Chusonji temple. Depart to Morioka from Hiraizumi.
Day 4: Towada Lake
Day 5: Aomori - Hirosaki
Take the bus from Towadako bus station to Aomori where you can enjoy the beautiful scenery along 3 hour journey. Once arrive Aomori, you can start hunting for food at Furukawa fish market near JR station. The iconic Aomori bridge and Nebuta museum are all within walking distance from fish market and worth a short visit. You can catch the prominent Nebuta festival if you visit Aomori in early August.
After lunch I decided to catch the train to the nearby Hirosaki city, as Hirosaki castle is the only castle that remains in Tohoku region. There is a loop bus that passes all tourist places in Hirosaki with 100¥ fare. It's honestly too cheap to miss. I was a little bit disappointed as the castle was under renovation (check website before you want to go anywhere guys!). However, the castle still looked good from outside and there was autumn foliage exhibition when I was there. Back to Aomori and enjoy night life there.
Day 6: Juniko
Take the Resort Shirakami train from Aomori to Juniko. This is a very special train that requires you to reserve with JR pass. There is performance on public area in the train and wide glass windows that allow you to enjoy scenic places while travelling in slow speed. Try to reserve as soon as possible to get a good view.
Alight at Juniko station and take the bus to the viewing area, each way costs around 430¥. There are actually more than 12 lakes as the name suggests (Juni = 12 in Japanese, Ko = lake). Be prepared, you will find yourself get lost in the wonderland and no matter how long you spend here, it's simply not enough. Foods (ramen, curry, etc.), snacks and lockers can be purchased at the shop house here. Even though there are around 33 lakes, Aoike (blue lake) seems to be the most famous of them all.
Take the same train to Akita and enjoy the night in this town.
Day 7: Kakunodate
If you are not visiting the town in the right season or you are not interested in Samurai houses, Nyuto Osen or Tazawa lake are other alternative choices. I picked Kakunodate for my trip as I already visit ZaO onsen and Towada lake earlier on. Wild vegetable ramen is a good option for lunch. After that, take the direct Shinkansen back to Tokyo.