• Overview
  • Itinerary
  • Locations
  • Booking

 

  • Experience Japan’s rugged north and learn its unique culture and customs, born out of its historical isolation from the Japanese mainland.
  • Walk around the Sannai Matuyama Historical Site, the largest discovered relic of Japan’s Jomon era. This pre-historical period that spanned 15,000 to 2,300 years ago.
  • Explore the exceptionally well-preserved Edo era city of Kuroishi and its rustic hot-spring districts.
  • Walk along Oirase Stream, a natural gem of Japan full of scenic wonders.
  • Visit Osore Mountain, one of the most sacred places in Japan and believed to connect this world with the afterlife.
  • Explore spectacular Hotoke-ga-ura’s giant rocks resembling statues of Buddhas.
  • Board a vessel manned by a local fisherman to watch bluefin tuna fishing in Oma, known all across the country as the source of Japan’s most coveted tuna.

Tour Level

Fitness: ★★  Skill: ●●●


The Tsugaru Shimokita Walk tour is a fully guided tour suitable for anyone who can walk for more than {xx} to {xx} hours in comfort. In general, the route is flat but also includes some inclines. This is a 7 day, 6 night tour starting in the town of Aomori and ending in Hakodate in Hokkaido. Your tour accommodation will consist of hotels and Japanese inns. The maximum group size for this tour is {xx} persons. The minimum group size for this tour is {xx} persons.

The Tsugaru Shimokita Walk tour is a stunning journey through Japan’s Tohoku region, which is located in the northern part of the main island Honshu. The region is well known for its countryside, mountains, lakes, hot springs, high quality rice and harsh winters. Historical Japanese settlement of Tohoku initially occurred between the 7th and 9th centuries, well after civilization and culture had become firmly established in central and southwestern parts of Japan.

Six prefectures, Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Miyagi, Yamagata and Fukushima, comprise the Tohoku region. Among them, this tour will take you between two distinctive regions of Aomori, Tsugaru and Shimokita. Here we will experience the unique customs and culture born of centuries of isolation at the northern end of Tohoku.

Our tour begins in Aomori City, the prefectural capital which began its life as a port town. From here we will explore the culture, history and food of Tsugaru and Shimokita. In both areas, the most astonishing and unforgettable experience may be their breathtaking natural beauty. Places such as Oirase Stream, Osore Mountain and the Hotoke-ga-ura Coastline are revered by nature lovers and photographers.

Located at the northernmost tip of Honshu, Aomori is rich in nature and surrounded by the sea on three sides. That said, Aomori is well-known for its use of fresh seafood. Local cuisine utilizes a wide variety of techniques to prepare the bounty from Aomori’s seas. These natural blessings have long made Aomori a place of plenty. Due to its ability to provide stable year-round food sources, the ancient Jomon people formed some of the largest yet discovered settlements. In areas such as Sannai Maruyama and Komakino, we can witness these relics today.

Kuroishi boasts a well-preserved townscape originating from the Edo period, when it was a castle town. Both Komise Street and Nakano Momiji Mountain and Temple are a few highlights. In addition, while in the center of town you will have an opportunity to experience two regional assets. A local sake tasting will allow you to taste the regions sake, made from the area’s delicious rice and pure water. Furthermore, we can witness a lively and powerful performance of Tsugaru Shamisen, a local style of music which has gained fame all over Japan.

This tour will also take you to Oirase Stream. As you slowly make your way along the meandering spring-side path, take in the vibrant nature that is breathtaking in all seasons. With its many waterfalls and scenic wonders, this is a natural gem of Japan and a truly unforgettable experience.

In remote Shimokita you will explore some of the most sacred places in all of Japan. Mt. Osore is a special place to many Japanese, as it seen to connect this world with the afterlife. We will stroll the grounds of this revered site and listen to a guide explain more about its historical and religious significance. Following this, you will board a sightseeing boat to view the magnificent seaside rock formations of Hotoke-ga-ura. Formed by the gradual erosion of the volcanic rocks found here by the winds and waves, these giant rocks invoke an otherworldly image along a two kilometer stretch of coast. Each rock has been named after different Buddhist themes.

Ohma

This tour will also take you to Oma, offering a truly unique opportunity! Here we board a vessel and head straight into the thick of battle to catch the highly sought after prized Bluefin tuna. Listen to your guide, an authentic fisherman, explain the daily life of a tuna fishermen and the importance of these fish for the town. The tour will then take you to Hakodate, which became one of the first international trade ports in Japan. Here you can see a truly fascinating mixture of Japanese and Western culture.

Throughout the tour, allow yourself to take in the customs and ways of the people who endured and thrived in this rugged land, way up at the far northern tip of Japan’s mainland. Here you can feel the dynamic touch of nature which has formed a unique sense of Japan.

Day 1, Tokyo – Shin-Aomori – Aomori

The tour will start at Tokyo Station (meeting at the Nihonbashi entrance) where the group will take a shinkansen (bullet train) to Shin Aomori Station. After that, the group will board a mini-bus to Sannai Maruyama Historical Site, the largest discovered Jomon site in Japan. We will walk through recreations of the settlement which was first inhabited 4,500 to 5,000 years ago. We will also view the numerous excavated items at the site’s museum.

We will continue by bus to Makino Jomon Ruins, where we can see a circular stone ceremonial site constructed in the late Jomon period. After first stopping at a refurbished elementary school which serves as the site’s museum, we will continue on to the actual site by foot where we can view the stone ring. Not only can we glimpse back into the ancient past of Japan, but we also can see magnificent views over Aomori City from the site.

Later, we will head towards a hotel in the city. Once you have refreshed yourself, the group will move to an authentic Japanese pub to enjoy some of the regional cuisine of Aomori. Aomori is famous for its food from both the mountains and the seas.

Accommodation: Hotel.
Meals: Dinner provided.
Total walking: N/A.
Total elevation gain: N/A.

Day 2, Aomori – Kuroishi – Oirase

After an early checking out from our hotel, we will continue on to Aomori Gyosai Center for breakfast. Here we find a local fish market famed for its Nokkedon, a dish popular with locals and tourists. Each vendor has an array of fresh fish, vegetables, fruits and more that we can select to put over a bowl of hot rice.

After filling our stomachs, we will board the bus to a museum which commemorates the Hakkoda Mountains Incident. We will learn about how in 1902, members of the Japanese Army’s 5th regiment became lost in a blizzard during a training exercise, with many perishing in the harsh conditions. Outside, we can enjoy a leisurely stroll through the green spaces and gardens of the grounds.

Afterwards, we will venture to Kuroishi City by bus. As we drive, you can see the many beautiful apple orchards that Aomori is famous for. Our first destination is Nakano Momiji Mountain, home to a shrine which boasts 600 year old great cedar trees. The mountain is also famous for its stunning waterfalls and equally gorgeous nature. From there, we will walk to a nearby hot spring town, which has been providing relaxing and therapeutic baths for over 400 years. Here, we will have a lunch that makes use of local ingredients.

Next up is a trip to the center of Kuroishi City where we will explore Komise Street, popular for its preservation of buildings from the Edo period of Japan. Stopping at Komise Station, we can take in a lively and powerful performance of Tsugaru Shamisen, a local style of music which has gained fame all over Japan. This will be followed by a sake tasting at a nearby brewery. The sake here combines the delicious rice and water of Aomori to make a taste representative of the Tsugaru region.

From Kuroishi City we will make our way to our final stop at a hotel near Oirase Stream, which flows out from nearby Lake Towada. At your hotel, you will finish your day by enjoying a leisurely hot spring bath then dinner.

Accommodation: Japanese inn with onsen thermal hot spring baths.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.
Total walking: 2km (1.2 miles) / 2 hours.
Total elevation gain: 263m (863ft).

 

Day 3, Oirase – Asamushi Onsen

After breakfast at the hotel, we will venture to Oirase Stream.

As you slowly make your way along the spring-side path, take in the vibrant nature, breathtaking in all seasons. With its many waterfalls and scenic wonders, Oirase Stream is a natural gem of Japan and a truly memorable experience. Our destination will be Choshi Otaki Waterfall. This majestic waterfall is over 7 meters high and 20 meters wide. Afterwards, we will have lunch at Nenokuchi near the shores of Lake Towada.

From Lake Towada, you will continue by bus to Asamushi Hot Springs.

For over 800 years, this hot spring town has been the much-loved destination for the people of Aomori City. Here we will enjoy famous Aomori Bay scallops, prepared in a local style. Fed by the rich nutrients coming down from the nearby mountains and hot springs, these scallops are renowned for their large size and delicious taste.

Accommodation: Japanese inn with onsen thermal hot spring baths.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Total walking: 7.5km (4.7 miles) / 3 hours.
Total elevation gain: 200m (656ft).

Day 4, Asamushi Onsen – Noheji – Mutsu

After breakfast we will head to Hachimangu Shrine, which is believed to have been first constructed in the Asamushi area of 1282 AD. The current shrine was rebuilt by locals in 1915, and is visited by worshippers from all over Aomori Prefecture. After visiting the shrine, we will continue on for a short trek on the nearby Yachiyama Mountain trail. Take a moment to observe the many varieties of wild flowers common to Aomori, such as azaleas and yukizasa. At the summit, which once served as the playground for local children in days past, you can enjoy beautiful views of the blue waters of Mutsu Bay. The many islands dotted throughout sea seem to float on the waves.

On the way back from the summit, we will stop at Mutsu Gokokuji Temple, which was moved to its present location in 1936. Through the dedication of local residents, a recreation of the famed 88 temple pilgrimage was constructed on the mountainside using statues of Buddha. This widely popular path marks this temple as the “Koyasan” of Asamushi. Koyasan is revered as the center of Shingon Buddhism, and is located in Wakayama Prefecture. Stop inside the temple to view a preserved length of rope used to haul the sacred stones up the mountain. This rope was made from the hair of over 13000 devoted female worshippers who donated their locks to the temple.

After one of our more arduous hikes of the tour, we will stop for a lunch consisting of local foods.

From here we will board the bus and continue on to Mutsu City, located in the Shimokita Peninsula of Aomori. Here you can feel the history of Mutsu City, which first prospered as a rustic port town during the Edo Period. Our dinner for the day will be fresh seafood from Mutsu Bay, as well as local Shimokita cuisine. After dinner, refresh yourself in the hot spring to end the day.

Accommodation: Hotel.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Total walking: 6km (3.7 miles) / 3 hours.
Total elevation gain:180m (590ft).

Osorezan
Osorezan believed to be connecting this world with the afterlife

Day 5, Mutsu – Sai – Oma

After breakfast, we will head out to see the famed Mt. Osore. Here you will see a place special to many Japanese, as it seen to connect this world with the afterlife. It is one of the three most sacred mountains of Japan, and the temple found here, Bodai-ji, was founded in 862 by the famed monk Ennin. Here you will see the charred landscape of blasted rocks, surrounded by bubbling sulfur pits which certainly give it a sense of being the entrance to hell. Conversely, the white sand beaches along Lake Usori, with its lush green of the surrounding mountains conjure up images of heaven. A small bridge crosses a brook which feeds into Lake Usori, and is said to be the bridge of the dead. Only those who have led good lives will be able to find this bridge. For those that did not, the bridge will be but a faint image in the mists. We will stroll the grounds of this revered site and listen to a guide explain more about its historical and religious significance.

Following our walk around Mt. Osore, we will continue by bus to the small fishing village of Sai. Along the way, keep your eyes open for wild deer and perhaps even Japan’s famous snow monkeys!

We will enjoy a lunch of local cuisine in the village, followed by a presentation of a unique form of Kabuki called Fisherman’s Kabuki. In years long past through the long hard winters, the people here had few means of entertainment. A travelling Kabuki master taught the people of Sai some basics of Kabuki, and it wasn’t long before the villagers began to perform it in earnest. Enjoy learning more about this rare cultural gem. Following this, we will board a sightseeing boat to view the magnificent seaside rock formations of Hotoke-ga-ura. Formed by the gradual erosion of the volcanic rocks by the winds and waves, these giant rocks invoke an otherworldly image along a two kilometer stretch of coast. Each rock has been named after different Buddhist themes, and you will be amazed at their size when you get up close.

Finally, we will head towards Shimofuro hot springs in the village of Kazamamura. The hot springs here have been attracting bathers for centuries, and will allow you to relax and refresh yourself after the busy day. Naturally, dinner will be a sampling of seasonal seafood from Tsugaru Strait, famed for its high quality catches.

Accommodation: Japanese inn with onsen thermal hot spring baths.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.
Total walking: N/A.
Total elevation gain: N/A.

ome tuna
Tuna fishing in Oma

Day 6, Oma – Hakodate

After breakfast we will head to Oma Town, the northernmost town of Honshu that faces the Tsugaru Strait. Oma is famous all over the country as the source of “Oma tuna”, regarded as the highest quality of Bluefin tuna. Here you can experience a way of life that is found less and less in Japan with time. The town itself has enjoyed a resurgence of tourist interest after being the focus of a TV drama in the year 2000. Since then, residents have worked together to make the town more welcoming to tourists who wish to see the Town of Tuna.

ome tuna
Tuna-don (sashimi over rice) with Oma Tuna

In Oma we will board a tuna boat and head straight into the thick of battle, to catch the highly sought after prized Bluefin tuna. Listen to your guide, an authentic fisherman, explain the daily life of a tuna fishermen and the importance of these fish for the town. If lucky, we may even have the chance to observe our hosts engage in a fight with these monstrous fish, which can weigh more than 200 kilograms. Fish this size can sell for millions of yen at auction, making each hooked tuna worth every ounce of energy to reel in.

After returning from our fishing excursion, we will enjoy a lunch in Oma before heading for the ferry, which will take us on our last leg of the trip. Enjoy the 1.5 hour trip across the Tsugaru Strait, bound for Hakodate. Here you can relax at the hotel or enjoy some of the sites nearby in the city. We will meet for our last dinner together to reflect upon and share our experiences.

Accommodation: Hotel.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.
Total walking: N/A.
Total elevation gain: N/A.

Hakodate
Hakodate with mixed culture of Japan and Western

Day 7, Hakodate

After breakfast we will say our goodbyes, but please continue to enjoy your trip in Hakodate and Hokkaido afterwards. As Hakodate became one of the first international trade ports in Japan, many Western-style historical buildings such as the former city hall, a group of churches, and Japanese homes with a mixed western and Japanese aesthetic can be found. There are many sights that can be easily reached by foot, such as historic Goryokaku fort.

Finally, if you hope to travel to another area in Hokkaido such as Otaru or Sapporo, the leader accompanying will help you to buy JR tickets.

Accommodation: N/A.
Meals: Breakfast provided.
Total walking: N/A.
Total elevation gain: N/A

Ohma

Oma

Oma is famous nationwide for its catch of tuna from the Tsugaru Strait. Tourists can enjoy for themselves this highly sought after fish in the stalls and shops all over town.

Oma is surrounded by the sea with all its treasures, and thus more than just tuna has exceptionally high quality seafood. Shellfish such as squid, abalone, sea urchin and sea snails are especially delicious.

 

Sai

Fisherman’s Kabuki is a very rare form of kabuki performed in Sai village.

It has been passed down by fishermen for over 100 years. It is believed to have started when a kabuki actor from Osaka, Kikugoro Nakamura, and his wife visited Sai sometime around 1890.

 

Osorezan

Mutsu City

Mutsu City lies in the center of axe-shaped Shimokita. To its south is Mutsu Bay, while the Tsugaru Strait is on its north, marking it as an area influenced by two very different waters. In the Edo Period, it was a holding of the Morioka clan, which held its seat of power in present day Iwate Prefecture. From that time it was the major town of the Shimokita region, prospering from its port access and river ways. These days, it is noted for its beautiful nature and delicious seafood.

 

Kuroishi

Located in the center of Aomori prefecture, this city of apple and rice has long made use of its many natural blessings. In the Edo period, Kuroishi was a castle town that prospered as a branch clan of the Hirosaki clan. It is also a city of Hot Springs, where many different kinds of baths can be experienced. In addition, the traditions and history of the area have been cultivated. Crafts such as Kokeshi wooden dolls are made in the hot spring district, and sake made from the area’s delicious rice and pure water are remarkable.

 

Aomori City

Located in the central part of Aomori Prefecture, Aomori is the prefectural capital. It is also a key access point to Aomori Bay, having been developed in the Edo era as a major transport and logistics hub to connect Honshu and Hokkaido. There is heavy snowfall in winter, with the average snow cover at any given time being 111 cm. Annual total snowfall averages 669 cm. Among cities with a comparable sized population (300,000 people), statistically it is world’s heaviest snowfall city.