Sample itinerary Tohoku 7 days by Japan Rail Pass 7 days

Yamadera is located between Yamagata and Sendai. ©JNTO
Yamadera is located between Yamagata and Sendai. ©JNTO

This itinerary includes all part of Tohoku and covers many popular spots, such as Nikko, Zao, Matsushima, Hiraizumi, Oirase, Lake Towada, Shirakami Sanchi and Kakunodate, in 7 days. So you can simply use Japan Rail Pass 7 days. I also try to minimize an extra cost.

You may start this itinerary either from Tokyo or from Osaka. But if you can start this from Osaka, you need to take the overnight train Sunrise Seto/Izumo from Osaka to Tokyo. As long as you catch “Nobi Nobi seat” on Sunrise Seto or Izumo before the date change, you can travel without any extra charge.

Day 1

Nikko Toshogu is the most popular spot in Nikko. ©Yasufumi Nishi/© JNTO
Nikko Toshogu is the most popular spot in Nikko. ©Yasufumi Nishi/© JNTO

Departing from Osaka
00:34 Take Sunrise Seto/Izumo at Osaka station. Overnight in the train

07:08am Arrive at Tokyo station

Departing from Tokyo
08:08am Depart from Tokyo by Tohoku Shinkansen Max Yamabiko 127
09:01am Arrive at Utsunomiya station
09:12am Depart from Utsunomiya station by Nikko line local train
09:54am Arrive at Nikko station. After arrival, enjoy exploring in UNESCO World Heritage site, Nikko
14:20pm Depart from Nikko station by Nikko line local train
15:01pm Arrive at Utsunomiya station
15:59pm Depart from Utsunomiya station by Yamagata Shinkansen Tsubasa 143
18:00pm Arrive at Yamagata

*You can get Nikko from Shinjuku directly by Limited Express Nikko. But this express train goes on Tobu line. Japan Rail Pass does not cover this section. If you need more info, please refer Limited Express Nikko and Kinugawa.

*You can go to Zao Hot Springs after arrival at Yamagata. I choose only major cities to stay in this itinerary because you can find the accommodation very easily. But you can skip Yamagata and go straight to Zao. The last bus depart from Yamagata station to Zao at 18:40 and arrive at Zao at 19:17. (2011 summer timetable) Zao hot springs is a nice spa resort.

Overnight in Yamagata

Day 2

07:40am Depart from Yamagata station by Yamako bus
08:17am Arrive at Zao hot springs
Zao Ropeway start to operate at 08:30am. You can enjoy the fresh air and easy trekking at the summit. You can enjoy it for 1.5 hour.
10:10am Depart from Zao hot springs by Yamako bus
11:07am Arrive at Zao Kattasancho (Zao the summit of Katta mountain. It is known as “Okama”.)
Okama is a lava lake. You cannot access this spot in winter time. There is only one restaurant there. So it is very busy in lunch time. If you have a plan to have a lunch there, please make sure your schedule.
13:00pm Depart from Zao Kattasancho by Yamako bus
14:40pm Arrive at Yamagata station

Zao Okama ©Miyagi Prefecture/©JNTO
Zao Okama ©Miyagi Prefecture/©JNTO

*The extra cost to get to Zao is the following:
Yamako bus from Yamagata station to Zao hot springs — 980yen one way
Yamako bus from Zao hot springs to Zao Kattasancho — 1430yen one way
Yamako bus from Zao Kattasancho to Yamagata station — 1900yen one way
Zao Ropeway to the summit — 2500yen round trip

15:43pm Depart from Yamagata station by Senzan line local train
15:59pm arrive at Yamadera station

Yamadera means the mountain temple. There are several temples. Most well-known haiku poet Basho Matsuo wrote one of his famous haiku there. You can skip here if you want to arrive at Sendai earlier.

17:59 Depart from Yamadera station by Senzan line local train
18:59 Arrive at Sendai

Overnight in Sendai

Day 3

Matsushima is one of three greatest scenery in Japan. ©JNTO
Matsushima is one of three greatest scenery in Japan. ©JNTO

08:59am Depart from Sendai station by Senseki line local train
09:35am Arrive at Matsushima Kaigan station
*The pier is 5 minutes away from the station
10:00am Depart from Matsushima Kaigan pier by Matsuhima bay cruise
10:50am Arrive at Matsushima Kaigan pier

*The fare for Matsushima bay cruise is 1400yen per person
*You can enjoy easy hike up to Ogitani. The trail head is 10 minutes away from the station. It takes only 10 minutes hike up to the view point. Enjoy the panorama view of Matsushima.
You can enjoy a fresh seafood lunch here at Matsushima Sakana Ichiba (Matsushima fish market — Japanese website) after sightseeing at Matsushima. You may have a seafood lunch around 1000yen. Of course you can go back to Sendai.

12:34pm Depart from Matsushima Kaigan station by Senseki line local train
12:58pm Arrive at Sendai station
13:42pm Depart from Sendai station by Tohoku Shinkansen Yamabiko 59
14:14pm Arrive at Ichinoseki station
14:37pm Depart from Ichonoseki station by Tohoku line local train
14:45pm Arrive at Hiramizumi station

You can enjoy the newest UNESCO World Heritage site, Hiraizumi. The most famous spot in Hiraizumi is Chusonji temple. It is 25 minutes (1.6km) away from Hiraizumi station. The admission is 800yen per person. (English website)

17:39pm Depart from Hiraizumi station by Tohoku line local train
18:10pm Arrive at Kitakami station
18:33pm Depart from Kitakami station by Tohoku Shinkansen Yamabiko 67
18:52pm Arrive at Morioka station

Overnight in Morioka

Day 4

Oirase rapids is very popular walking trail in Lake Towda area.  ©AkitaPrefecture/©JNTO
Oirase rapids is very popular walking trail in Lake Towda area. ©AkitaPrefecture/©JNTO

08:59am Depart from Morioka station by Tohoku Shinkansen Hayate 11
09:33am Arrive at Hachinohe station
10:20am Depart from Hachinohe station by JR Tohoku bus Oirase 23 (JR Tohoku bus is covered by Japan Rail Pass)
12:35pm Arrive at Lake Towada

After arrival at Lake Towada, take JR Tohoku bus to Oirase rapids. Oirase rapids is located between Hachinohe and Lake Towada. But you have to get your hotel in Lake Towada and drop your luggage off because you hike at Oirase rapids.

15:00pm Depart from Lake Towada by JR Tohoku bus Mizuumi 13
15:35pm Arrive at Ishigedo bus stop
Hike from Ishigedo to Kumoi no Taki
*I choose 1 hour course (2.6km) at Oirase rapids. If you have a time and energy, you can take 9km (3 to 4 hrs) or 14km (4 to 5 hrs). In the peak periods, JR Tohoku bus have an extra bus that departs at 14:00pm. You have a time to hike in day 5 too.
*You can access Oirase rapids in winter time. But you need to prepare for the snow and cold weather. There are lots of snow in winter time.
16:57pm Depart from Kumoi no Taki bus stop by JR Tohoku bus Oirase 27.

Overnight in Lake Towada

Day 5

Autumn is the best season to visit Lake Towada. Oirase rapids is very popular walking trail in Lake Towda area.  ©Aomori Prefecture/©JNTO
Autumn is the best season to visit Lake Towada. ©Aomori Prefecture/©JNTO

Enjoy Lake Towada

12:10 Depart from Lake Towada by JR Tohoku bus Oirase 22
14:25 Arrive at Hachinohe station
14:55 Depart from Hachinohe station by Tohoku Shinkansen Hayate 25
15:19 Arrive at Shin-Aomori station
15:38 Depart from Shin-Amoroi station by Limited Express Super Hakucho 25
15:45 Arrive at Aomori station

Overnight in Aomori

Day 6

08:21am Depart from Aomori station by Rapid train Resort Shirakami
11:25am Arrive at Juniko station
11:35am Depart from Konan bus to Oku-Juniko
11:50am Arrive at Oku-Juniko in Shirakami Sanchi

Aoike is most beautiful lake in Juniko. © Yasufumi Nishi/© JNTO
Aoike is most beautiful lake in Juniko. © Yasufumi Nishi/© JNTO

*Oku-Juniko is a part of UNESCO World Heritage site Shirakami Sanchi. Juniko means 12 lakes. But there are 33 lakes. Especially Aoike has beautiful blue water. The extra fare to Oku-Juniko is 350yen one way.
*Resort Shirakami is a seasonal train. Please check the updated schedule at Seasonal Trains Schedule.

16:25pm Depart from Oku-Juniko by Konan bus
16:40pm Arrive at Juniko station
16:57pm Depart from Juniko station by Rapid train Resort Shirakami
18:51pm Arrive at Akita station

Overnight in Akita

Day 7

08:56am Depart from Akita station by Akita Shinkansen Komachi 20
09:43am Arrive at Kakunodate station

The cherry blossom season is very busy in Kakunodate. ©Akita Prefecture/©JNTO
The cherry blossom season is very busy in Kakunodate. ©Akita Prefecture/©JNTO

*Kakunodate is called “Small Kyoto” in Tohoku. There are lots of heritage buildings.

14:50pm Depart from Kakunodate station by Akita Shinkansen Komachi 30
18:08pm Arrive at Tokyo station

*If you want to stay in Kakunodate more, the last Komachi to Tokyo departs at 19:50 and arrive at 23:08.

Departing from Osaka
The last Hikari to Shin-Osaka depart from Tokyo at 20:03pm. You need to catch this Hikari. Otherwise take Overnight train Sunrise Seto/Izumo at Tokyo station. These trains depart from Tokyo at 22:00.

As long as you catch “Nobi Nobi seat” on Sunrise Seto or Izumo before the date change, you can continue to travel without any extra charge. (Please refer Japan Rail Pass official site, “Notes regarding use” point 6.)

18 thoughts on “Sample itinerary Tohoku 7 days by Japan Rail Pass 7 days”

  1. Hi,

    Thank you for such a wonderful blog. I’m planning to make the trip to Japan in next 2 weeks based on your itinerary with some small modification to fit the latest time.
    May I ask how long does it take to walk from Hachinohe Shinkansen station (platform track 13) to Hachinohe West exit to catch Oirase bus to Lake Towada? I have either 10 minutes to make it or wait for another an hour, so its’ great to know if the distance is short enough to walk in 10 mins 🙂
    Regards
    Alice

  2. Hi Takeshi, below is continue itinerary
    26/10 : Drive and return car at Tazawako at 08.00, take shinkansen★ to Furukawa, change to Naruko gorge & onsen (overnight ????)
    《Should we stay overnight @ Naruko Osen or other places as we want to go to Zao》
    27/10 : Zao line★
    《Where should we stay overnight?》《need travel route to Zao line》
    28/10 : Kurobe gorge ★
    《Need travel route to Kurobe Gorge by mostly use of JR EAST PASS》
    29/10 : Back to Tokyo★
    30/10 : Visit Nikko
    31/10 : Back to Tokyo late afternoon
    01/11 : Narita – Bkk (10:00)
    ★ = Use JR EAST PASS
    Thank you very much for your help about this itinerary in advance.

    1. Hi Prapaporn,

      So you will use another day of JR East Pass on Tokyo – Tazawako. Is this correct?
      JR East Pass is the best way for your trip and it gives you a great saving. You may add Hakone Free Pass or Fuji Hakone Pass for trip to Fuji/Hakone. But one day is too tight to visit both side of Fuji, Hakone and Lake Kawaguchi.
      https://jprail.com/destinations/chubu-area/fuji-hakone-access-guide-by-train-and-bus-from-both-tokyo-and-osaka-kyoto-nagoya.html

      Naruko is a good place and especially in fall foliage season, it’s so popular. You can stay overnight. If you stay there, you can take a train to Shinjo and transfer to Yamagata Shinkansen to get Yamagata where is the gateway to Zao.

      From Zao to Kurobe, the easiest way is Yamagata Shinkansen (Yamagata to Omiya) and Hokuriku Shinkansen (Omiya-Toyama). But as you probably know, Toyama is outside coverage area. You need to add single fare for Joetsu Myoko to Toyaama.

      You may find timetable and fare at Hyperdia:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/hyperdia-perfect-guide-train-timetable-and-route-search-engine.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hello Takeshi,
        Many thanks for reply. I have change my plan a bit
        26/10 : Naruko Gorge, day trip from Tokyo
        27/10 : Kurobe Gorge, overnight stay @ kanetsuri onsen (wait for reply)
        ■ I take Hakutaka shinkansen from Ueno 》Kurobe unazakionsen, then take Toyama chiho line from Shin-kurobe 》Unazaki onsen then take torroko train, pay extra approx. 3650yen , am I correct?
        ■ How can I make a booking torroko train in advance?
        ■ Does the Tateyama Kurobe option ticket is including the routing Kurobe Gorge?

        Thanks, Moi

        1. Hi Prapaporn,

          ■ I take Hakutaka shinkansen from Ueno 》Kurobe unazakionsen, then take Toyama chiho line from Shin-kurobe 》Unazaki onsen then take torroko train, pay extra approx. 3650yen , am I correct?
          >Do you mean extra for Toyama Chiho railway and torokko train? I think it costs around 1800 to 1900 yen for one way.

          ■ How can I make a booking torroko train in advance?
          >They have only Japanese booking site. Please find more info at the link below:

          ■ Does the Tateyama Kurobe option ticket is including the routing Kurobe Gorge?
          >No.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi, Takeshi
    I’m going to visit Tohoku from 19 October – 1 November,I plan to use JR EAST PASS 5 days, car rental 4 days, nikko pass 2 days, here is my plan
    19/10 : Bkk – Narita (20:00),
    20/10 : Fuji & Hakone
    21/10 : Shinkansen Tokyo-Tazawako 19:20 – 22:06
    22/10 : Car ride Tazawako lake, Nyuto onsen, Tamagawa onsen, Goshogake onsen, Hachimantai, overnight at Towada lake
    23/10 : Boat from Yasumiya – Nenokuchi, Oirase stream, take bus back to Towada
    24/10 : Car ride along sceneric view to Jogakura, Hakkoda ropeway, overnight Aomori
    25/10 : Visit Nebuta museum, car ride to Oga (drive along the sceneric view

  4. Hi Takeshi, some queries on getting to Okama from Yamagata stn via bus.

    I will be in Yamagata in mid October.
    I read on japan-guide (http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e7929.html):

    “One bus per day runs on weekends and holidays from late April through July and daily from August to early November from Yamagata Station via Zao Onsen to the Kattadake peak and back. The one way trip from Yamagata Station takes about 90 minutes and costs 2050 yen. From Zao Onsen it takes about one hour and costs 1470 yen.”

    Does it mean there is only 1 bus per-day from Yamagata stn (via Zao Onsen) to Kattadake In October?
    Is Kattadake the same as Zao Kattan Sancho?

    I also checked Yamako bus website (http://www.yamakobus.co.jp/kousoku/yamagata-zao.html), I think the 3rd and 4th yellow tables are the schedule for Yamagata Stn Zao Kattan Sancho, I don’t understand the rest but seems like there is only 1 service a day?

    On the same japan-guide page:
    “By ropeway:
    It is also possible to take the Zao Ropeway from Zao Onsen to its upper station (1500 yen one way, 2600 yen round trip) and walk from there for about 45 minutes further up the mountain to the summit of Mount Zao from where the Okama Crater comes into visibility.”

    Is the ropeway + walk a better idea?

    1. Hi cks,

      You are right. There is only one round trip between Yamagata station and Okama as you guess.
      Yamagata station 9:30 > Okama 11:06
      Okama 13:00 > Yamagata station 14:40
      Fare 2050 yen one way

      I have never accessed to Okama from ropeway summit station. But as far as I know, it’s easy hike. But if you go there in October, it will be very cold. If the temperature is 0, it’s not surprised. So if you are okay with winter condition, you can try.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

      1. Hi Takeshi, thanks for the reply.

        I wonder if you could take a quick look at my itinerary for an upcoming 10-day trip comprising Tokyo + Tohoku in late October. Will be using 7-day japan rail pass.

        Day 1: Arrive Narita 1400 hours.
        Get to hotel in Asakusa via Keisei Access Express.

        Day 2: Tokyo area, use Suica

        Day 3: Start using rail pass
        Get to Aomori from Tokyo
        Ueno stn -> Shin-Aomori on Hayabusa ~3.5 hours

        Day 4-5: Aomori area
        Towada + Oirase, Hirosaki
        Maybe cross into Hakodate if time permits

        Day 6:
        Get to Yamagata from Aomori

        Shin-Aomori -> Sendai on Hayabusa
        Sendai -> Yamagata stn on JR Senzan
        Total ~ 3+ hours

        This route seems less complicated than first getting to Sendai from Aomori, then taking Yamabiko service from Sendai to Fukushima, then taking Tsubasa service from Fukushima to Yamagata.

        Day 7-8: Yamagata
        Yamadera, Zao Onsen + Okama
        Seems like there is daily and frequent bus to Zao Onsen from Yamagata stn; I will take ropeway up and then hike to Okama.

        Day 9: Back to Tokyo from Yamagata, rail pass last day
        My hotel is in Otorii near Haneda

        Yamagata -> Tokyo stn via Tsubasa service
        Tokyo stn -> Shinagawa -> Otorii (JR Yamanote then Keiyu Airport Express)

        Day 10:
        Fly out on morning flight from Haneda

  5. I wish I found this website earlier, I am kind of kicking myself for not have a JR pass but intsead relying on youth 18 ticket. I did go to Juniko today, and I arrived at 12:15 by the local Gono train, and departs at 4:05 on Resort Shimakami. I had enough time to hike up and down without taking buses in both direction. Because I plan to go to Kuji for Ama festival (got infected with amachan from last year) and ama only demonstrates on weekend. so i cant seem to able to fit all these amazing destinations in 7 days.

    1. Hi Alan,

      Thanks for sharing your experience.

      Gono line is very nice to visit by Seishun 18 kippu. Resort Shirakami has very nice train that can be taken by only base fare and small reserved seat charge.
      I haven’t visit Juniko for a long time. I wish I go back there in summer season.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  6. hi,
    after going thro’ the above itinerary, i am rather confuse on day 3 between Morioka station and Morioka. Do we need to take ShinkansenHayate 35 from Morioka Station to Morioka for overnight ? Do apologise for the confusion, please englighten me.

    “18:52pm Arrive at Morioka station
    19:26pm Depart from Morioka station by Tohoku Shinkansen Hayate 35
    Overnight in Morioka”
    Thanks & regards

    1. Hi Lin Tan,

      Sorry. That’s my mistake. Forget about Hayate 35.
      JR made a big schedule revise in this past March. Please check the most updated schedule.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

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