Are you planning to take a break and travel out of Singapore to experience autumn with your family? We understand that many of our travel plans have been cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the months, many countries including Singapore have stepped up their safety precautions and are trying their very best to fight against this virus. Well, where to travel to next? Our recommendation will be JAPAN! The good news is that travel seems to be slowly making a comeback, and starting from September, both Singapore and Japan will ease travel restrictions thanks to the positive progress in the COVID-19 situation.
Many of us would like to find the best travel spots in Japan to experience the spectacular fall foliage in October during autumn. Our recommendation is to check out the Tohoku Region in Japan.
The Tohoku region is located in the north of Japan’s main island, Honshu. It comprises six prefectures Fukushima, Iwate, Akita, Miyagi Aomori and Yamagata. These six prefectures are well-known for their historical attractions, natural landscapes, and festivities. In addition to the six prefectures in the Tohoku region, Niigata Prefecture is adjacent to the Tohoku area and can be conveniently toured with the other prefectures in the region.
Are you ready to tour the Tohoku region with your family? In this article, we will be sharing with you 3 hidden gems and activities found in the city of Miyagi, Fukushima, Iwate and Akita prefecture. Especially for the parents with kids, here is your chance to level-up family-bonding in the Tohoku Region.
Sendai City (Miyagi Prefecture)
Let’s start off with our first stop, Sendai City! This city is the capital city of the Miyagi prefecture filled with modern historical and cultural delights. So, what to do in Sendai? There are many indoor and outdoor activities that are suitable for both adults and children. Here we go…
It will be fun to explore and discover the natural landscape in Miyagi prefecture as a family. It’s time to absorb some “Vitamin Sea” ~! October is the perfect month to visit Surfer’s Island and enjoy water-sports activities such as stand-up paddleboarding, surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. One of the highlights would be the SUP cruising experience for tourists to explore the fascinating nature of Matsushima. This activity is most suitable for families which looking for an outdoor adventure holiday. English/Chinese services are also available so make sure to make a reservation via Facebook for the best experience!
Next, we would recommend you go on the Kanezaki Sasakama-kan tour. Tourists can see the process of making sasa-kamaboko and understand the story behind “Kamaboko” fish cakes which are prominent in the Miyagi prefecture. Tourists can also have a hands-on experience by attending the Handmade Sasakama Fishcake and miniature Tanabata ornaments Workshop. Through these tours and workshops, visitors will be able to learn the history of the Sendai Tanabata Festival. Do note that reservations are required for both workshops.
You might also want to drop by the Nikka Whisky Sendai Distillery for the distillery tour (FREE admission). This is one of the few distilleries producing both malt and grain whisky in parallel. Here, you can enjoy the world of whisky which has been nurtured and produced by the lush greenery of nature. Whisky is available for tasting too, but is limited to 1 serving per person.
How to travel to Sendai from Tokyo?
There are multiple ways for tourists to travel Sendai from Tokyo. It can be either by car, bullet train, highway bus or plane. Of course, ultimately it will be based on your schedule, budget and comfort level. The most popular choice would be travelling via the bullet train with JR EAST PASS. The journey from Tokyo to Sendai via JR Tohoku Shinkansen is only 1.5 hrs.
Fukushima City (Fukushima Prefecture)
Take a ride to Fukushima city, the capital of Fukushima prefecture located in the northern part of the Nakadori region of the prefecture. Tourists can explore the beautiful shrines and temples, historical and nature sites and enjoy the best Onsen experience in this city.
Here comes the favourite activity for most kids! Let’s pick and eat fresh fruits straight from the trees! One of the most popular family-friendly activities in Fukushima city would be fruit-picking at Marusei Orchard Garden. Visitors can enjoy picking a variety of fruits throughout the year and buy a variety of fresh fruits as a souvenir. The fruits include strawberries, cherries, peaches, Nashi pears, grapes and apples. In addition, you might want to hop by at the “Mori-no-Garden cafe“, to enjoy a fresh fruit parfait.
Another city you might want to visit in Fukushima prefecture would be Aizuwakamatsu city which is filled with amazing man-made attractions. Parents can bring their kids to Aizu clan school Nisshinkan to experience Kyudo, which helps to improve concentration and challenge their spirit development. They have well-equipped facilities and it is safe even for first-timers, children and women to participate.
Next, you should visit the Tsurugajo Castle, also well-known as Wakamatsu castle, which has a long samurai history beginning 700 years ago and has been rebuilt a couple of times. A few of the highlights for visitors would be the Rinkaku Tea Ceremony Room, samurai exhibition and the Akabeko painting experience within the castle area. Do not miss the top of the castle tower which is the best spot to take a family photo.
How to travel to Aizuwakamatsu city from Tokyo?
With the JR EAST PASS, you can easily go from Tokyo to Aizu-Wakamatsu in just 2 hrs 50 mins using Shinkansen and the local railway (JR Banetsu West Line).
Iwate is located more than 500 km away from Tokyo. Morioka City is the capital city of Iwate. They are famous for a noodle dish called Wanko Soba which are served in several small portions. The pleasure of eating this dish is in challenging yourself to see how long you can keep eating it while enjoying the condiments. It is an interesting experience as your noodles are immediately refilled repeatedly.
You can learn how to make this delicious dish at Morioka Handi-works Square where visitors can observe experienced craftsmen’s techniques, traditional craftsmanship, as well as the production of local food and sweets. Another attraction in the village is Nambu magariya house, a crooked house built in the late Edo period.
To explore the beautiful nature that Iwate has to offer, travel out to Jodogahama Beach in Miyako City where you can enjoy the breath-taking scenery of strange rocks and the exploration of a blue cave.
You can also enjoy the spectacular view of the Sanriku coast on a small Sappa Boat made by local fishermen. At Sappa Boat Adventure in Tanohata Village, travellers can witness the beauty of the Kitayamazaki cliffs up close. These skilled fishermen will bring you on an exciting boat ride as they weave their way through the complex coastline with their small and fast boats which can also easily approach islands as well as rocks for a close-up view.
How to travel to Iwate from Tokyo?
You can enjoy the spectacular view of the Sanriku Coast while on the way to Iwate. The journey will bring you on an educational tour that teaches lessons about the natural disasters happened previously on Sanriku railway. Visitors can get from Tokyo to Iwate in just 2 hours by Shinkansen, which is covered by the JR EAST PASS, and travel within Iwate using the Sanriku railway, the longest private railway line in Japan.
Next, let’s take a train ride to meet the cutest animals in the Tohoku Region of Japan. Akita prefecture has been one of the most popular tourist destinations because of the Akita dogs in Akita Dog Visitor Center, Odate City. Dog lovers will definitely love this place where you can freely interact with Akita dogs. Visitors can also spend some me-time and get up close with Akita dogs at Enishi Guest house, an old private home in the Kakunodate Bukeyashiki area.
Take a family car ride to Semboku city and visit the Aoyagi Samurai Manor Museum to experience the unique cultural heritage of Japan. The moment you step into Kakunodate, you will realise that it looks exactly like Kyoto but a smaller version. Parents and kids can enjoy wearing a kimono for a commemorative photo along the street. The Aoyagi family house is filled with beautiful gardens and shrines, as well as warehouses and old houses. In short, this place is perfect for photography and you shouldn’t miss it!
Have you ever thought of riding a rail bike on the railroad tracks inside Kosaka Station? Welcome to Kosaka Railway Rail Park, a great place for family bonding. Both parents and children can enjoy various types of activities such as rail bike rides and a sightseeing trolley ride that’s nestled on the old Kosaka railway.
How to travel to Akita from Tokyo?
To access Kakudate and Odate, visitors can travel via Akita Nairiku Jukan Railway. Along the way, visitors can enjoy beautiful scenery of rice fields and autumn leaves. Alternatively, with the JR EAST PASS, you can get from Tokyo to Akita in 4 hours by Shinkansen.
Some of the availability to attractions, activities and experiences above are subject to the COVID-19 situation. Tips for tourist travels in Japan during this COVID-19 period:
- Wear a face mask at all times
- Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, ear with unwashed hands
- You should wash your hand or use sanitizers frequently whenever you visit attraction places or engage in any activities.
- Avoid crowded areas
What is the JR EAST PASS?
You must have heard that travelling within Japan is easy but also expensive for tourists. Based on our experience, you will need to set aside about $500 just for transportation! Therefore, we recommend you to purchase the JR EAST PASS as it helps you to save on the transportation cost. Basically, as long as you have the JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area) on hand, you can hop on the train and have unlimited visits to cities and attractions for 5 days. For more information, visit: https://www.jreast.co.jp/multi/pass/eastpass_t.html
Have fun travel in Japan, Tohoku Region! Stay safe, Travel safely with your family this autumn season. For more information on Tohoku, please visit the Travel to Tohoku website.