2023 Cherry Blossom Tour of Northern Japan
The 2023 Cherry Blossom Tour of Northern Japan is ideal for repeat visitors to Japan as well as travelers who prefer relatively undiscovered destinations. Tohoku region (northern part of Japan’s main island) is one of the best kept secrets of Japan with it’s unspoiled nature, authentic culture and warm hospitality. This tour targets Tohoku and Hokkaido in spring time where cherry blossom blooms later in the season.
Starting from Tokyo we head North to the UNESCO World Heritage listed site of Nikko, a scenic bay of Matsushima, unforgettable views of cherry blossom against samurai houses in Kakunodate, and one of the biggest cherry blossom displays at Hirosaki Castle Park. Then the tour takes a bullet train under the sea to Hokkaido (Japan’s northern-most main island) to a cultural melting pot of Hakodate and on to Sapporo. An extra small group of 8 guests makes this tour very personal.
Together with the must-have experiences when travelling Japan such as staying at ryokan and try onsen hot spring bath, the authentic regional cultures and beautiful countryside will make it well and truly a stand-out, and is reflected in feedbacks from our past guests.
Day 1: Arrival in Tokyo
Welcome to your 2023 Cherry Blossom Tour of Northern Japan. On arrival at one of Tokyo’s international airports, you’ll be met by a Journey to the East guide and escorted to your hotel by airport bus or train.
Day 2: Tokyo
A guided tour of Tokyo including the Imperial Palace and Asakusa. This evening, we enjoy a delicious "Welcome to Japan" dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 3: Nikko
You board the shinkansen (bullet train) for the UNESCO World Heritage site of Nikko. Walk through an impressive avenue of giant cedar trees, you will explore the highly decorated Toshogu Shrine complex enclosed within dense forest. Tonight offers the experience of traditional Japanese hospitality at a ryokan (Japanese inn).
Day 4: Matsushima
On the shinkansen (bullet train), we head north for the coastal town of Matsushima via the city of Sendai. Matsushima is famous for its wide sweeping bay dotted by over 250 pine tree-covered islands. Counted as one of the top three scenic sights of Japan, this place is loaded with historical and cultural sites.
Day 5: Matsushima
At Matsushima, you will take a cruise around the islands of stunning Matsushima Bay. Trunks of pine trees twisted by strong wind over time are quite a sight against rocky islets. You will visit Matsushima's iconic Godaido and Zuiganji temples as well as stopping for a cup of frothy matcha green tea at a centuries-old tea-house overlooking the beautiful bay.
Day 6: Kakunodate
Today you head for the town of Kakunodate in Akita Prefecture by the shinkansen. Kakunodate is often referred to as “Tohoku’s little Kyoto” due to the cultural traditions. The local feudal-period town is beautiful to stroll especially at the peak of cherry blossom season. For dinner, we enjoy Akita’s specialty hot pot dish, the hearty Kiritampo nabe.
Day 7: Kakunodate
Today time has been set aside for you to take in the full glory of Kakunodate’s trademark avenues of cherry blossom trees – arguably some of the best cherry blossoms in the whole of Japan. Be sure to wander the streets and pause at the little shops and stalls, step into the one-time residences of the lords and the samurai.
Day 8: Hirosaki
Hirosaki in Aomori Prefecture was originally developed as a castle town in feudal times. With a dominating view of the castle, it is one of the most picturesque spots in Tohoku. In spring, the town literally erupts in a sea of soft pink colour as thousands of cherry trees open in Hirosaki Castle Park. Tonight you will enjoy a live music performance of Tsugaru shamisen, which is a unique local instrument, at dinner.
Day 9: Hakodate
The shinkansen takes us through the under-sea tunnel to the northern island of Hokkaido and the city of Hakodate. It was designated one of Japan’s two foreign trade ports that could legitimately engage with foreign traders in the 19th century, and that foreign influence and architecture make this city so intriguing.
Day 10: Hakodate
Today you will visit the former British Embassy and tour the heritage Red Brick Warehouse district down on the waterfront to enjoy the beautiful harbour views. The tour includes a visit to the Ainu Museum which is celebrating the history and culture of Hokkaido’s indigenous people.
Day 11: Sapporo
An express train takes us to Sapporo, Hokkaido’s prefectural capital. In late April and early May masses of flowers are on display in Odori Koen, the 1.5km-long stretch of public park in the city’s heart. Our guide takes you on a walking tour of central Sapporo focusing on its modern development history from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Day 12: Otaru
Otaru is a quaint little gem about one hour from Sapporo. Many of Otaru's old brick warehouses from the 19th century boom time are now attractive museums, glass workshops, boutique breweries and sake distilleries. Tonight back in Sapporo we visit the famous Sapporo Beer Museum for some taste-testing, and gather one last time for a farewell dinner of Sapporo style BBQ to share our best memories of our trip.
Day 13: Goodbye
After breakfast, your 2023 Cherry Blossom Tour of Northern Japan concludes. Your options include staying a little longer in Hokkaido, returning to Honshu (the main Island) by trains or flight, possibly exploring other parts of Japan, or flying directly to one of Tokyo’s International airports to connect with your outbound international flight. Or even leave Japan from the international airport not far from Sapporo. We will be delighted to plan your personal post-tour extension to show you a different part of Japan. Please see our Extension Model Itineraries on our Private tours page for inspirations! Note: The cost of an escorted transfer to your departure airport is not included in our Small Group Tours (as we found many guests choose to stay in Japan a bit longer), but we will be happy to arrange your transfer to next destination or to exit airport.
- 12 nights accommodation (including traditional inns)
- Meals as specified
- Airport meet & greet and hotel transfer by public transport on arrival
- All local transport (train, bus and taxi)
- Pre-loaded Suica card
- Locally licensed English speaking tour guides
- Most cultural activities and entry fees included in itinerary
- Luggage transfers (1 piece per person)
- International and domestic airfare (unless otherwise stated)
- Transfer on the last day.
- Travel insurance
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
- Tips and gratuities (not routinely expected in Japan)
- Transport during free time
- Personal expenses (laundry, internet, telephone, coin lockers etc.)
- Visa (if required)
We have travelled to Japan three times with Journey to the East. We love their concept of small group tours with excellent guides, varied and really well chosen hotels and superb dining experiences. All of the trips we have taken, to different areas of Japan and with different themes, have been very professionally organised, varied and fascinating.