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Treasures of Tohoku
Explore the rustic and rural beauty of Tohoku on this suggested itinerary that combines the region's most beloved cultural traditions with its most remarkable natural landscapes. Hike past the 30 waterfalls of Oirase River, canoe atop the serene Lake Towada, pay homage to sacred shrines embedded in the wilderness, enjoy a cruise within the iconic Matsushima Bay, and much more on this thorough tour of this overlooked region.
• 2 Nights Aomori
• 2 Nights Sendai
• Private Aomori Highlights Tour
• Private Oirase Gorge Excursion
• Private Sendai Highlights Tour
• Private Shiogama and Matsushima Excursion
• Highspeed Bullet Trains between cities
• Daily Breakfast
Arrive Aomori:

Arriving in Honshu's northernmost prefectural capital, travel with your guide from Aomori rail station to your accommodation and get ready for the tour. Aomori is a once-bustling port city that is now a hidden gem most visited for its nearby ski slopes and hiking trails. Surrounded by unspoiled wilderness and blessed with bountiful seafood harvested from the Matsu Bay, many travelers come here for to experience the outdoors but the city itself has many attractions including the still-standing Hirosaki Castle (one of the few original Japanese castles that survived WWII), the world-class Aomori Museum housing contemporary art, and the Nebuta Museum where visitors can see the dazzlingly colorful floats of the Nebuta Matsuri festival.

After settling in at your hotel, meet with your private guide for a half-day tour of the city, starting with the Furukawa Fish Market. Visitors can sample some of Japan's best seafood here by making a nokkedon, a local special where visitors create their own seafood rice bowl from the seasonal seafood sold at the market. After being provided your bowl of rice, wander from stall to stall as you choose your favorite toppings and seafood for your fresh lunch.

Next, pay a visit to the Nebuta Museum dedicated to preserving the legacy of the city's famous Nebuta Matsuri Festival. Although the festival is held in August, museum guests can experience the spirit of the festival by observing the actual floats built for past festivals, as well as a variety of photos throughout the festival's 300-year history. After visiting the museum, your guide will return you to your hotel and the rest of the day is at your leisure.

(Snacks & Accommodations, Aomori)

After breakfast, venture into the gorgeous wilderness that surrounds Aomori for a hike through the Oirase Gorge. Flowing from the caldera-formed Lake Towada, the Oirase River swiftly travels through a lush forest of white cedar, Japanese beech, and maples that brilliantly change colors in fall but are nonetheless picturesque year round. This leisurely, 4-hour hike takes you along the banks of the river past a rapid succession of stunning waterfalls and ends at the shore of Lake Towada. From here, enjoy a cruise atop the lake to the small town of Yasumiya where you'll board a car on route back to your hotel in Aomori.

After touring Sensoji Temple, travel across town via public transit with your guide to Omotesando, a popular shopping boulevard lined with trees. Here, a multitude of flagship fashion stores housed inside striking avant-garde buildings are located just a short walk from one another alongside myriad boutiques, cafes, bars, and much more. Next, follow Omotesando to the Meiji Shrine, surrounded by forest. The Meiji-jingu Shrine is an important spiritual site dedicated to the spirit of the Emperor Meiji that is now an especially popular place for weddings! Once the tour is over, return to the hotel and the rest of the afternoon and evening is at your leisure.

(Breakfast & Accommodations, Aomori)
Aomori to Sendai:

Today, after breakfast, depart from your hotel in Aomori and ride the Hayabusa Bullet Train to Sendai. From Sendai station, meet your guide and stop at your accommodation for check in before starting your tour. Sendai is a thoroughly modern and eye-catching city with its abundant tree coverage. Experience the feeling of everyday life in Sendai by walking down Ichibancho Arcade, the covered mall that stretches several streets in the downtown area, where you can shop at high-end fashion houses, eat alongside locals at restaurants, and everything in between.

After settling in at your hotel, meet with your guide for a private tour of the city's highlights.

The largest city in the Tohoku region with roughly one million inhabitants, Sendai has a long feudal history and samurai tradition as the city was founded by the legendary daimyo Date Masamune. Learn this legacy firsthand by visiting the Zuihoden Mausoleum, Masamune's burial site, designed with ornate woodwork with intricate colors. Visit the ruins of his fortress, Aoba Castle to see remnants of his reign and then see relics of this period at the nearby Sendai City Museum.

Then take a leisurely stroll through the centrally-located Jozenji-dori Avenue, lined by zelkova trees that features sculptures by Emilio Greco and more. Sendai is known as The City of Trees and this scenic thoroughfare exemplifies why the city was adorned with that title. The last stop of the tour will be the Sendai 3.11 Memorial Community Centre, which honors those lost by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the city on March 11, 2011.

Return to your hotel after the tour ends, where the rest of the evening is at your leisure.

(Breakfast, Aomori; Accommodations, Sendai )

Sendai's proximity to the sea and mountains makes it an ideal home base for excursions into the surrounding wilderness and today you will embark upon a scenic trip along the Pacific Coast.

After breakfast, meet with your private guide for an excursion first to Shiogama town and then the scenic Matsushima Bay. The fishing town of Shiogama, located on the coast not far from Sendai, is one of the region's most vital fish providers. However, the city's main attraction is the Shiogama Shrine - believed to be over 1,200 years old! Known as the protector of fishermen and safe childbirth, this Edo-period shrine is accessed by a flight of 200 steps leading to the resplendent vermillion gates and buildings of the shrine. The shrine is one of the best places in the city to gaze at cherry blossoms, with over 300 on the grounds that include the Shiogama Cherry which is unique to the shrine. Additionally, visitors can walk through the Shiogama Shrine Museum to view relics of the city's history.

Next, visit Shiogama's fish market for lunch. Build your own fish donburi (a rice bowl with fish), with ingredients and the fresh fish of your choice. Finally, board a boat on route to Matsushima town through the picturesque bay. Famous as one of Japan's three most scenic views throughout the country, Matsushima Bay is dotted with small, rugged, and pine tree-laden islets whose stunning white limestone foundations jut out of the blue waters to craft imminently photogenic scenes. The cruise will take you around the bay, allowing you plenty of time for pictures, and then you'll visit Zuiganji Temple - one of Tohoku's most prominent Zen temples.

Zuiganji Temple, originally founded in 828 and rebuilt by Date Masamune in 1609, is an elegant temple surrounded by caves where monks once lived and a dense cedar tree forest. Within the temple, visitors will follow a course through the complex to view the lavish paintings on the sliding doors, the Zen kitchen, and then the Zuiganji Art Museum which houses many artifacts of the Date Clan - including a life-sized statue of Date Masamune in his armor.

After touring the temple grounds, return to Sendai where the rest of the evening is at your leisure.

(Breakfast & Accommodations, Sendai)
Depart Sendai:

After breakfast, check out from your hotel, travel on your own to the Sendai train station for another bullet train ride to Tokyo, where you'll either make your return trip home or embark on more adventures in Japan.

(Breakfast, Sendai)
** Itinerary and inclusions are subject to change