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The Great North Tour is a self-guided trip through Hokkaido & Tohoku in Northern Japan, and offers some of the country’s most breathtaking scenery. In summer, it’s a great place to go to escape the heat whilst in winter you can luxuriate in some of the loveliest onsen (“hot springs”) whilst looking out over the snow covered landscape. This 9 night itinerary takes in some of the region’s most lovely spots.
Enjoy independent travel but not the hassle of planning? One of our Independent Tours could be just the ticket. Carefully put together by our team of specialists, our excellent collection of sample itineraries are designed to inform and inspire your next Japan adventure. Every one of our Independent Tours is fully tailor made for you, ensuring your trip is everything you want it to be.
It’s quite straight forward to travel independently in Japan. We will provide just the right amount of support and logistical planning to make you feel comfortable in a very foreign land. These itineraries are available for any departure date (with a few exclusions which coinciding with Japanese National Holidays and some weekends). We’ll do all the work for you and provide you with an information pack to make your trip run smoothly. You can also add guided tours as indicated and if you do want your own personal guide we can arrange this too.
Day 1: Arrive in Japan
Welcome to Japan. Our friendly Meet & Greet service representative will be waiting in the Arrivals lobby in Narita Airport (Tokyo) and will direct you to the Narita Express train or limousine bus bound for Tokyo. Check into your clean and comfortable hotel in Tokyo for 2 nights on a bed & breakfast basis.
Day 2: Tokyo
Your options are unlimited in this incredible city. Explore Tokyo’s past in the bustling, traditional Asakusa district, visit the world’s largest fish market at Tsukiji, shop in the fashionable districts of Shibuya and Harajuku and dine on Japan’s finest cuisine. Tokyo is relatively straightforward to navigate, and our Information Pack will make travelling around the city a breeze.
Optional guided excursion
Enjoy a full day of sightseeing by coach in Tokyo, with lunch included. Your guide will show you the highlights of this vast metropolis, from the Imperial Palace and serene Meiji Shrine to the ‘Electric City’ of Akihabara.
Day 3: Tokyo-Matsushima (Start using your 7 Day Japan Rail Pass today)
It’s time to say goodbye to Tokyo and speed on the Bullet Train to Matsushima. The journey takes less than 3 hours and you have a plenty of time in the afternoon to visit the sights of Matsushima including the famous Rinzai Zen Buddhist temple and Zuiganji Temple as well as nearby cultural properties. Visit some of the islands in the Bay (via the picturesque red painted bridge) or enjoy a cruise across Sendai Bay to take in the beautiful views of Matsushima. You will stay in a comfortable hotel in Matsushima for 1 night.
Day 4: Matsushima – Nyuto Onsen
Spend the morning visiting some of the islands in the Bay (via the picturesque red painted bridge) or enjoy a cruise across Sendai Bay to take in the beautiful views of the picturesque archipelago – designated one of Japan’s top 3 most beautiful places. This afternoon, set off to Nyuto Onsen. You will stay at Tsurunoyu onsen, the oldest onsen in the region, regarded as among the most beautiful in the country. Here you will have a truly authentic and relaxing experience. Check in here for 2 nights. A Japanese haute-cuisine kaiseki dinner and breakfast are included both nights.
Day 5: Nyuto Onsen
Spend today exploring the surrounding area. You can make a short trip over to Kakunodate, where you can feel the atmosphere of a past age as you stroll down the beautifully preserved samurai-era streets, or go for a bracing hike on Mt Komagatake. There’s nothing better than a good soak in a hot spring after an invigorating walk!
Day 6: Nyuto Onsen – Sapporo
Depart from Nyuto Onsen to Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido. You’ll spend most of today travelling by train as the journey time is around 7 hours. Check into your hotel in the central of Sapporo for 3 nights. Whilst in Hokkaido you might want to visit the 147.2m Sapporo TV tower which offers a superb observation deck over the city. Hokkaido is also well known for its delicious local food so good places to visit include Nijo Food Market, Shiroi Koibito Park (a theme park run by a local chocolate company) as well as the Sapporo Beer Museum. Alternatively you may want to visit the lovely harbor city Otaru near Sapporo.
Day 7: Furano
Today we suggest you make the day trip to Furano situated in the centre of Hokkaido which is famous for its beautiful scenery and fine farming. Visit one of Hokkaido’s premier flower farms complete with its own cafes, and delicious local ice cream stalls including the famous local lavender ice cream. You could also visit the Furano Winery (a working winery) as well as the Furano Cheese Factory where you can observe its production process and join hands-on workshops.
Day 8: Noboribetsu Onsen
Today we suggest you make the day trip to Hokkaido’s most famous hot spring resort, Noboribetsu Onsen in southwestern Hokkaido. Jigokudani or “Hell Valley” is a spectacular, appropriately named valley just above the town of Noboribetsu Onsen, where you can view hot steam vents, sulfurous streams and other volcanic activity.
Day 9: Sapporo-Tokyo
Enjoy the morning in the lovely surroundings of your hotel before heading back to Tokyo. You have a choice of returning to Tokyo by train (approximately 10 hours) (included in the package price) or by plane (for an additional amount). Spend your last free day in Tokyo and check into your comfortable hotel for 1 night.
Day 10: Depart Japan
Transfer from your hotel to Narita International Airport (Tokyo).
Japan Rail Pass
The JR Pass allows you almost unlimited travel for 7/14/21 days on all Japan Rail lines throughout the country. It allows you to travel on the world-famous Bullet Train (Shinkansen) as well as the popular ferry from Hiroshima to Miyajima.
Home to over 12 million people, the vast metropolis of Japan’s capital must be seen to be believed. Tokyo embraces the modern and ancient like no other city on earth and offers something for everyone who wants to delve into the Japanese phenomenon: the towering skyscrapers and frenzied neon of Shinjuku, the pop culture and gadget paradise of Akihabara, the sophisticated chic of Ginza, the biggest and liveliest fish market in the world, the old downtown area of Asakusa, and the tranquil, understated beauty of Meiji Shrine. Not to mention superb restaurants and great bars as well as fabulous shopping and museums befitting the capital of the world’s second-largest economy.
Matsushima is located in the central part of Miyagi Prefecture. There are some 260 beautiful islands, scattered in picturesque Matsushima Bay. The view of Matsushima changes from place-to-place and from-season-to-season, and its famous view is ranked as one of the Top Three Views of Japan.
Nearby cultural properties include Zuigan-ji, Entsū-in, Kanrantei, and the Satohama shell mound.
Nyuto Onsen is one of Japan’s most beautiful hot spring areas, famous for its milky-white spring water which is purported to have numerous health benefits. It is nestled away in the mountains of Akita Prefecture, where the scenery is beautiful, and nearby Mt Komagatake offers good hiking. Nearby Kakunodate, with its lovely samurai-era streets, makes a good day trip from here.
Home to Japan’s native Ainu people, Hokkaido is the second largest, northernmost and least developed of Japan’s four main islands.
It is home to the nation’s fifth largest city of Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, pleasant and picturesque rural towns of Biei and Furano, and Hokkaido’s most famous hot spring resort of Noboribetsu.
This truly exceptional luxury property is right by the moat of the imperial palace and its verdant gardens. The interior is elegantly styled throughout, with an understated modern beauty that is truly stunning in parts.
Rooms are of course very spacious, comfortable and tastefully furnished, replete with luxury amenities.
The Palace sports 10 restaurants and bars, each one uniquely stylish, serving the best food and drink from around the world.
Commanding superb city views, set by the imperial palace, this hotel is among the best in the country. A stay here entails luxurious comfort and sophisticated facilities, and of course immaculate service.
Rooms are very spacious, starting at 54 square meters. They are stylishly decorated in a simple, modern style, with judicious use of natural materials giving a bright, natural feel to every one. They have the latest in luxury facilities and amenities, including among others, high speed wireless internet, a compact multifunction control panel and tea and coffee making facilities.
The Peninsula has numerous world class dining options, from the sophisticated Cantonese cuisine of Hei Fung Terrace to the luxury grilled fare of Peter high on the 24th floor. Peter: The Bar (adjacent to the restaurant) serves cocktails of the highest quality and has an exemplary range of international wines, whiskies and other beverages.
Located in the upper class Roppongi district of Tokyo, this spectacular hotel is the apex of class and luxury. The 45th floor boats an impressive observation deck that offer awe inspiring 360 degree panorama views of Tokyo, including Mount Fuji and the Tokyo Tower. As well as this, a tranquil spa facility is also available, creating the perfect environment for rest and relaxation. In addition, Wellendorf, a fashionable German jeweller, has a boutique on the ground floor.
Rooms in the Ritz Carlton are impeccably furnished with a décor that espouses elegance. All rooms offer wonderful views of Tokyo, so you can always view the majesty of the world’s largest metropolis.
The hotel is home to a truly impressive selection of dining options. From Michelin starred French restaurants to the Lobby Lounge offering live piano and jazz music throughout the day.
Centrally located in Tokyo’s Shibuya District, this hotel provides excellent access for exploring the vast Tokyo metropolis. Being in such a central area, a fantastic view of the skyline can be observed both day and night, in essence a choice ambience created by Tokyo’s beautiful nightscape and botanical charms
Rooms in the hotel offer fantastic space. Created under the concept of “simple & modern”, the guest rooms are sophisticated in design without being ostentatious, providing a relaxing atmosphere to bring calm in heart and mind.Many room variations are available, including the popular “view bath-type ” with a spacious bathroom featuring a wide window for an excellent city view.
Restaurants in this hotel offer truly delectable cuisine and a wide range of choice from Japan, Asia and the West. Dishes are made with chef-selected ingredients that culminate in what some consider perfect dining.
Hotel Century is excellently located in the central district of Shinjuku, and therefore a good spot for exploring Tokyo itself.
Rooms in this hotel are very spacious and offer an excellent level of comfort. Being in the Shinjuku district, rooms offer a fantastic view of the area’s skyline, especially at night.
The hotel is home to an impressive array of restaurants, offering a variety of dishes from Japan, China as well as the West.
Shinjuku Prince Hotel is located but 5 minutes away from Shinjuku station and its various train lines (JR, subway and private railways). It is also not far from both the lively, tree-lined Omotesandō Avenue, funky Harajuku or the wooded, lake filled Yoyogi Park.
All the room are cozy and modern, and come with free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, telephones and your usual amenities.
The hotel has a cafe, a relaxed buffet eatery, and a refined Japanese restaurant/bar with panoramic views.
One of Tokyo’s premier hotels for events, this impressive 40+ storey tower rises above Tokyo Dome baseball stadium and the elegant Koishikawa Korakuen gardens. Most striking are the nearby ferris wheel and roller coaster of the Dome City amusement park, which when lit up at night make for great views that are evocative of Tokyo’s urban glamour.
The rooms here are very spacious for their grade and centrality, with a modern and stylish décor. Of course, all rooms are replete with good quality amenities and wireless internet as standard.
With 11 restaurants, lounges and cafes, there is no shortage of variation when it comes to nourishment and relaxation. On offer are various Western options, including Italian, French and American, as well as multiple Japanese choices such as sushi, tempura, kaiseki ryori and yakiniku BBQ. The top floor bar is really worth a visit, where the night views of the stadium and amusement park from 40 storeys make for a great compliment to a cocktail.
This centrally located hotel is in close proximity to the Ueno Park which is home to Japan’s finest museums, including the Tokyo National Museum, the National Science Museum, the Metropolitan Art Musuem, as well as the Ueno Zoo, one of the largest in the country. The central hub stations of Tokyo, Shinjuku and Asakusa are also nearby, allowing you to explore the Tokyo metropolis with ease.
Rooms in this hotel are comfortable and well furnished, with a sleek and modern décor. High speed wifi is available throughout the hotel, and an in room massage service is also on offer.
The hotel’s restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, and offers excellent dishes from both Japan and the West, so there’s a wide variety of choice to tantalise your taste buds.
Located just a 5 minute walk from Ikebukuro station (on the Yamanote Line). The hotel is close to several shops, restaurants and only a short walk from Sunshine City.
This business class hotel features compact well equipped rooms with flat screen TVs, refrigerators and bathroom amenities. All rooms have free wi-fi. Computer terminals are available in the lobby along with 24 hour coin laundry.
Breakfast is a light Japanese breakfast consisting of rice balls, miso soup, some salad items and also a little bread.
This superior class hilltop hotel is a 10-minute walk from Matsushimakaigan train station, or 3 minutes via Matsushima loop bus. It overlooks Matsushima Bay with breathtaking views from a seaside room. The hotel is close to Zuiganji Temple.
All rooms come equipped with a TV, mini-fridge, and tea and coffeemaker. They also have sitting areas with traditional short-legged tables.
Breakfast and parking are free. The hotel has 6 restaurants serving Japanese, Chinese and Western food, a tea lounge, a bar and a karaoke room. It also has communal public baths (men and women separated), along with an open-air pool with bay views.
Located in the peaceful Tazawa Highlands, this Ryokan is well situated for various outdoor activities throughout the year, including mountain climbing, fishing, and skiing. In addition, numerous hot spring baths are also available for you to relax and unwind in.
The ryokan offers Japanese as well as Western style rooms. Both are spacious and well furnished, with a décor that it rustic, yet homely.
An impressive array of Japanese delicacies is boasted at this ryokan. Made with traditional techniques, you will get a true and authentic taste of Japanese cuisine.
Located 20 minutes from JR Noboribetsu station, the hotel is surrounded by volcanic hot springs.
The rooms are furnished in traditional Japanese style with tatami mat floors, shoji screens, and tokonomas (alcove). All of them come with a TV, mini-fridge, and free welcome tea and snacks.
The hotel has 2 restaurants which serve delicious Japanese Soba noodles, and Hokkaido’s famous Sapporo Ramen. After dinner, enjoy one the 7 hot springs available.
Location wise, JR Tower Hotel Nikko Sapporo is about as good as it gets. This tall and elegant tower rises above Sapporo station, offering fantastic opportunities to explore the city and rest of the island of Hokkaido – named Lonely Planet’s top travel destination in Asia, 2016.
With spacious rooms for a city centre hotel, the stylishly furnished rooms offer excellent views over the city and in some cases the nearby mountains. All have large windows with a sense of brightness and elegance.
Hokkaido is the breadbasket of Japan, and you will not find many places that are better to discover Japan’s cuisine than here. Aside from the hotel’s four excellent restaurants, there are countless eating establishments nearby, including gourmet options to rival Japan’s best.
The hotel spa, 100 metres above ground at the very top of the hotel is blessed with beautiful natural light and lovely baths filled with natural hot water pumped up from over 1000 metres below. Of course, a broad range of beauty and health treatments are available too, making this an exceptional place to relax and unwind.
The Sapporo Grand lies right at the heart of Hokkaido’s biggest and most exciting city, making it a fantastic base to explore from.
The rooms are spacious and have a classic finish, helping you feel right at home on Japan’s northern frontier. A full set of complementary amenities are provided, including free Wi-Fi and different coloured towels for each guest.
There is a varied array of eating options here, with Western and Eastern choices available – where Hokkaido really shines though is in its fresh produce, and this is well reflected in the cuisine here. For a true Hokkaido experience, visit the hotel bar Hokkaido Dining Big Jug, which aside from the famous local Sapporo Beer, serves fresh local sea food and freshly grilled meats and vegetables, very much in keeping with the island spirit.
Set in a striking hi-rise cylindrical tower, this upscale hotel is a 3-minute walk from Chuo-Kuyakusho-Mae train station and a 12-minute walk from the iconic Odori Park.
Every room is bright and elegant, with free Wi-Fi, a TV, mini-fridge, and tea and coffee-making facility.
You will find 4 different restaurants: French, Chinese, a buffet restaurant, and a teppanyaki eatery, along with a trendy top-floor bar and a coffee shop. The hotel also has a coin-operated laundry, and a communal bathhouse. Bike and ski hire are available.
This business class hotel features compact well-equipped rooms with flat screen TVs, refrigerators and bathroom amenities. All rooms have free wi-fi. Computer terminals are available in the lobby along with 24-hour coin laundry.
Breakfast is a light Japanese breakfast consisting of rice balls, miso soup, some salad items and also a little bread.
Being right by Sapporo’s central transport links, you will have excellent opportunities not just to explore the city, but the surrounding countryside as well. It is a little quieter than Sapporo’s central broadway, but there is plenty to eat, see and do within easy reach due to the proximity of the station.
Not included in Price
The price for this Great North independent itinerary as detailed above is as follows:
3* Hotels/ryokan: from £1,499 per person based on twin/double room occupancy.
4* Hotels/ryokan: from £1,795 per person based on twin/double room occupancy.
5* Hotels/ryokan: from £2,695 per person based on twin/double room occupancy.
3* single room supplement: from £199
4* single room supplement: from £260
5* single room supplement on request
Tokyo: £101 per person
All price estimates are based on current rates of exchange and are subject to availability. All prices are good for travel before the end of 2017 but exclude blackout periods which coincide with Japanese National Holidays and some weekends.
To make a booking, a deposit of £200 per person is required.
The balance of the price of the trip must be made 12 weeks prior to departure.
All price estimates are based on current rates of exchange and are subject to availability.
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