Mountain Spirits Tohoku

Mountain Spirits Tohoku

JTB Australia Tour
JTB Australia Tour
JTB Australia Tour


  • Explore the lovely old Yanaka neighbourhood of Tokyo
  • Gaze at the fabulous Toshogu Shrine in Nikko
  • Walk through the beautiful Oze wetlands
  • Hot-spring bathing at an enchanting old traditional inn
  • Stay in temple lodgings at the three sacred peaks of the Dewa Sanzan
  • Discover the folklore of the Tono Valley

On this small-group guided walking tour, you will travel north from Tokyo to Tohoku – a region steeped in spirituality and tradition. You will walk 2 to 6 hours per day and visit popular destinations such as the UNESCO World Heritage site of Toshogu shrine at Nikko, as well as the region’s more rural hot springs and beautiful national parks. Not only will you get to experience staying at authentic Ryokans and Minshuku inns but you will also stay in temple lodgings at the three sacred peaks of the Dewa Sanzan. This tour begins and ends in Tokyo, with some free time for shopping and sightseeing. 


  • Day
  • 1
Meet in Tokyo 
  • Hotel Hotel
  • Meal Welcome Dinner

Meet your guide and other group members at the tour hotel in central Tokyo in the evening. There will be a Welcome Dinner at a nearby local restaurant.

  • Day
  • 2
Sightseeing in Tokyo
  • Hotel Hotel
  • Meal Breakfast

Our first full day in Japan will be spent on a walking tour of Tokyo. We begin with the historic Yanaka neighbourhood, strolling past small temples, shops, and traditional houses. Continuing to Asakusa, we visit Tokyo’s oldest temple Senso-ji, completed in 645 and approached via the Kaminarimon Gate with its giant red lantern. From Asakusa we board a boat and cruise on the Sumida River to the historic Hamarikyu Garden, with the striking backdrop of gleaming towers in the new Shiodome area.

  • Day
  • 3
  • Walking 5.6km
  • Walking 2 hours
  • Traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn Ryokan (Travellers Inn)
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

We board a train this morning for the journey out of Tokyo to Nikko, two hours to the north. The forests and mountains of Nikko have been sacred to the Japanese for 1,200 years, and it was here that in 1617 the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu had himself enshrined at Tosho-gu. These extravagantly ornate buildings are now on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites and we will take a guided walking tour of the main shrine structures. Afterwards we relax at our inn situated along a small river valley. We enjoy a sumptuous dinner of Japanese food served by the gracious Ryokan staff.

  • Day
  • 4
Oze Marshland 
  • Walking 14.5km
  • World Heritage site 300m ascent, 200m descent
  • Walking 4 hours
  • Traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn Yamagoya (Mountain Lodge)
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

We travel for two hours on a series of mountain roads to the start of our walk into Oze Marshland. A 2.5 hour climb brings us to the marshland high in the mountains of the Nikko National Park. This beautiful area is a haven for wild flowers and plants. We stay at a friendly mountain lodge next to the Oze-numa lake.

  • Day
  • 5
Hiking in Oze 
  • Walking 16km
  • World Heritage site 250m ascent, 150m descent
  • Walking 6 hours
  • Traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn)
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

After an early breakfast, we hike through the Oze Marshland to the Oze-ga-hara area where boardwalks are laid out amongst the marshes. We continue to the northern edge of the marsh, where a bus will take us through a long valley to Okutadani lake and a boat ride to the opposite side. Another short bus ride will bring us to Tochiomata hot spring, where we stay in a lovely traditional Ryokan, enjoying a dip or two in the open-air hot spring baths.

  • Day
  • 6
Dewa Sanzan 
  • Walking 3.2km
  • World Heritage site ascending the steps to Haguro-san
    (if we stay in lodgings at the base of the mountain, we will walk on these steps tomorrow instead)
    920m descent
  • Walking 1.5 hours
  • Traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn Shukubo (Pilgrims Lodging)
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

We take a bus to the nearby town of Koide, transferring to the shinkansen (Bullet train) for our continuation north, following the picturesque Japan Sea coast for part of the way. Our destination is Dewa Sanzan (literally “Three peaks of Dewa”), which refers to the three sacred peaks of Haguro-san, Gas-san, and Yudono-san. The lowest of the three, Haguro-san is spiritual home of the Shugendo sect, a mixture of the native Shinto belief and Buddhism. Mountain ascetics known as yamabushi can still be seen with their conch shells, used to call the spirits.
We will also visit Gyokusenji temple. Said to have been founded in 1251 by the Zen monk Ryonen Homyo Zenji. We will take a peaceful moment to enjoy the view of the garden while participating in the tea ceremony. From Gyokusenji we will head to a lovely Shukubo (pilgrims lodgings) where we stay tonight. Dinner is a meal of shojin-ryori, vegetarian Buddhist cuisine.

  • Day
  • 7
Mount Gas-san
  • Walking 9.5km
  • World Heritage site 600m ascent, 600m descent
  • Walking 4.5 hours
  • Traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn Shukubo (Pilgrims Lodging) 
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

A local bus brings us to the start of our hike on Mount Gas-san.
The highest of the three sacred mountains, Gas-san is covered in deep snow for much of the year. The mountain is officially “opened” each year with a ceremony at the Shinto shrine at the summit, which we will reach following a two- and half-hour climb. Along the hike there are lovely small ponds formed by the melting snow and an abundance of alpine flowers.
After a picnic lunch, we will retrace our steps down the mountain and head to the entrance of Haguro-san. We will walk up a beautiful staircase of 2,446 stone steps through giant cedars to the summit, At the top, pilgrims in their white coats head for the Dewa Sanzan shrine with its massive thatched roof, which we visit before returning to Shukobo lodging for dinner.
Following dinner there will be an optional visit to a nearby natural hot spring.

  • Day
  • 8
Kakunodate and Nyuto hot spring 
  • Hotel Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn)
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner 

This morning we leave the Dewa Sanzan area. Our first stop is Kakunodate, a former feudal town with well-preserved Samurai residences. We walk through the former Samurai quarter, with an opportunity to visit one of the elegant samurai houses, before arriving at the merchants’ area. Lastly, we will continue to Nyuto Hot Spring, a hot spring town in which each hot spring has its own unique water source. We check in to our beautiful hot spring ryokan for the night and the evening we will dine around the irori (traditional sunken hearth).

  • Day
  • 9
Nyuto Onsen hot spring 
  • Walking 9.5km
  • World Heritage site 600m ascent, 600m descent
  • Walking 5 hours
  • Traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn)
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

After breakfast, we head off along a path climbing towards Mount Nyuto for spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and Lake Tazawako to the south. The length of the walk and route will be decided locally based on the weather conditions. Those wishing for a more relaxed day can stay and soak in the hot springs, or try some short walks along the valley floor.

  • Day
  • 10
Tono valley 
  • Traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn Hotel or Minshuku (Family-run Guesthouse)
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

Today we will travel by road to Tono, famous in Japan for its rich folklore. This rural community set in a broad green valley takes immense pride in its folk tales, which feature such characters as the Kappa, child-sized beings that live in or near rivers. The local people have a strong pride in their culture and myths, and have worked hard to preserve them.

  • Day
  • 11
Return to Tokyo 
  • Walking 25km
  • World Heritage site little ascent or descent
  • Walking 2 hours
  • Hotel Hotel
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

In the morning, we rent bicycles and cycle slowly along the quiet country lanes of the wide Tono Valley. Depending on the time of year, we may see rice being harvested. After lunch we will take the local train to Shin-Hanamaki and catch the shinkansen Bullet Train back to Tokyo, arriving early evening.

  • Day
  • 12
  • Hotel Hotel
  • Meal Farewell Dinner

There will be a free day today in Tokyo, for shopping, visiting a museum, or simply wandering through the city. In the evening there will be a Farewell Dinner with your guide at a local restaurant.

  • Day
  • 13
Tour ends 
  • Meal Breakfast,

The tour ends today after breakfast. Your guide will be on hand to offer assistance and advice for travelling to the airport if you have homeward flights, or on onward travel if you are extending your stay in Japan.



Tour Length 

13 days 


From $7,910 per person, twin share

Type and Level of Trip

Active – 6 days of walking and hiking from 2 to 5 hours per day on flat paths and mountain trails with some moderate climbs. 

What is Included
  • Full-time services of an English-speaking tour guide
  • 12 nights in hotels and Japanese-style inns (Ryokan, Minshuku and Shukubo)
  • Due to the rural nature of this tour, some properties will only have Japanese-style bedding and shared facilities
  • Daily breakfast & 10 dinners
  • All transportation between tour locations
  • Entrance to museums, temples and other sights on the group’s itinerary
  • Forwarding of one item of luggage on 4 occasions
What’s Not Included
  • Flights
  • Airport transfers
  • Pay locally for drinks with meals and for lunches
  • Entrance fees to museums, temples etc. not mentioned in the itinerary
  • A single room supplement is required for solo travellers at hotels
  • When the group stays at Japanese-style properties you might be asked to share a room with another group member of the same gender

11 SEP 2020 

07 JUL 2021 

27 AUG 2021 

11 SEP 2021 

Important Due to the rural nature of this tour, slight alterations of the itinerary are possible.

< 2020s30s40s50s60s70+

JTB Australia Tour
JTB Australia Tour
JTB Australia Tour