Japan Northern Explorer

tours / Adventure

Japan Northern Explorer information and booking

  • Duration
    16 days
  • Group size
  • Difficulty
    Adventure touring
Check prices & availability

Schedule Details

  • 16 day trip
  • 15 nights hotel/traditional inn
Equipment Required
Specialist gear required include walking boots and day pack (a comprehensive gear list is provided in the pre-departure information provided on booking).


  • Explore old neighbourhoods Tokyo
  • Stay in traditional ryokan (inns)
  • Visit the old castle town of Hirosaki
  • Cruise secluded Matsushima Bay
  • Explore World Heritage shrines and temples of Nikko
  • Discover the unique culture and history of Sado Island
  • Soak in outdoors hot spring baths
  • Walk ancient forest trails
  • Soak in the lively atmosphere of the young city of Sapporo
  • Breathe the clean air of Lake Shikotsu
  • Marvel at the famous peaks of Mount Fuji

Tour description provided by World Expeditions

Northern Japan is a truly first-class destination for those with a taste for natural beauty, legendary hospitality and the subtlety of Japanese culture. We will visit the famous World Heritage shrines and temples of Nikko, explore the unique culture and history of Sado Island in the Sea of Japan and cruise pine-covered islands in Matsushima Bay. We visit the old castle town of Hirosaki, enjoy the lively atmosphere of the young city of Sapporo and breathe the clean air of Lake Shikotsu. Along the way we'll have plenty of time to soak in natural hot springs, sample an amazing array of fresh local foods and learn more about Japanese religion, literature and architecture. No trip to Japan is complete without a visit to Mount Fuji, and so we end our journey with a visit to the beautiful Five Lakes region to view this iconic snow capped peak. Mention to the residents of Japan's southern cities that you are going to visit the northern country and watch their eyes glimmer with envy!

What's included

  • 15 breakfasts and 7 dinners
  • Comfortable well located hotel/traditional inns
  • Japan rail pass
  • Internal flight niigata/sapporo valued at usd$363
  • Sightseeing and entry fees as listed in itinerary
  • Expert bilingual guide
  • Medical kit


Day 1 Join in Tokyo
On arrival at Narita International Airport make your way through immigration and customs, and then transfer to our hotel in Tokyo (transfer arrangements will be advised in your pre-departure information). Before Tokyo became the bustling metropolis it is today, it was once a languid fishing village called Edo. Although Tokyo is now a world-class city and home to millions of people, it’s still surprisingly easy here to stumble across unexpected traces of old Edo. Tonight following our group meeting at 6pm, we head out to an optional dinner together at a local restaurant, and then enjoy an evening walking tour of the backstreets of Tokyo.
Day 2 Kamakura day trip
This morning has us on an express train out to the seaside village of Kamakura. The capital of Japan for a brief period in the 13th century, Kamakura is now a quiet beachside down known for its impressive temples and beautiful scenery. We’ll enjoy a walking tour of this quiet area, and an optional 2 hour hike through the foothills to the famous Kamakura Buddha.
Day 3 Sightseeing in Tokyo, train to Nikko
We’ll make an early start today to visit some of the highlights of Tokyo. Using Japan’s renowned public transportation system, your leader will guide you around this busy city for the day. In the late afternoon we’ll experience our first bullet train trip, heading north from Tokyo to the peaceful temple town of Nikko (2hrs).The quiet cedar forests and World Heritage shrines and temples here are a relaxing end to an exciting busy day’s exploration.
Day 4 Shrines & Temples in Nikko
Our morning will be spent visiting the fascinating World Heritage shrines and temples in Nikko. Built by the great shogun Tokugawa Leyasu’s grandson to commemorate his grandfather’s accomplishments, Nikko has stood the test of time and remains a breathtaking sight. This afternoon is free time with an optional activity to explore Greater Nikko National Park for some world-class hiking or relax amongst the quaint shops and restaurants in town and watch the world go by.
Day 5 Transfer to Sado Island
This morning we catch our train south and then west across the mountains to the port city of Niigata (4.5hrs). From Niigata, we catch a ferry to the rocky coast line of Sado Island (2hrs). This isolated and beautiful island in the Sea of Japan was once a site of banishment for artists, intellectuals and religious figures in feudal Japan. We spend two nights here, exploring the unique history and beautiful temples and fishing villages on Sado.
Day 6 On Sado Island
We continue exploring Sado Island today. You have the chance to try paddling in traditional boats, and stroll along seaside paths. Dinner tonight is a veritable feast of fresh seafood and local vegetables at our traditional inn!
Day 7 Transfer to Sapporo
We say goodbye to Sado Island and travel by ferry back to Niigata port to catch our flight to Sapporo. The capital of Hokkaido Sapporo is a young, vibrant city with unique architecture and culture. Arriving in the early afternoon, we will go for a short city tour before heading out to dinner to enjoy the great food Hokkaido has to offer.
Day 8 Sights of Sapporo
In 1857, only seven people called Sapporo home. Now, over two million people live here. As the youngest of Japan’s major cities, Sapporo boasts an open, relaxed atmosphere and an indomitable pioneer spirit. Today there are many optional activities to choose from: take time today to learn about the history of Hokkaido and its Ainu native people, wander through the city’s open air museum, visit the peaceful city gardens, learn about one of the city’s best-known exports, Sapporo Beer, and the Sapporo Brewery, or visit Otaru - a beautifully preserved canal city (40 minute train journey).
Day 9 Transfer to Hakodate
A free morning to relax or further explore Sapporo before catching a train to Hakodate. A 3 hour train journey through the beautiful Hokkaido countryside we arrive in Hakodate, a vibrant European-influenced city with an interesting history. We learn more about this city and about the turbulent history of 19th century Japan during our stay here, touring the ruins of Japan’s first western-style fortress, and finish the day catching the impressive night time view of the city from nearby Mount Hakodate.
Day 10 Hakodate and surrounding area
We’re up very early this morning to immerse ourselves in Hakodate’s lively morning market. One of the specialty foods on Hokkaido is crab, and the market in Hakodate offers a great chance to gape at the endless selection of crab and other seafood on offer. We’ll then head out to nearby Lake Onuma for some lakeside strolls before dining on fresh seafood at our inn tonight.
Day 11 Transfer Hakodate to Hirosaki
After breakfast we catch a train and travel from Hakodate to Hirosaki. The trip from Hakodate to Hirosaki takes 3 hours, and goes through a long undersea tunnel - an impressive feat of engineering. Located in the far northern Aomari prefecture, Hirosaki was once an important cultural centre in Northern Japan. The city's castle, well preserved Samurai district and temples linger as reminders of its historic significance. We take some time this afternoon to learn more about the cultural history of Northern Japan along. We will be staying in the traditional ryokan of Ishiba built in 1879, which will take you back to Meiji era.
Day 12 Hirosaki
Hirosaki is surrounded by spectacular scenery. Mt Iwaki is visible from Hirosaki city and UNESCO World Heritage Shirakami-Sanchi, the world's largest remaining beech forest is only 50 minutes from the city. Today you are free to explore this stunning area. If you prefer soaking in the hot springs rather than hiking in the forest, there are a number of open air spas outside the city for you to enjoy.
Day 13 Transfer to Matsushima
Heading south we catch the local express train to Matsushima (4hrs). Located on Tohoku’s Pacific Coast, Matsushima’s famous pine-covered islands are considered one of the “Nihon Sankei”- three great sights of Japan. Upon arrival, we settle into our seaside inn for another delicious local gourmet meal and a glass or two of fine Tohoku sake.
Day 14 Cruising Matsushima Bay
Following breakfast we enjoy a sightseeing cruise through Matsushima’s famous pine islands. After the cruise, you’re free to explore the island on your own using the well-marked paths. We recommend hiking up a nearby mountain for a bird’s-eye view of this beautiful area.
Day 15 Transfer to Tokyo and on to Mt Fuji & Five Lakes Area
Taking the bullet train we travel to Tokyo, arriving around noon. We then transfer by train to Lake Kawaguchi, at the base of Mt Fuji. No trip to Japan is complete without a visit to the iconic Mount Fuji. Located just two hours west of Tokyo, the Mount Fuji Five Lakes area is a must-see for those interested in both the history and natural beauty of Japan.
Day 16 Morning at Mt Fuji, return to Tokyo where trip concludes
As the sun rises we hope to get our first glimpse of Japan’s most iconic peak, Mount Fuji. Our morning is spent exploring on foot the ancient Sengen Jinja Shrine, the nature trails, hot springs, and gardens in the surrounding area. We will return to Tokyo by express highway bus where the trip concludes in the late afternoon at around 5.30pm. The tour leader will be happy to help you make arrangements for further travel in Japan or to your next destination.