Great value! Top 3 destinations (in Tohoku) you have to visit for autumn foliage with JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area) !

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Written by Editorial department

Autumn is the time when you can enjoy beautiful colors of red and yellow elegantly spotted in nature. This year, why not go on a trip to get fully absorbed in such beauty?

In Japan, autumn foliage can be enjoyed in almost any parts of the country, but we want to recommend you to head to Tohoku area. Tohoku, which can be reached by Shinkansen, is surrounded by grand nature. Visit the area after spending some time in Tokyo, and you will be able to really get to know two faces of Japan; “cosmopolitan and nature”.

Among many great spots for autumn foliage in the area, we picked our top 3 destinations for our readers.

#3: Oirase Keiryu (Aomori prefecture)

Oirase keiryu is a river connected to Lake Towada, which lies across Aomori and Akita border. Enjoy sceneries of trees changing colors up-close while following the walking path next to the river. Magnificent beauty of nature marked by 14 waterfalls of different scales as well as carved-out gorges can be enjoyed.

Best time to visit:Late October – Early November
Destination:Towada City, Aomori
Access:Get off JR Tohoku Shinkansen at Hachinohe Station and take a JR Bus “Oirase-go” for about an hour and half. Get off at “Yakeyama” bus stop, etc.

#2: Hakkoda-san (Aomori prefecture)

Another “can’t-miss” autumn foliage spot in Aomori. Hakkoda-san is a general term used for a volcanic mountain range made of over 10 mountains that lie in the southern part of Aomori City. Get on a ropeway that runs between Tamoyachi-dake in the northern part of the mountains and the summit, and you will get to enjoy a striking view of the mountains vividly colored. The view is often described as a “rug made with colorful trees”. (Return tickets for ropeway: ¥1,850 for adults, ¥870 for children in elementary school and free for younger children.)

Best time to visit:Early October – Late October
Destination:Kansuizawa, Arakawa, Aomori City, Aomori
Access:Take JR Tohoku Shinkansen to Shin-Aomori station and get on a JR Bus “Mizu-umi go” for about an hour. Get off at “Ropeway Station” bus stop.

#1: Hanamaki Onsen-kyo (Iwate prefecture)

Lastly, the most recommended spot for foliage in Tohoku this fall is Hanamaki Onsen village in Iwate. The area, which is still considered to be a “hidden jam”, is getting popular among travel agencies mainly promoting tours to Japan. One of the best ways to enjoy foliage in this nature-rich area is overviewing it from a roten-buro (outdoor bath). We will tell you about our pick of hot spring areas with a roten-buro among 12 that are spotted in the entire village.

[Osawa Onsen]
There are multiple hot springs in Osawa Onsen area. Among them, the most famous is a roten-buro along a river in the area. Since the quality of water is so high, many locals who have keen eyes on hot springs have become royal fans for this onsen. One of the famous writers in Japan, Kenji Miyazawa, was once a frequent visitor here too.

Accommodation fee: Starts at ¥15,270 for a night of stay with 2 meals
Single time onsen use:Single time onsen use: It is located in the Toji-ya. The admission fee is ¥600 (7:30 am to 9:00 pm ※Last admission by 8:30 pm)

[Shidotaira Onsen]
This large resort hotel is equipped with a variety of hot springs including a tub as long as 25m total. Among them, the most popular is a roten-buro from where you can look out over fall foliage. At night, trees around the bath get illuminated making the scene mystic. In addition, special features such as heated pool and all-you-can-eat buffet make this hotel a perfect destination for families.

Accommodation fee:Starts at ¥13,650 for a night of stay with 2 meals
Single time onsen use:¥864(Weekdays: 11:00 am to 8:00 pm, Weekends, National Holidays, Dec 30th to Jan 3rd as well as Golden Week period: 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm)

[Namari Onsen]
An onsen with 600 years old of history where you can enjoy a good and old onsen atmosphere. They do have a roten-buro, but what’s more popular here is a “Shirozaru-no-yu”, which is as deep as 125cm! You don’t get to see a standing type onsen like this too often. Though basically mixed, they do offer female-only hours as well.

Accommodation fee:Starts at ¥9,000 for a night of stay with 2 meals
Single time onsen use:¥700 (only available between 7am and 9pm)

To get to Hanamaki Onsen-kyo, it’s recommended to take a “Hanamaki Onsen-kyo” shuttle bus from “Shin Hanamaki Station” where Shinkansen makes a stop (a reservation at a hotel in the area as well as a prior notification are required). However, since there are only limited numbers of buses running, it may be a better idea to take a cab or to rent a car (takes about 40~60 mins).

So, in this article, we talked about recommended autumn foliage spots in Tohoku. For a travel from Tokyo to Tohoku, it is convenient to take a Shinkansen. Though you may be already aware of it if you are a frequent visitor of this site, you have to have a “JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area)” if you are planning a trip to the area.

“JR EAST PASS(Tohoku area)”

If you are heading to Tohoku cities like Sendai or Aomori from Tokyo, using “JR East Pass (Tohoku area)” is your best option. Within the area, you will have unlimited access to any local trains or even Shinkansens. The pass is valid for your choice of 5 days out of 14 days period you have after purchasing it (it does not have to be successive 5 days). Or, if you buy your pass outside of Japan, the starting date will be the day you exchange your order into an actual pass. The price of a pass for an adult outside of Japan is ¥19,000 and ¥9,500 for a child. Or, if you buy it in Japan, it is ¥20,000 for an adult and ¥10,000 for a child. That said, if you make a trip between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori, you will save approximately ¥13,000 for an adult because the trip costs ¥32,660 otherwise (a reserved seat for an adult in Hayabusa in a normal season).

【Details of JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area) 】
Period of use:Can be used throughout the year, beginning on April 1, 2016
Validity period:Any 5 days out of the 14-day period from the date of issue (Flexible 5-day use)* The date of issue refers to the date of pick-up for passes purchased overseas and the date of purchase for passes purchased in Japan.
Prices:Purchased abroad: Adults ¥17,000, children ¥8,500 / Purchased in Japan: Adults ¥18,000, children ¥9,000
Area of Validity:Unlimited use of ordinary car reserved seating on limited express trains (Shinkansen included), express trains, and local trains on JR EAST lines within the applicable area.
Purchase and usage conditions:Customers are foreign nationals and holders of non-Japanese passports who have entered Japan with a "Temporary Visitor" visa to stay in Japan for no longer than 90 days.* Passports will be checked at the time of purchase.
Where to purchase:
1) Purchase in Japan: On sale at domestic sales locations
2) Purchase overseas: Purchase an e-ticket at an overseas tour company, travel agent or on the JR EAST website HP, and exchange for a ticket at an exchange location in Japan

Use the following JR-EAST Train Reservation site to conveniently make reservations for reserved seating on JR EAST Shinkansen and major limited express trains.

If you are interested in good value JR passes, but don’t know how to use them or how to purchase them yet, you will find this short clip below very useful.