Historic and nature tour of Aizu and Niigata (3 days / 2 nights)

Area Map 青森県 岩手県 宮城県 秋田県 山形県 福島県 新潟県

Historic and nature tour of Aizu and Niigata (3 days / 2 nights)

START
 
 

Aizuwakamatsu Nanukamachi-dori Street

Enjoy a stroll around this nostalgic town

Aizuwakamatsu Nanukamachi-dori Street
From JR Nanukamachi station, the 700m Nanukamachi-dori Street leads to Noguchi Hideyo Seishun-dori. The street is lined with early 20th century architecture.

Visitors can travel back in time along this street lined with shops offering traditional arts and crafts such as hand-decorated candles, Aizu lacquerware and Aizu cotton. The town rewards a lingering stroll while enjoying traditional architectural designs pleasing to the eye and sampling some of the tasty treats on offer including varieties of Japanese sweets and a number of sake breweries. A retro-style sightseeing bus “Haikara-san” offers nostalgic rides through town.

The local streets are home not only to exquisite shops but also to a number of locations related to the Shinsengumi, a special police force set up to protect Shogun in the late Edo period.

The Eki Café at JR Nanukamachi station functions as an information centre. Visitors can also purchase local products, arts and crafts from 17 towns and villages of the Aizu region. This cozy café is a lovely place to unwind!
 

Lunch in Aizu-Wakamatsu city

Aizu Sauce Katsu-don

Lunch in Aizu-Wakamatsu city

Katsu-don is a nationally popular dish of a deep-fried pork cutlet (Tonkatsu) simmered in a dashi stock with onions and eggs and served over a bowl of rice. Aizu Sauce Katsu-don, a local specialty of the Aizu region dating back to the Taisho period, has a unique recipe. A bowl of rice is topped with shredded cabbage and Tonkatsu dipped in a special thick sauce. The crispy Tonkatsu and crunchy cabbage perfectly match the sauce-drizzled rice, satisfying both appetite and mind! 


 
 

To-no-Hetsuri (river gorge)

Cross the thrilling suspension bridge and enjoy breath-taking views of the sheer cliff faces

To-no-Hetsuri (river gorge)
“Hetsuri” is a word from the local Aizu dialect meaning a “dangerous cliff”. The towering rock formations, created by a million years of erosion and weathering, are staggering. “To-no-Hetsuri” is the best scenic location in the Okawa Hatori Prefectural Park along the Okawa River and designated a national natural monument.

The uniquely-formed rocks have nicknames including Folding Screen Rock, Elephant Tower Rock and Lion Tower Rock. Views of the cliffs are particularly graceful when the Japanese wisterias are in bloom during summer. Autumnal foliage also creates a beautiful contrast with the white rock faces. While contemplating nature’s million years of creation, the scenery is truly dazzling.

Visitors can observe the dynamic vistas close up by crossing the nearby suspension bridge. At the foot of the cliff there is a small shrine worshipping the Bodhisattva of Wisdom. From the neighbouring observatory visitors can enjoy the panoramic view across To-no-Hetsuri and the suspension bridge.

Restaurants and souvenir shops are available for refreshments and local shopping opportunities.

The gorge is accessible by car and train and is a five-minute walk from To-no-Hetsuri station on the Aizu Railway line. The small railway station is unstaffed but filled with rustic charm and a warm atmosphere!
 
 

Ouchijuku

Feel the spirit of the old townspeople of this historic town

Ouchijuku
Ouchijuku was a flourishing post-town in the 17th century. The town’s traditional buildings are now officially protected. Visitors can travel back in time to the Edo period as they walk along the row of thatched-roof homesteads. Traditional lifestyles can be seen inside the houses with various displays such as old-fashioned Irori fireplaces and the homewares of the era.

Stroll down the main street to the gate of the village shrine, Takakura Shrine, where you will find peacefulness as you pass through the shrine gate. Follow the flight of stairs and be rewarded with a stunning view over the old town.

The main street is lined with souvenir shops and restaurants. Be sure to try the local specialty “Negi Soba”. These handmade soba noodles are served with a whole leek instead of chopsticks. Enjoy the flavour and be sure to get a picture of this unique way of eating noodles!

Sampling the many traditional foods on offer is one of the main attractions of a visit to Ouchijuku. Try local delicacies such as Tochimochi, a sweet made with sticky rice and Japanese horse chestnut seeds, or Shingoro, glutinous rice balls coated with a paste of miso and sesame seeds and grilled over charcoal.

If you have time a visit to the nearby “To-no-Hetsuri” river gorge is well worth the effort. This scenic location has been designated a national natural monument.
 
 
 

Higashiyama Onsen

Soak in natural surroundings on the outskirts of the samurai city of Aizuwakamatsu

Higashiyama Onsen
Higashiyama Onsen is one of three renowned hot springs in Tohoku along with Kaminoyama Onsen and Yunohama Onsen in Yamagata. A 10-minute drive from the centre of Aizuwakamatsu, Higashiyama Onsen is situated amid a rich natural scenery of spring cherry blossoms, lush summer greenery, autumn leaves and snowy winter scenes. This Onsen town stirs nostalgic feelings thanks to its row of traditional inns along the river, a traditional shooting range and small waterfall.

Founded by the prominent Buddhist priest Gyoki in the eighth century, Higashiyama Onsen’s sulphate-infused spring water is smooth on the skin and is said to be beneficial for rheumatism, high blood pressure and skin diseases. The high-temperature hot water keeps you warm on the inside. The Onsen was beloved by writers and artists including Akiko Yosano and Yumeji Takehisa. During the Boshin War in 1868, Toshizo Hijikata, a member of the Shinsengumi came here to heal his wounds.

Close to popular attractions such as Tsuruga Castle and Aizu Bukeyashiki, Higashiyama Onsen is a perfect location to start your journey around the samurai city of Aizuwakamatsu.
 
 

Lunch in Kitakata city

Kitakata Ramen

Lunch in Kitakata city

Kitakata Ramen originates from the city of Kitakata in Fukushima. As many as 120 ramen restaurants are lined along the city’s streets, some of which open early in the morning offering their local customers Ramen for breakfast. This custom of eating Ramen in the morning is affectionately known as “Asa-Ra” (morning Ramen). Each restaurant has a unique style of Kitakata Ramen usually consisting of thick, flat and curly noodles with a tender slice of roasted pork served in a clear, soy sauce-based soup.

 
 

Northern Culture Museum

A residence full of traditional local aesthetics – a work of art in itself!

Northern Culture Museum
The Northern Culture Museum is the former residence of a local wealthy farming family. The magnificently well-preserved residence took 8 years to build and is now open to the public. The vast 29,100m2 grounds of the residence are home to the main building, a grand hall, a tearoom, a warehouse, and a wide range of artworks collected over generations, along with a promenade garden designed by an acclaimed landscape gardener.

The garden fills with a sweet fragrance when the massive Japanese wisteria vines are in bloom from late April to early May. Don’t miss the splendid view of the colourful promenade garden from the 165m2 grand hall each November – the illuminated wisterias and autumnal leaves are a fantastic sight! Along with these highlights, the garden pleases visitors throughout the year, with spring cherry blossoms, summer lotus flowers and snowy winter scenes.

The museum has a gift shop, cafés, a restaurant (reservations required) and accommodation (reservations required). Come and enjoy the local history, aesthetics and culture.
 
 
 

Toki Messe (Niigata Convention Centre)

A convention centre on the Niigata waterfront

Toki Messe (Niigata Convention Centre)

Toki Messe is a convention centre located at the mouth of the Shinano River meeting the Sea of Japan. Architecturally resembling an ocean liner, the urban building is a highlight of Niigata’s waterfront.


The convention centre consists of a large, well-equipped exhibition hall, a variety of 13 conference rooms and an on-site hotel. It offers the perfect facilities to host conferences and parties including accommodation for guests and attendees.


On the 31st floor of the Bandaijima Building, the Befco Bakauke Observatory Room rises 125 metres above ground level and is the highest building along the Sea of Japan. Visitors can enjoy a 360° panoramic view of Niigata City, along with the Sea of Japan, Sado Island and the Gozu Mountains. Admission to the observatory is free.


The information desk at the convention centre has a wide range of brochures available and is the perfect place to plan your journey around Niigata.

 

Bandai Bridge

Niigata's iconic bridge standing majestically over the Shinano River

Bandai Bridge
The Bandai Bridge is a solid stone arch bridge crossing over the Shinano River. Decorations within the granite give the bridge a majestic appearance.

The current bridge is the third incarnation that was reconstructed in 1929 for the city’s modernisation. The Bandai Bridge was designated an Important Cultural Property in July 2004. Following Tokyo’s Nihonbashi Bridge, this was the second bridge on the national highway designated as an Important Cultural Property. The bridge is 306.9 metres long and 22 metres wide and survived the 1964 Niigata Earthquake. It provides an important transportation link for the local citizens.

The bridge has a broad pedestrian walkway and is best viewed from the promenades along the Shinano River. Take a stroll along one of the promenades or board the waterbus to really enjoy the view of this grand bridge!
 
 

Yahiko Onsen

Yahiko Onsen
 

Yahiko Shrine

The most famous sacred site in Niigata

Yahiko Shrine
With a history stretching back 2,400 years, the Yahiko Shrine has been worshipped since ancient times. During the New Year celebrations a quarter of a million visitors come here to pray for good fortune and health for the coming year.

A 10-minute walk from JR Yahiko station takes you to the grove of Yahiko Shrine. As the shrine is popular for its sacred energy and exhilarating scenery, an early morning visit is recommended to fully appreciate its spiritual energy.

There is a unique stone known as a fortune-teller on site. Lift the stone while making a wish and if you feel the stone is light, your wish will come true. If the stone feels heavy however, your wish may not come true. Try it out on your visit for a unique experience!

A further 10-minute walk from the main shrine takes you to the base station of the Yahikoyama Ropeway. Take the ropeway up to the top station to visit Okusha – part of the shrine complex – from which a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside can be enjoyed.
 

Mount Yahiko

A sacred mountain as high as the Tokyo Skytree, suitable for hikers of all abilities

Mount Yahiko
Mount Yahiko rises 634 metres above the ground – as high as the Tokyo Skytree – and is a popular location for hikers of all levels. The walking trail starts 15 minutes’ walk from Yahiko station and it takes about 90 minutes to walk to the top of the mountain. The top is also accessible by the Yahikoyama Ropeway or by car via the Yahikoyama Skyline. The mountain trails are well maintained and an easy walk even for children. The mountain ropeway is also available if you would prefer to climb one-way.

At Yahiko Sancho Park located at the top of Mount Yahiko visitors can enjoy a stunning view of the Echigo Plains and the Sea of Japan from the restaurant or the Panorama Tower featuring a 360° rotating observation room. The night view from here has been selected as one of the 100 most beautiful night views in Japan, the view of the Echigo Plains under the starry night sky is spectacular!

The Okusha of Yahiko Shrine located atop Mount Yahiko has been used to worship Mount Yahiko since ancient times. Breathe the fresh air at this shrine and feel its sacred energy.
 
 

Lunch at a JR Echigo-Yuzawa station restaurant

Lunch at a JR Echigo-Yuzawa station restaurant
 
 

Mount Hakkai Ropeway and Observatory

A magnificent 360° panoramic view from the top of Mount Hakkai

Mount Hakkai Ropeway and Observatory
Mount Hakkai has been worshipped as a spiritual mountain since ancient times. It is the local area’s most popular place to enjoy autumn leaves. Mount Hakkai has been selected as one of the 200 most famous Japanese mountains and is known as one of the Echigo Sanzan (Three Mountains of Echigo) along with Mount Echigo-Komagatake and Mount Nakanodake.

The 5-minute ropeway ride travels through beautiful scenery up to the station at the top of Mount Hakkai. A further 5-minute walk takes you to the Mount Hakkai Observatory where you can enjoy a 360° panoramic view. On fine days the view extends as far as the distant mountains of Joshinetsu, the Sea of Japan and Sado Island.

Come and enjoy the breath-taking seasonal scenery from spring greens blanketed in the remains of the winter snow to the verdant greens under blue summer skies, autumnal colours and pure white winter mountain scenes.

The best time to climb the Hakkai Moutains is between June and November. The highest peak is Mount Nyudodake at 1,778m above sea level where a mountain hut is available to take a break. Although the mountain trails are mainly suited for advanced climbers, trekkers of all levels can take the ropeway to the forth station of Mount Hakkai and enjoy the mountain-top paths.
 
 
GOAL
  • Aizuwakamatsu Nanukamachi-dori Street
  • To-no-Hetsuri (river gorge)
  • Ouchijuku
  • Higashiyama Onsen
  • Northern Culture Museum
  • Toki Messe (Niigata Convention Centre)
  • Bandai Bridge
  • Yahiko Onsen
  • Yahiko Shrine
  • Mount Yahiko
  • Mount Hakkai Ropeway and Observatory