Mountain Spirits Tohoku

Dramatic peaks and soothing hot springs of the north. A small-group guided walking tour with 6 days of walking and hiking of 2-6 hours per day

Mountain Spirits Tohoku

Number of travellers

Start date


Tour details

Mountain Spirits Tohoku
x1 traveller
Single room additional charge
USD 465

Solo supplements guarantee solo rooms at the hotels on your tour. At inns, you will share with another member of your departure of the same gender.


If you would like to do multiple tours in one trip or have a question about any of our tours, do not hesitate to contact us with the button below.

  • Duration: 13 days
  • Trip level:
  • Availability: July to September
  • Type:Guided tour with an expert bilingual guide
  • Price: USD 4,930(Price per person, based on 2 travellers sharing a room)

Please choose your preferred month to see available departures.

  • 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

Our journey takes us north from Tokyo to a landscape rich in spirituality and tradition. Though off the established tourist circuit, the sights of northern Japan rival anywhere in the country in their beauty and atmospheric grandeur. We visit both the better-known, magnificent destinations, such as the UNESCO World Heritage site of Toshogu shrine at Nikko and Dewa Sanzan, as well as the region’s more remote hot springs and beautiful national parks. We take exhilirating walks through beautiful scenery in the Oze Wetlands, Mount Gas-san, and the Tono Valley. 

The Japanese poet Matsuo Basho traveled through this region in the 17th century, a journey subsequently published as The Narrow Road to the Deep North. We will visit several of the places which inspired his famous haiku poems. Our small group stays at traditional Ryokan and Minshuku inns in the countryside – always with wonderful service and beautifully-prepared regional cuisine featuring fresh local ingredients. Natural hot-spring baths are highlights of our journey. At Tochio near Oze our hot-spring Ryokan has open-air baths next to a rushing river, while at Nyuto near Lake Tazawako, the 300-year old Tsuru-no-yu Ryokan has eight baths, some with the famous milky-white spring water. The tour begins and ends in Tokyo, with time for sightseeing and shopping.

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What is included


Full-time services of an English-speaking tour guide
12 nights in hotels and Japanese-style inns
Daily breakfast & 10 dinners
All transportation between tour locations
Entrance to museums, temples, and other sights on the group’s itinerary
Forwarding of 1 item of luggage on 4 occasions
Cycling in Tono Valley
What is not included


Airport transfers
Drinks and meals not included in itinerary
Entrance fees to museums, temples, etc. not mentioned in the itinerary
Single room supplement for solo travellers at hotels

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.

Accommodation: Western-style hotel

Meals: Welcome dinner

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 Hama-Rikyu Gardens, with the striking backdrop of gleaming towers in the Shiodome area.


Accommodation: Western-style hotel

Meals: Breakfast

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 Japanese people for 1,200 years, and it was here that in 1617 the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu had himself enshrined at Toshogu Shrine. 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.


Walking distance: 5.6 km / 3.5 mi
Time required: 2 hours


Accommodation: Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn)
Meals: Breakfast, dinner

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


Walking distance: 14.5 km / 9 mi

Elevation gain: 300 m / 985 ft ascent and 200 m / 655 ft descent
Time required: 4 hours


Accommodation: Yamagoya (mountain lodge)
Meals: Breakfast, dinner

After an early breakfast, we hike through Oze Marshland to the Ozegahara 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 Lake Okutadami, where we take a boat ride to the opposite side. Another short bus ride will bring us to Tochiomata Onsen, where we stay in a lovely traditional ryokan, enjoying a dip or two in the open-air hot spring baths.


Walking distance: 16 km / 10 mi 

Elevation gain: 250 m / 820 ft ascent and 150 m / 490 ft descent
Time required: 6 hours


Accommodation: Onsen ryokan (hot spring inn)
Meals: Breakfast, dinner

We take a bus to the nearby town of Koide, transferring to the bullet train for our continuation north, following the picturesque Japan Sea coast for part of the way. Our destination is Dewa Sanzan ( 出羽三山/three peaks of Dewa), which refers to the three sacred peaks of Mount Haguro, Mount Gassan, and Mount Yudono. The lowest of the three, Mount Haguro, is spiritual home of Shugendo, a mixture of the native Shinto belief and Buddhism. Mountain ascetics known as 20dfscan still be seen with their conch shells, used to call the spirits. We will also visit Gyokusen-ji 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 Gyokusen-ji Temple, we will head to a lovely shukubo temple lodging where we stay tonight. Dinner is a meal of shojin ryori, vegetarian Buddhist cuisine. 


Walking distance: 3.2 km / 2 mi

Elevation gain: Ascending the steps to Mount Haguro (if we stay in lodgings at the base of the mountain, we will walk on these steps tomorrow instead)
Time required: 1.5 hours


Accommodation: Shukubo (temple lodging)
Meals: Breakfast, dinner

A local bus brings us to the start of our hike on Mount Gassan. The highest of the three sacred mountains, Gassan 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 Mount Haguro. 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 Dewa Sanzan Shrine with its massive thatched roof, which we visit before returning to our shukubo lodging for dinner.

Following dinner there will be an optional visit to a nearby natural hot spring.


Walking distance:  9.5 km / 6 mi

Elevation gain: 600 m / 2,000 ft ascent and 600 m / 2,000 ft descent
Time required: 4.5 hours


Accommodation: Shukubo (temple lodging)
Meals: 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 Onsen, 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 in the evening, we will dine around the traditional sunken irori hearth.


Accommodation: Onsen ryokan (hot spring inn)

Meals: Breakfast, dinner

After breakfast, we head off along a path climbing towards Mount Nyuto for spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and Lake Tazawa 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.


Walking distance: 9.5 km / 6 mi

Elevation gain: 600 m / 2,000 ft ascent and 600 m / 2,000 ft descent
Time required: 5 hours


Accommodation: Onsen ryokan (hot spring inn)
Meals: Breakfast, dinner

Today we will travel by road to Tono, famous in Japan for its rich folk lore. This rural community set in a broad green valley takes great 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.

Accommodation: Western-style hotel or minshuku (family-run guesthouse)

Meals: 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 bullet train back to Tokyo, arriving early evening.


Cycling distance: 25 km / 16 mi

Elevation gain: negligible ascent and descent
Time required: 2 hours


Accommodation: Western-style hotel
Meals: Dinner, breakfast

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.


Accommodation: Western-style hotel
Meals: Farewell dinner

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.


Meals: Breakfast

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