Enjoy Northern Greater Tokyo's Beauty & CultureFukushima / Tochigi / Gunma / Niigata / Ibaraki
Discover the lush beauty and cultural charm of northern Greater Tokyo. North of Tokyo Metropolis, this region is abundant in diverse naturescapes and historical sites, making it a perfect outdoorsy getaway. Rent a car in Aizuwakamatsu in Fukushima and then head south through the mesmerizing wonders of Gunma, Tochigi, and Ibaraki prefectures. This three-day trip features hands-on activities, thrilling outdoor adventures, picturesque vistas, and one-of-a-kind architecture.
The most efficient way to reach Fukushima from Tokyo is via the Tohoku Shinkansen. The journey from Ueno or Tokyo Station to Koriyama Station, the closest station to our first destination, is about one hour and ten minutes and costs between 8,000 to 12,000 yen one-way. This trip is covered by the JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area). We recommend arriving in Fukushima the night before the trip so you can take full advantage of the first day.
Step into the shoes of a samurai in Aizuwakamatsu
Located near central Fukushima prefecture, Aizuwakamatsu is a castle town renowned for its preserved samurai culture, and at the heart of this city, stands Tsurugajo Castle. The large white structure is characterized by its red-tiled roofs and features a museum about the history of the area and scenic views of the surrounding townscape and park.
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the area's culture is with a class at Aizu Samurai School Nisshinkan, which is a 20-minute drive to the north. Opened in the early 1800s, Nisshinkan is regarded as one of the largest samurai schools in Japan and today offers a variety of classes, including archery, tea ceremony, painting, and meditation. Stroll through the historic grounds, admire various exhibits, and be sure to participate in one of the classes (advanced reservation is required)! The archery experience is especially popular and only takes about 10 minutes. After the enlightening experiences, hop back into your car and head south to our next destination—Gunma!
by car from Nisshinkan to Miike trail car park, Oze National Park
Hike in Oze National Park
Fukushima / Tochigi / Gunma / Niigata
Oze National Park, which straddles the four prefectures of Gunma, Fukushima, Niigata and Tochigi, epitomizes the prefectures' natural beauty and is home to mountains, marshlands, forests, lakes, and a waterfall—with its most popular spots being Ozegahara Marsh and Lake Ozenuma. For a leisurely hike, walk along the park's many wooden boardwalks and enjoy expansive meadow views that shine no matter the season.
For this model course, we suggest you start your journey at the Miike parking lot for easy access to Lake Ozenuma via the Nunayama-toge trail (a 2-3 hour hike round trip). Lake Ozenuma's relatively short hike makes it an ideal destination for day trips. For longer mountain trails and hikes, the park offers a lodging option on site at a mountain hut or campground to fully explore the area. However for this model course, we recommend that you find accommodation near our next spot—Minakami, which is around a 3-hour drive from the Miike parking lot!
by car from Miike trail car park, Oze National Park to Minakami
Enjoy thrilling outdoor activities at Minakami
Minakami, located in northern Gunma, is a nature lover's paradise and features a diverse range of activities year-round.
During spring and early summer, Mount Tanigawa's melting snow fuels the Tone River, creating the perfect environment for water sports. Try whitewater rafting, canyoning, or kayaking in the exhilarating waters.
In winter, the area offers excellent sites for skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing thanks to its powdery snow and long ski season.
Although we recommend a half day of river activities for this summer trip, also consider heading up Mount Tanigawa, located southwest of the Tone River.
From Mount Tanigawa's upper ropeway station enjoy awe-inspiring views of the encircling mountainscape.
After your fill of adrenaline-inducing fun, continue your nature adventure with a trip to Lake Chuzenji.
by car from Minakami to Lake Chuzenji
Explore Lake Chuzenji's nature
Located in Nikko, Lake Chuzenji rests at the base of Mt. Nantai—a volcano that formed the lake thousands of years ago. Hike around the lake's perimeter to enjoy stunning views of the forested mountain against the water. The area is especially captivating in autumn when the fiery foliage beautifully contrasts the lake's blue waters. From the small hot spring town of Chuzenji Onsen located on the lake's eastern shore, hop on a boat tour for a unique perspective of the area or simply relax at one of the rejuvenating hot springs. While you are here, be sure to check out Kegon Falls as well, which flows directly from the lake and is recognized as one of Japan's three most beautiful waterfalls. Spend the night in Nikko, as we will start our last morning at one of the area's most popular destinations.
by car from Lake Chuzenji to Nikko Toshogu
Admire Nikko Toshogu's architectural beauty
Nikko Toshogu Shrine is the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder and first Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The shrine is renowned for its collection of ornately designed structures and is part of the Shrines and Temples of Nikko UNESCO World Heritage Site. Highlights include the five-story pagoda, storehouses decorated with detailed sculptures, the Yomeimon gate, and Tokugawa Ieyasu's tomb. Explore the vibrantly-colored structures and find peace among the surrounding forests. After your serene experience, head to Ibaraki for a unique exploration of Japan's countryside.
by car from Nikko Toshogu to Tsukuba Kasumigaura Ring Ring Road
Cycle along the scenic Tsukuba Kasumigaura Ring Ring Road
The Tsukuba Kasumigaura Ring Ring Road is a 180-kilometer cycling course that weaves through Ibaraki's charming countryside. Cycle beside expansive plains and admire picturesque views of Mount Tsukuba and the sparkling waters of Lake Kasumigaura. The area is well equipped with bike rental shops and food stops to ensure that your journey is comfortable and worry-free. While the full course is 180 km, there are numerous smaller courses that are perfect for beginners and still offer splendid natureside views. Choose a cycling course that fits your needs and pedal to your heart's content!
Bright lights, bustling markets and outstanding restaurants draw tourists to Tokyo from all over the world. Yet, many are unaware of the opportunity for unforgettable experiences that exist in the areas surrounding the city. Discover ancient Japanese customs, stunning natural sites and curious traditions in Greater Tokyo.