Discover the wild charms of Japan's Northern Frontier with the brand-new Hokkaido Shinkansen High-Speed Rail.
The brand-new Hokkaido Shinkansen, linking Hokkaido with the northernmost part of the mainland via high-speed rail for the first time ever, is scheduled to begin in March of 2016. Travelers will be able to take a bullet train directly from Tokyo to see all of the natural and man-made wonders of northern Tohoku and Hokkaido. Witness the splendid natural beauty of the sea and mountains of the northern lands of Hokkaido, Aomori, Akita and Iwate, and enjoy each region's culture and culinary delights.
These are some of the destinations that you cannot miss:
Nyuto Onsen-Kyo and Kakunodate, Akita
On the northwest coast of Japan's main island of Honshu, the prefecture of Akita-a region renowned for its expressive culture and unusual natural beauty-gives visitors ample reason to travel north from Tokyo and explore the rich rewards of wild and rural Japan.
In addition to forested mountains, the countryside is home to fertile farmland and milky-water mineral hot springs. The region's cuisine makes good use of seasonal farm-fresh offerings year round. And while Akita's snowy winters are ideal for a cup of warmed sake and a long soak in a hot-spring onsen, travellers who choose to visit in the spring and summer months can look forward to traditional cultural festivals that celebrate Japan's past in spectacular fashion.
While the dense cluster of hot spring resorts nestled deep in the beech forests of Nyuto are only now being discovered by foreign visitors, onsens have long played a leading role in Japan's notions of health. The mineral-rich waters are believed to restore body, mind, and spirit. While each of the rustic resorts is breathtaking, Tsurunoyu Onsen is the oldest and most revered, in operation since 1638.
Kakunodate Samurai Residences in Kakunodate city are the historic samurai residences of the Edo Period nestled among beautiful cherry trees. Many features of the samurai town are intact, including late-Edo style mansion elements such as gates, main houses and storehouses.
Experience the Sakura Festival of Kakunodate from late April to early May. The festival presents more than 400 weeping trees in full bloom. The sight of pink cherry trees lining the long road of dark walled samurai residences is extremely beautiful and elegant.
Read more about Tsurunoyu Onsen here.
Sapporo and Hakodate, Hokkaido
Travellers wishing to experience another side of Japan should set their sites north to Hokkaido-an adventurous expanse of deep forests, towering mountains, and other natural wonders. At more than 32,000 square miles, Hokkaido is twenty-two percent of Japan's landmass but home to less than five percent of its population. Long considered the country's frontier, Hokkaido retains an untamed mystique, making it a magnet for outdoor adventurists who come to backpack, ski, camp, and bike through the rugged countryside.
Hokkaido is arguably one of Japan's best-kept culinary secrets. The deep, cold oceans provide an abundance of fresh seafood including crab, scallops, salmon, and octopus.
For serious seafood enthusiasts, the town of Hakodate is renowned for its morning market. Over 350 stalls offer delicacies such as freshly caught squid, salmon eggs, and mackerel. Or just take a seat at one of the town's many Michelin-starred restaurants.
Sapporo, the largest city in Hokkaido, is a feast for the senses. Foodies will love the authentic miso ramen, ishikari nabe, and “Genghis Khan” barbecue. Beer lovers must pay a visit to both the Hokkaido Brewery and Sapporo Beer Museum before diving into the capital city's diverse and dynamic nightlife.
Visit here for more information about Hokkaido.
In the southwest section of Aomori prefecture, the enormous Hirosaki Park-home to the ruins of the 17th-century Hirosaki Castle-is considered one of the most spectacular cherry blossom sites in Japan. Wander through approximately 2,600 blooming cherry trees of 50 different varieties- some over 100 years old-including "Someiyoshino (yoshino cherry) and Yaebeni-shidare (weeping cherry). The combination of ambitious young trees, whose branches reach skyward; venerable old trees, whose blossom-laden branches fall to eye level; and trees along the old castle moat, whose branches reach the water's edge, creates a unique and stunning spectacle.
From late April to early May, the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival draws visitors from across the country and the world. Meander through a carpet of fallen flowers; stroll along the cherry blossom tunnel on the west moat; and rent a boat to see the blossoms reflecting off the water. Sample local fare from food vendors, and stay late to experience the spectacular nighttime illumination of the trees, as they cast a pink and white glow across the park.
For more information about Hirosaki, visit here.
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