Tohoku : Hirosaki & Akita – Castle, Winder Wonderland Train, Onsen

2018 Winter. Tohoku. Japan.

When visiting Tohoku region there are a few key places you must visit and experience; they are Hirosaki Castle, the Akita Winter Wonderland train and onsen(hot spring).


View from the restaurant at Art Hotel Hirosaki, the Hakkoda mountain.


Fueling up for the day.


Place to visit : Hirosaki Castle


View of Hakkoda mountain on the way to Hirosaki Castle.


Frozen castle moat.


Row of sakura trees outside the castle park.


Frozen castle moat and the red bridge leading to the castle.


Hirosaki Castle.


Hirosaki Castle is currently sitting on it’s temporary location within the castle park. Hirosaki Castle was built in 1611 and was originally a five storey castle but in 1627 it was struck by lightning and two of the upper lever was burnt down. It was restored in 1810.


Construction Notice:
Major renovation works on the castle’s stone walls are carried out from 2013 for about ten years. In a unique procedure, the castle keep was moved by about 70 meters to enable renovation works on its foundation and the surrounding stone walls. The keep will remain there for several years until it is moved back. The keep’s interior was reopened to the public in April 2016.


View of Hakkoda mountain from Hirosaki Castle park.


With Isobe-san.


Me and Cecil.


The girl in red on the red bridge.


Foot prints on the frozen castle moat made by…..


This fella. LOL.


Sakura tunnel. Hirosaki Castle park is one of Japan’s best sakura location with about 2500 sakura trees, this location is popular among the Japanese.


A scenic view of the Japanese mountain range as we drove to Tokanosu station to catch the Akita Winter Wonderland Train.


Hirosaki Castle
Address: 1 Shimoshirogane-cho, Hirosaki-shi, Aomori Prefecture 036-8356 Japan
Tel: +81172-33-8799
Honmaru/Kita no Kuruwa Area 9:00 ~ 17:00 (April 1st~November 23rd)
Botanical Garden 9:00~18:00 (Tickets are sold until 17:30)
*During the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival the paid hours are extended.
(Winter Closing) November 24th ~ March 31st


Click on the map above for Google map location


Things to experience : Akita Winter Wonderland Train


Tokanosu station.


When I see clean snow I can’t help but to leave my hand print there. LOL.


The train route and ticket pricing according to destination.


Destination Kakunodate station in Akita. JPY 1,670 per way.


The waiting room for the Akita Nairiku Line.



Cecil playing with my Huawei Mate 9 again.

* She love my Huawei Mate 9 photo quality so much she switched to Huawei after she got back to KL. *




For 2 hours and 45 minutes you will travel through picturesque landscape that is covered with white powder snow, a true winter wonderland experience. It is totally worth every yen spent.



Going through a narrow bridge like the one in the photo below.


The Akita Nairiku line usually runs on a single car carriage but occasionally you will see a 2 cars train. Image from :





The train conductor telling the passengers that we will be passing a valley where it was once famous for bears.



And here we are, Kokunodate station.



Local bus stand at Kokunodate station.


Nice illumination at the bus stand.



In winter, the shops close really early at about 4pm.




Outside the station, these trees have been squashed by the snow.



Station roof covered by about a meter of snow.


Akita Nairiku Line


Click on the map above for Google map location


Place to visit : Kyukamura Nyuto Onsenkyo

After you’ve completed the Akita Winter Wonderland train journey, spend a night at one of the many onsen resorts in Akita. Note that some of the popular onsen resorts require at least 6 months advance booking.


The first thing we did when we arrived at Nyuto onsen resort was eating softserve ice-cream. LOL. It’s something not to be missed as the milk from that region is really good.


When you are staying at an onsen resort hotel, it is customary to wear the yukata that is provided in your room. Kyukamura Nyuto Onsenkyo is a fairly new onsen resort that has a hiking trail, a large indoor bath and a covered outdoor bath ( with view of the pine forest ) that is separated by gender. I tried both indoor and outdoor bath. It was -16 degree Celsius. But it is a MUST!



Most of the onsen resort package includes meals as they are out of the town area. Now sake pairing completes the meal. Note alcohol is not included in the package so you have to pay for the alcohol.



Two storey high snow completely covering the ground and second floor windows. When I woke up the first thing I did was to check the scenery outside but unfortunately my room was on the 2nd floor and the window was completed covered by snow. I shot this from the other balcony on the 3rd floor.




Window on the 3rd floor.


My Nikon D750 and D850 enjoying the snow.



Tohoku region is known as the highest snow fall region in the world as well as the best snow in the world, powder snow.



Daytrip Hours: 11:00 to 17:00
Daytrip Admission: JPY 600
Overnight Stay: JPY 9,500 to 16,500 per person including 2 meals

Click on the map above for Google map location


Place to visit : Tsurunoyu Onsen

Tsurunoyou onsen is one of a kind onsen in the world and is also one of the oldest in Japan, dating back to 1631. It’s name came from a legend that a local hunter saw a crane ( “tsuru” Japanese for crane ) healing it’s wound in the hot spring, hence the name Tsurunoyu onsen. This onsen is unique because of it’s milky coloured water which is rich in minerals. They believed that these minerals has healing properties.



Tsurunoyu onsen is located at foot of Nyutou mountain and has an old rustic look.


The large outdoor mixed gender onsen.




Tsurunoyu onsen’s accommodation.




There’s even a snow hut there.




Daytrip Hours: 10:00 to 15:00 (open air bath closed on Mondays)
Daytrip Admission: 600 yen
Overnight Stay: JPY 9,000 to 16,500 per person including 2 meals; reservations can be made from the first of the month, 6 months in advance

Click on the map above for Google map location



What to eat : Hinai Jidori ( free roam chicken ) oyakodon

Hinai Jidori is considered Japan’s highest grade chicken. Just like how they grade wagyu beef, Hinai Jidori is the top of the rank chicken in Japan. They are raised in the wild and roam freely so they have very little fat in their body, hence their flesh is firm and very tasty. This oyokodon is served with soup, mushroom and egg.







Click on the map above for Google map direction.


I get asked all the time during interviews where is the best place to visit in Japan. My answer is, there is no particular best place, every place is unique and have their own essence. The journey itself can be the one of the best experience. You have to explore them yourself and decide where in Japan is the best FOR YOU.


Well that’s the end of this short 4 days journey.




This post is the continuation of the previous post Tohoku : Things to do – Apple, Miso Curry Milk Ramen & Lot’s of Snow!