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Rugged Tohoku with Hot Springs and Snow: The Vacation You Never Knew You Needed

When you’re stuck working from home during COVID-19, time is truly an illusion. The hours begin to meld into one another as you forget what it means to have office hours. When your space of solitary retreat is snatched from you, and then becomes the same place that you’re getting overworked at daily, you know there’s nothing you deserve more than an ideal vacation. A post-pandemic vacation demands nothing less the vacation of all vacations.

The vacation of all vacations, you say? Does that begin with ruggedly beautiful snow-capped mountains… or with a misty heat that dances in the light as you hike through abundant forested nature? And how could you forget, the breathtaking scenery overlooking cityscapes that live in concert with culture and the environment? Walk Japan’s Tohoku Hot Spring Snow Tour is all of those things and more.

In North Honshu, Tohoku, a relaxing snowshoe tour awaits. Walk Japan’s eight-day escapade is a fully-guided tour that takes travellers through the mysterious land of rural Tohoku, beginning in Tokyo and ending in Sakata. The experience is so intimate that it has no minimum group size and a maximum group size of 12 persons. Bound by prodigious snow, the tour is only available for limited durations that you would be lucky to partake in.

The Tohoku Hot Spring Tour is a warm welcome into Tohoku’s peaceful communities. Enter a world of age-old tradition and cultural practices bound by millennia, tested only by one of nature’s greatest challenges: winter.

And it is from winter that you’ll get to experience one of Tohoku’s best-kept secrets. It’s a luxurious, simple pairing of delightful winter and onsen baths. Accommodation for the tour is in Japanese inns, almost all of which have onsen thermal hot spring baths that will send all of your stress melting away.

The tour begins with a meeting at 09:15 am at Tokyo Station, where an expert Walk Japan tour leader will greet you. After an exhilarating but comfortable bullet train ride to Yonezawa, the tour’s pace will slow as you travel further into the deep north, boarding local trains and vehicles to visit rustic hot spring villages and charming farm hamlets. With snowshoes on, you’ll venture toward glistening countrysides that fade into the stunning monochrome snow sky.

Right when your adrenaline is begging you for more and you need to pick up the pace, you’ll embark on a long descent with stunning juhyo snow monsters enveloping you.

The juhyo frost-covered trees are a rare sight known for emulating the shapes of snow monsters and kaijus that are iconically Japanese.

Fans of literature can indulge in the poetic narrative of Matsuo Basho, a renowned 17th century Japan haiku master. The tour coincides with the poet’s travels, narrated in his poem Narrow Road to the Deep North. The poet’s footsteps are well worth following and will reward you with a temple that sits on a steep cliff, perched in the sky. The view that awaits will steal your breath, offering a spectacular view of valleys below and creating the illusion of floating in the sky.

At the end of every day, come back to traditional Japanese inns and reinvigorate yourself with the earth’s own mineral waters in onsen baths. Meals will stimulate your palate, boasting the fresh produce that Japan is so well known for. The produce in Tohoku is from its seas, fields, rivers, and mountains.

And with every stone that you turn at Tohoku, you’ll inch a little closer to Sakata, an elegant port town on the coast of the Sea of Japan where you’ll end one of the most relaxing weeks of your life. Known for its charmingly imperfect landscapes and its onsen thermal hot springs, a walk through Tohoku is an experience unlike any other.

Walk Japan’s Tohoku Hot Spring Snow Tour is available on a limited basis. Dates for the tour are between 31st Jan 2021 – 7th Feb 2021. A place in the tour costs ¥438,000, approximately SGD$5,600.

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