Day 1/2 Honolulu – Narita – Shinagawa
It was a smooth departure despite the busy summer travel season. Korean Airline served 2 full meals on the flight to Narita from Honolulu. I chose the most popular inflight menu, Bibimbap, where you mix rice, sesame oil, hot sauce in your bowl with vegetables. I personally enjoyed this delicious meal very much.
Our first night in Tokyo was at Shinagawa Prince Hotel which is conveniently located near many restaurants and stores which are within walking distance. But we learned quickly that the summer humidity and heat made it so uncomfortable to walk outside, even for the short distance. Yikes!
Day 3 Tokyo – Nagaoka
Today is the highlight of our tour, Nagaoka Grand Fireworks. After resting at the hotel in the morning, we left there in the early afternoon and took a JR local train from Shinagawa to Tokyo, then transferred to a bullet train, JR Toki #373, to Nagaoka.
Shortly after our arrival in Nagaoka, we had a beautiful Japanese Kaiseki style dinner at Kocho restaurant then walked to the fireworks viewing spot. Nagaoka Grand Fireworks estimate over 1million viewers in 2 nights so you can imagine how many people were walking towards the Shinano River where the fireworks were displayed at. It took almost 45 min. for us to walk in the crowd but we successfully managed it!
The fireworks were truly a once-in-a-life-time experience. Each firework made a huge explosion, and the show continuously went on over 2 hours. Niagara Falls, flowing down from the bridge 650-meter-long into the river, and Phoenix Fireworks were especially spectacular.
Day 4 Nagaoka
We enjoyed Honolulu’s sister city of Nagaoka by visiting Isoroku Yamamoto Museum, Asahi Sake Brewery, Eguchi Dango to experience making Mitarashi Dango, and lastly attended a lecture about the fireworks.
Day 5 Nagaoka –Akita
We left Nagaoka by bullet train to view the second summer festival, Akita Kanto Festival. Transferring bullet trains at Omiya Station, we enjoyed a total over 5 hours of train ride. The Japanese-Western course dinner using the fresh local produce of Akita was very enjoyable. Kanto’s lanterns represent ears of rice and 230 bamboo poles decorated with lanterns were raised by men balancing poles using their palm, shoulder, hip and even forehead! It was amazing!
Day 6 Akita – Kakunodate – Aomori
We traveled north to Aomori by bus this day. On the way to Aomori, we visited a beautiful town called Kakunodate. Kakunodate is a former castle town and remarkably preserved since its founding in 1620. We visited Aoyagi Samurai house and enjoyed local souvenir shopping in the town. The lunch at Shichibei was very lovely too.
Aomori Nebuta Festival is well known for its huge floats parading down the main street together with dancers called Haneto and flutes and drums called Hayashi. Their rhythm and passion were truly fascinating!
Because of our viewing spot being close to the intersection, we were able to see the floats changing directions and moving up and down by carriers.
Day 7 Aomori – Lake Towada – Morioka -Tokyo
We headed towards Morioka today by bus. On the way to Lake Towada, we drove through Oirase Gorge known as “the most beautiful gorge in Japan”. The winding road and rainy weather wasn’t perfect for viewing, however I hope everyone enjoyed a taste of its beauty! After the lake cruise, our late lunch was Wanko Soba. A tiny portion of Soba noodles was poured into your bowl, and as soon as you finish eating, the servers keep pouring noodles on and on until we give up! Ladies average is 45 bowls and men’s is 60 bowls! Oh boy, we ate so much Soba!!
Coming back to Shinagawa again for the last night in Tokyo, we stayed at Grand Prince Shin Takanawa this time. This luxurious hotel welcomed us being tired from hopping 3 major summer festivals in Tohoku region.
Day 9 Tokyo – Honolulu
Due to Typhoon approaching to Tokyo area, our flight to Honolulu was delayed 13.5 hours so we ended up staying one extra night in Tokyo. Our arrival in Honolulu was almost midnight on the 8th of August but we were very thankful for our flight being smooth and safe.
Tohoku summer festivals were totally beyond our expectations and truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. JTB offers the best reserved seating for all festivals which you can’t get with any other agents. Please join us next year for this unique travel experience!
Posted by Kat Spear
Please inquire detail for 2018 escorted tours at:
JTB USA Honolulu Office
1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 1370
Honolulu HI 96814
www.jtbusa.com >> Branch Special >> Honolulu
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