Imagine every seaside town from London to Newcastle erased from the map in the space of one afternoon. This is the tragedy that befell Tohoku, Japan's little visited north-east corner on 11th March 2011. 20,000 people lost their lives that day and many more were made homeless. But thanks to their stoic samurai spirits, the survivors regrouped, got organised and quickly started rebuilding damaged towns and damaged lives.
We've always thought Tohoku was a hidden gem. It boasts a rugged mountain terrain where UNESCO World Heritage temples lurk in deep valleys. It is also a land of samurai castles and hot springs where even today the majority of people survive by fishing and farming. The locals are fantastic; down-to-earth and friendly, and since the tsunami the welcome is warmer than ever.
Your Japan trip starts in Tokyo's historic district Asakusa, staying in a hotel near Senso-ji Temples and the surrounding street markets. You'll have a private guide for the day to help you orientate your self and get to grips with Japanese culture and history. Then your journey into Tohoku really begins as you take the bullet train to Nikko for a day of colourful heritage shrines and temples, followed by a day exploring Nikko National Park.
A stunning train journey through the mountains will get you really off the beaten track to Aizu Wakamatsu, a town of samurai history and sake breweries; a great combination! Then you'll spend a night in Sendai, a fun city and convenient springboard for a side trip to the Yamadera mountain temple complex, or scenic Matsushima bay.
Leaving Sendai late in the evening on Day 8, you'll travel along the tsunami affected coast to Ishinomaki where you'll spend two full days volunteering (days 9 & 10) with It's Not Just Mud (INJM)
INJM are a wonderful grassroots organisation that enable English speaking volunteers to work alongside the local community and make a real difference in Ishinomaki. Volunteers need to be flexible and open-minded, as the programme of volunteering activities depends on what needs to be done at the time of your visit; for example you could be cleaning houses, clearing drains, shovelling mud, removing debris from local parks or taking part in a social project or community event at a temporary housing shelter. It will be hard work, but rewarding!
Accommodation during your 3 nights volunteering will be in INJM's guesthouse. You'll sleep on futons in a room with other volunteers (single sex) and bathing facilities are communal. Breakfast and dinner are provided; basic but hearty food, cooked and eaten together.
Please note that InsideJapan Tours do not make any profit on the volunteering section of the itinerary. The cost of this package also includes a donation of 3,000 yen per person to INJM. You can read more about INJM on their website here: www.itsnotjustmud.com
After all that hard work, you deserve a bit of break so it's on to Hiraizumi for a stay in a beautiful, traditional ryokan for two relaxing nights. Fabulous kaiseki dinners are included and after feasting you can relax in the ryokan's hot spring baths which overlook a quintessential Japanese garden. If you can tear yourself from the ryokan, you can potter around lovely Zen temples which were recently awarded UNSESO World Heritage status; a great post-tsunami boast to the region.
Twin: £1470 Single: £1810
Twin: N/A Single: N/A
- 13 nights accommodation in Japan
- Breakfast every day
- 5 evening meals
- All transport between destinations incl. airport transfers
- Tokyo transport card with 2,500yen of credit
- 8 hours private guide service in Tokyo
- InsideJapan Tours' complimentary Info-Pack
- International Flights
- Local transport (buses, subways, taxis) at any destination unless otherwise specified
- Any entrance fees including those for shrines, temples and museums
- Baggage handling - you will be expected to carry your own bags for the duration of the trip
Please note that volunteer placements can often only be confirmed around 2 months in advance. It is an advantage if you have DIY skills, Japanese ability or an International Driving Permit so please let us know if you have these or similar skills.
Travel Insurance - Important
As with all of our packages, it is mandatory that you arrange your own travel insurance. For this package which includes volunteer work you will need to ensure that your travel insurance covers 'manual labour'. World Nomads offer this type of insurance with a cost of around GBP65 for 2 weeks cover. Please ask us if you have any queries. Please note that we are not affiliated with World Nomads and do not act as an introducer for them.
No seasonal supplement
Black Out Dates
There are no black out dates for this trip. However, please be aware that at the busiest times of the year the named accommodation may not be available and in this case the price can not be guaranteed. However, we will always do our best to match the prices you see here as closely as possible.
Included evening meals are in Ishinomaki (3) and Hiraizumi (2)
Day by Day Itinerary
Day 1 Tokyo
You’ll be met on arrival at Narita Airport and given tickets for the smooth transfer to your first hotel in Tokyo. Your adventure starts in the capital’s most historic district, Asakusa. As you shake off your jet-lag, there’s plenty to see on the hotel doorstep; visit Tokyo’s oldest temple, Senso-ji, and explore the bustling markets around Kaminarimon Gate.
Day 2 Tokyo
You’ll have a private guide for the day to help you get the low-down on Japanese culture and history, and the guide will no doubt recommend some great Tokyo restaurants to try! The day’s itinerary is up to you, but some ideas include taking in the view from one of Tokyo’s tall skyscrapers, visiting Tsukiji fish market or taking a tea ceremony in Hamarikyu garden.
Day 3 Tokyo
You have a free day in Tokyo to explore at your own pace. You might like to try Akihabara, the best place to buy the latest gadgets and gizmos for which Japan is famous, or simply enjoy a picnic in Ueno Park. The choice is yours and the Info-Pack will be full of suggestions and sightseeing information.
Day 4 to Day 5 Nikko
After 3 nights in Tokyo you’ll venture north into Tohoku. Your first stop is the UNESCO World Heritage town of Nikko. This has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries and the shrines here, especially Tosho-gu, are the most colourful you’ll see in all of Japan. Be sure to look out for the famous ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ monkey tableau! On your second day in Nikko we recommend heading into Nikko National Park for a spot of hiking. Lake Chuzen-ji and Kegon Waterfall are very scenic spots.
Day 6 Aizu Wakamatsu
Today’s train journey is particularly scenic taking you through some stunning mountain scenery to Aizu Wakamatsu. You’re now way off the main tourist trail so this is a great chance to meet the inquisitive locals who will be happy to see overseas visitors. Wakamatsu is proud of its samurai history and there is an interesting reconstruction of a feudal castle. There are also lots of sake breweries here so do pop in for a tasting.
Day 7 Sendai
The city of Sendai comes next, a great springboard for day trips to the Yamadera temple complex clinging to the mountainside, or the stunning islands of Matsushima Bay.
Day 8 Ishinomaki
Leaving Sendai in the early evening on Day 8 you’ll travel to Ishinomaki ahead of two full days volunteering.
Day 9 to Day 10 Ishinomaki
The volunteering section of this itinerary is run by the non-profit charity, It’s Just Not Mud (INJM). Set up by a young Brit, Jamie El-Banna, shortly after the tsunami, what was first an informal group of volunteers is now an enthusiastic and professional operation working alongside local people in Ishinomaki. INJM enables non-Japanese speaking volunteers to get stuck in even for just a short time. Work includes removing debris from damaged buildings in the town, cleaning houses, clearing parks and drains and also supporting community events and local businesses. You will be staying with other volunteers in INJM’s basic guesthouse, sleeping on futons in a shared (same sex) room. Meals are cooked communally and you will be expected to work from 8am-4pm. The work is not easy (!) but is sure to be a rewarding experience. Please note that InsideJapan Tours do not make any profit on the volunteering section of the itinerary. The cost of this package also includes a donation of 3,000 yen per person to INJM. You can read more about volunteering with INJM on their website here: http://itsnotjustmud.com/want-to-volunteer-just-do-it/
Day 11 Hiraizumi
After volunteering, you’ll head further north to Hiraizumi. This beautiful little town was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in June 2011; a massive boost to the area after the Tohoku disaster. You’ll stay in a lovely Japanese style inn in Hiraizumi which boasts hot spring baths overlooking a traditional garden. Breakfast and dinner are included on both nights here and the wonderful home cooked food is sure to include local, seasonal produce.
Day 12 Hiraizumi
You have a free day to further explore Hiraizumi. Highlights include the wonderful gardens of Motsuji and the 900 year old golden temple of Konjikido. If you tire of temples, you could instead make a day trip to nearby Geibikei Gorge for a riverside hike.
Day 13 Tokyo
Your Japan trip comes full circle as you take the Shinkansen (bullet train) back to Tokyo. This time you’ll be staying among the bright neon lights of Shinjuku; an intriguing contrast to historic Asakusa at the start of your trip and the perfect place for a great final night out!
Day 14 Depart
Sadly it is time to head home. We will include a voucher for the airport limousine bus service back to Narita Airport.
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|Standard Price:||£1470 (Single Price: £1810)|
|Upgrade Price:||N/A (Single Price: N/A)|
|Start: Twin Share pp £65
Single pp £65
End: Twin Share pp £65 Single pp £80
Asakusa Blue Wave Inn
Annex Turtle Hotori-an
Toyoko Inn Aizu-Wakamatsu
Daiwa Roynet Sendai
Shinjuku Sunroute Plaza