We had the BEST weekend, and I have like… 500 photos to prove it. I split this post into two separate posts- one for each of the main stops we made, simply because there is SO much information, and SO many photos from each one.We chose to make this a 2-day road trip, simply for the fact that it is honestly easier on us with our young kids. You could easily see everything you would like to in the Mutsu area on a regular weekend via car. We probably only spent around $30 on gas total.
If you woke up early in the day and got on the road, you could do this in one day, though I personally recommend taking a full two days, and adding the wild monkey observatory into your trip. We missed out on the wild horses too- we still need to check that off the bucket list.We left the house around 2pm on Saturday, and checked into our hotel around 5pm. We actually left the house and drove to Mutsu without any hotel reservations- we figured either we would find something that was available, or we would just drive back to base if luck wasn’t on our side. Turns out there were plenty of rooms in Mutsu, and the language barrier didn’t pose any issues at all. We walked down the street from the hotel to find dinner and then went to bed early to wake up and road trip the entire next day.If you’re new here on my blog, our kiddos are two (three this coming weekend… *sniff*) and 10 months old. They did awesome on the trip, but make sure you check out each individual post, because I definitely have my recommendations about bringing kiddos to the various places that we stopped. Our kids are pretty quiet, calm, and laid back (and they fall asleep anywhere and everywhere, clearly.) If you have rambunctious or restless littles, this may not be the best trip for you to take them on.We visited the Gates of Hell first, then road tripped through the mountains to visit the rock formations of the West coast of Mutsu Bay / the Sea of Japan. The mountain drive is BEAUTIFUL. Stop at any restrooms/rest stops that look pretty, because there are some real gems tucked away in this area. We traveled along 338 on the way back to find the wild monkeys (we didn’t stop at the sanctuary- they are THICK along the sides of the road, so we just saw them as we drove through) and had the weather been a little nicer towards the end of the day, we probably would have stopped to hunt a few beaches for glass floats.
We traveled from Misawa along the western coast road to our hotel, Plaza Hotel Mutsu. It was around 12000¥ for our night, but we each had a twin size bed, there was a pull-out couch, and the room was big enough for the kids to roam freely. Wifi was free. The bathroom was also one of the largest we have ever had during a Japanese hotel stay, so overall I would highly recommend this hotel. Lawson’s, McDonald’s, KFC/Pizza Hut, and a yakiniku place that we did not get a chance to try were all within walking distance, and parking was free.
Here are individual links to my posts on each place we visited. These are the two places in the Mutsu area that I 110% recommend visiting before you leave Japan.
And then, here are a couple more pins that we DID NOT visit yet, but that I’ve seen recommended for this area. We plan to visit these, just didn’t have time in the two days we devoted to driving up in the area, especially since we left late in the day on Saturday. I will update this guide when we have visited each.
Wakinosawa Village Wild Monkey Park- 41.167784, 140.804523
Hours: 0900-1630, open all 7 days per Google
We chose to simply drive highway 338 on the way home from the rock formations, because it drives directly past this, and the park was already closed. Drive carefully, you will almost certainly see several wild monkeys along the road as you drive.
Shiriyazaki Lighthouse & Wild Horses- 41.429507, 141.461434
Hours: 0800-1545, check Google- the hours change slightly based on the seasons
As mentioned, we drove up the coast of Mutsu Bay on the way to our hotel. From the hotel, we went straight to the Gates of Hell. From here, we took the mountain road (highway 253) to the west coast to see the rock formations. From the rock formations, we took highway 338 on the way home to make sure that we at least drove past the monkeys. Essentially, we made a HUGE loop. There wasn’t an ugly road that we saw the entire trip.
I HIGHLY recommend it, the entire trip is BEAUTIFUL. I really can’t say that enough. Parts of the trip looked like Arkansas and Tennessee, parts looked like the Smokies. Parts were reminiscent of Yellowstone. Parts had white sand beaches and crystal clear blue water. It is one of the most diverse areas I have ever been to. We filled up on gas before leaving base, and upon pulling into our driveway at the end of the trip, we had only used a little over 1/4 of our little Toyota Raum’s tank. Cheap, easy, and so much fun.
100% worth the gas and the hotel stay- I wish we would have taken our parents/families on this trip while they were visiting!
Make sure to shoot any questions you have to me via DM on Instagram! I answer there best, usually. I’m always happy to answer anything you have to ask, and I am passionate about families LOVING Misawa like we do. Coming from a gal who cried big, ugly tears when she found out this was her family’s assignment, that is saying something.