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hiking and onsen Tohoku in fall

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It has always been my dream to go to Tohoku to enjoy the autumn colors and the piping hot onsens!

We would like some advice about an intinerary that is simple enough so we can catch a train/bus and spend a few nights at a handful of areas preferably at a leisurely pace.

Can you recommend a few bases where we might spend 2-3 nights each, hike during the day and come back to the ryokan for the evening ?

We have never been to Nikko therefore would also like to include that either on the way up or back.

Is it safe to say that if we traveled mid-October we would be assured of the beautiful foliage in the mountains ?

I am grateful for any advice. Thank you !

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