It's pretty grim out there in the year of 2020; just when it looked like the gloom was receding we now have the doom in the USA. I've been sitting on this TR for a couple of years and it seems now's the apt time for some joy and levity. It'll be mostly a photo essay with some paragraphs added later. In short: The plan was for three nights in the Akasaka neighbourhood of Tokyo, then catch the Shink from Tokyo to Morioka followed by the local train to Appi Kogen for 6 nights. Then back to Morioka for the Shinkansen to Sendai, followed by the local train and bus up to Zao Onsen for 5 nights then catch the Shink back to Tokyo - however best laid plans..... We took the then new, JAL midnight flight Mel - Tokyo which was as usual an almost perfect experience. We were upgraded to Premium Economy which meant we were all able to have a nice sleep. Immigration and baggage was a breeze, however the queue for the JR pass was looong and blew our schedule out by close to 2hrs. Finally on the NEX we reached Tokyo and Akasaka just in time for lunch and a draft beeru - heaven. We chose Akasaka as we were looking for new area to stay in and the google machine showed good proximity to the sights, good transport options, plenty of food and good, diverse architecture. It did not disappoint on all accounts. Looking for a room larger than the norm we found the Hotel New Atani which was built for the Olympics back in the day but had recently had a refurbishment. I highly recommend this place. https://www.newotani.co.jp/en/tokyo/ We spent the three days enjoying the sights, rambling the streets and sampling all the idiosyncratic culinary, audio and visual delights that Tokyo has to offer. PSA. If you're planning on catching this Shikansen, or others in Japan, other than overhead storage this is the total available shared storage space. The trains were clearly designed for the business traveller so plan ahead and use Black Cat / Takyubbin if you can. I've struggled with a ski and board bag returning from Nagano Station, the local commuters were tolerant but that was 10 years so I don't know how socially acceptable it is to bring mega luggage along for the ride. Also, if you find yourself at Morioka Station drop into Aeron Coffee and Beer. It's a sweet little, locally owned place, highly recommended.