Hokkaido Winter Tour
Snow Festivals, Landscapes & Wildlife
26 Jan. – 9 Feb. 2019
15 days | SPECIAL PRICING – AU$8195* pp | Book now
Experience a winter wonderland in Japan!
From the world famous Sapporo Snow Festival, to unique wildlife including cheeky snow monkeys, elegant tancho cranes, the world’s largest eagles, and snow-covered landscapes, winter is an amazing time to experience Japan. Join us on our incredible 15-day Hokkaido Winter Tour, where you will experience these amazing winter highlights of Japan!
Led by Julius Pang, a Japan expert and multi-award-winning travel photographer, you’ll learn how to take better travel photos and visit the best spots in Hokkaido to take amazing photos of the winter landscapes and wildlife.
Starting in Tokyo, Japan’s amazing capital and the world’s largest metropolis, we make our way north to Hokkaido.
Highlights include the world-famous snow monkeys of Nagano, the most northern and coldest climate living monkey species in the world. The beautiful town of Biei, famed for its beautiful rolling landscapes and trees. The stunning night view of Hakodate.
Over in eastern Hokkaido, you’ll experience some of the most amazing winter wildlife in the world up close. In Tsurui, Japan’s national bird, the tancho cranes come every day to feed and are the picture of elegance as fly and dance. The town of Rausu is known as the eagle capital of the world with the winter migration of hundreds of Steller’s Sea Eagles and White Tail Eagles. There is also the Blakiston’s Fish Owl here, the world’s largest owl and critically endangered.
Our tour ends in Sapporo during the Sapporo Snow Festival. This is one of the world’s most famous winter festivals and draws visitors from all over the world to see amazing grand snow and ice sculptures in the centre of Sapporo.
This is the tour that shows you the postcard shots, the nature, and the secret hot spots of winter Japan. Book now – all you need is your camera and passport!
This tour provides a wealth of incredible photography opportunities and unlike any other during Japan’s autumn season. We visit a selection of incredibly photogenic sights where you’ll learn how to improve your photography and create the images you’ve always wanted to.
Our highlights include:
- Tokyo Skytree – Asia’s tallest building at 634m with spectacular views over Tokyo.
- Snow Monkeys – the Japanese macaques of Nagano prefecture are the world’s most northern-living monkeys and even have their own hot spring to enjoy!
- Hakodate – port city in southern Hokkaido and featuring one of the best night views in Japan.
- Biei – arguably the most photogenic town in Japan. Famed for its rolling hills and trees all year round.
- Shirohige Falls – a stunning waterfall that drops into the Biei River, lined with snow-covered trees along its banks.
- Tancho cranes – the national bird of Japan, these elegant cranes are endangered and live in eastern Hokkaido where they have protected breeding and feeding grounds.
- Steller’s Sea Eagles – the world’s largest eagle, these birds flock to Rausu every winter as part of their migration.
- White Tailed Eagles – another enormous eagle and they come to Rausu every winter together with the Steller’s Sea Eagles.
- Blakiston’s Fish Owl – this is the world’s largest owl and critically endangered, with a regular viewing spot available only in Rausu.
- Whooper Swans – this beautiful white swan can be seen around scenic Lake Kussharo, known for its hot spring sources at the water’s edge.
- Ezo Deer – native to Hokkaido, they forage for food over ice and snow during winter, particularly around the Notsuke Peninsula.
- Photographic training and personalised feedback from Julius Pang, a multi award winning photographer and Japan travel expert.
- Great food and optional activities!
Hokkaido Winter Tour includes:
- 15 nights accommodation (incl. 1 night in ryokan, and 1 night in temple stay)
- 15 breakfasts, 2 dinners
- All local land transport (train, bus, private car, taxi – except airport transfers)
- 7-day Japan Rail Pass
- Photography tuition over entire tour
- Entry fees and cultural activities as listed in itinerary
- 2 luggage transfers
Tour does not include:
- International airfares
- Travel insurance
- Meals and food not listed in itinerary
- Additional local transport and entry fees outside of itinerary. If you are flying out of Tokyo, you will need to organise a flight from Sapporo to Tokyo at the end of the tour. Please contact us for advice regarding this.
- Portable wifi internet access (available through our partners Japan Wifi Rental Service)
- Beverages (alcoholic & non-alcoholic)
- Personal spending money
- Tips & gratuities (not routinely expected in Japan)
26 January – 9 February 2019
SPECIAL PRICING – $8195* pp
Limited places available for this Japan winter photography tour!
* All prices shown are based per person in Australian dollars and include all taxes, gratuities, land transport, and some meals as indicated. Accommodation provided is based on twin share. Single supplement available at additional cost of $1295. Airfares are not included and must be organised separately. Prices and itineraries at time of publishing but are subject to change. Payments online using Paypal attract a 3.6% service charge. No service charge applicable for direct deposit payments. International telegraphic transfer payments will incur send and receive charges. Please call or email us for more details. View our full terms & conditions here.
Day 1 – TOKYO – [Sat 26th Jan]
Arrive at Narita or Haneda Airport and make your way to our accommodation.
A welcome dinner will be held and we’ll discuss the photography and activities we will undertake in Tokyo over the next two days.
Day 2 – TOKYO – [Sun 27th Jan]
An action-packed day first exploring several of Tokyo’s most famous sights. First stop is Tokyo International Forum, a beautiful bit of architecture in the heart of Tokyo.
After lunch we head to vibrant Harajuku, famous for its crazy fashion and youthful vibe. In the evening we visit Shibuya, home to the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing.
We finish off our day with a visit to Tokyo Skytree, the second-tallest structure in the world and tallest in Asia at 634m! There are amazing views to be had and fantastic opportunities to capture the Tokyo cityscape literally beneath you.
Day 3 – TOKYO, MATSUMOTO – [Mon 28th Jan]
For our final morning in Tokyo we start off with a morning visit to Sensoji Temple, one of Tokyo’s most important and popular temples. Next is Tsukiji Market*, the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. You can choose to have a delicious and amazing fresh sushi lunch after the visit.
We head to Matsumoto City to visit the stunning Matsumoto Castle, one of only 12 original castles in Japan, and ranked among the best.
* Tsukiji Market banned photography in the inner market area from Nov. 2017. During our visit to the inner market we will not be encouraging photography. If you are interested in visiting the tuna auction this requires arriving at Tsukiji Market by 2:00am in order to safely secure a spot for the auction (first in best dressed, with only 120 places available for two auctions) and will not be accompanied by the tour leader. The first auction is from 5:25-5:50am, the second from 5:50-6:15am. We do not consider Tsukiji Market and the tuna auction photographer-friendly. We have an alternative and much better tuna auction we can visit at the end of the tour. Tsukiji Market is also due to move location to Toyosu on 11th October 2018, and the tuna auction may be suspended. Please contact us for more details if you are interested in the Tsukiji Tuna Auction and the photography restrictions.
Day 4 – SNOW MONKEY PARK – [Tue 29th Jan]
An early morning start to visit the Snow Monkey Park in the Yudanaka Onsen area. Watch as the famous snow monkeys frolic and relax in their own hot spring!
We return in the afternoon to Nagano city, with the rest of the day free time to relax and rest. Take the opportunity for a stroll around Zenkoji Temple, one of the most important and famous temples in Japan.
Day 5 – HAKODATE – [Wed 30th Jan]
We make our way north today to Hakodate on the Hokkaido Shinkansen, Japan’s newest and fastest bullet train. Watch the snow covered landscape as we speed by at up to 320kph towards Aomori city, before passing through the Seikan Tunnel which connects Honshu island with Hokkaido island.
After arriving in Hakodate in the afternoon, we’ll visit the Hakodate Ropeway during sunset, enjoying one of the best night views in Japan.
Day 6 – ASAHIKAWA, BIEI – [Thu 31st Jan]
We take a leisurely train ride in the morning towards Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido. We stop for lunch before making our way to Asahikawa.
During the afternoon, we’ll head south of Asahikawa and spend time photographing the snow-covered landscapes around Biei town, one of Japan’s most picturesque locations.
Day 7 – BIEI – [Fri 1st Feb]
A full day of exploring picturesque Biei today. The beautiful trees and rolling hills of the area have been featured in numerous Japanese commercials over the years, and have drawn countless photographers from around Japan and overseas looking for minimalist landscapes.
In the afternoon, we make our way to Shirohige Falls, a beautiful waterfall that flows into the Biei River lined by snow-covered trees along its banks.
Day 8 – KUSHIRO – [Sat 2nd Feb]
Our final morning photographing Biei, before making our way to eastern Hokkaido. We finish up in Kushiro, which will be our base for the next couple of days as we photograph the iconic tancho cranes (red crowned cranes), the national bird of Japan.
In the afternoon, we’ll visit the Akan International Crane Center for our first experience of the tancho cranes.
Day 9 – KUSHIRO, LAKE KUSSHARO – [Sun 3rd Feb]
Today, we’ll spend all morning photographing the wonderful tancho cranes. A pre-dawn start as we head out to the famed Otowa Bridge from where we can see a resting spot for the cranes. During very cold weather, mist forms over the river creating a ethereal scene as cranes fly in and dance about in the distance.
After a rest and lunch back at our hotel, we leave Kushiro head north for a quick visit to Iozan, an active volcano with numerous sulfurous vents that can be seen up close! We then head to Lake Kusharro and its resident population of whooper swans.
Day 10 – NOTSUKE PENINSULA – [Mon 4th Feb]
A final dawn shoot of the tancho cranes at Otowa Bridge before we head towards Rausu.
On the way, we visit the Notsuke Peninsula, home to many bird species and the Ezo Deer. The landscape around here also includes many interesting withered trees.
We finish up in the fishing town of Rausu, located on the Shiretoko Peninsula and renowned as the eagle capital of the world.
In the evening, we visit a special viewing spot in Rausu for a chance to see the rare Blakiston’s fish owl, the largest owl species in the world.
Day 12 – RAUSU – [Tue 5th Feb]
A very special morning on this tour as we board a special morning boat cruise amongst the drift ice off Rausu port to photograph sea eagles.
During winter, 2000-odd Steller’s sea eagles – almost a third of the species’ population – migrate to Hokkaido, with most ending up around Rausu. Steller’s sea eagles are the largest species of eagle in the world, with a wingspan of up to 2m and weighing up to 9kg. Joining the Steller’s sea eagles are just as many white-tailed eagles, also amongst the largest eagle species.
In the evening, we’ll have another session photographing the Blakiston’s Fish Owl.
Day 12 – RAUSU, OBIHIRO – [Wed 6th Feb]
A final morning cruise to photograph the sea eagles off Rausu Port.
We depart Rausu later in the morning and head back into central Hokkaido to Obihiro. This city is right next to the famous Tokachigawa Onsen area, home to rare moor hot springs.
Day 13 – SAPPORO – [Thu 7th Feb]
A free morning to relax at one of Obihiro’s hot springs before we head back to Sapporo.
After arriving in Sapporo, we have a short break before making our way to the small port city of Otaru in the evening for their Snow Light Path Festival. During this festival, Otaru becomes decorated with lights and small snow sculptures, leading the way to the Otaru Canal, a historic and beautifully preserved part of the city.
We return to Sapporo at night where the world-famous Sapporo Snow Festival will be in full swing. Check out the ice sculptures as they glitter under the bright lights of the Susukino entertainment district.
Day 14 – SAPPORO – [Fri 8th Feb]
A whole day exploring Sapporo during the largest winter festival in Japan – the world-famous Sapporo Snow Festival! Featuring enormous snow sculptures all along Odori Park, ice sculptures in the Susukino entertainment district, and lots of delicious local festival food on offer.
The afternoon and evening is free for you to explore. Take the opportunity to visit the Okuriyama Ski Jump, used in the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics, and a beautiful vantage point overlooking Sapporo City.
Visit the Sapporo Beer Museum, and learn about the history of beer in Japan, followed by a cheap beer tasting! Or try a Hokkaido specialty, Genghis Khan Barbeque – a delicious lamb barbeque served with lots of vegetables that goes perfectly with beer!
Day 15 – SAPPORO – [Sat 9th Feb]
The end of our tour and after checkout we will assist you with transfers to the airport for your flight home or continue with your travels in Japan.