Resting after snowshoeing to the Biei Blue River

Heart of Hokkaido 5 Day
Snowshoeing & Culture Tour

Guided overnight tour from Asahikawa

We are no longer offering the Heart of Hokkaido tour from 2023.
See our other winter tours for current options.

The best picks of cultural and winter outdoors experiences in the Heart of Hokkaido. Join us on a Hokkaido snowshoe tour, visiting Mt Asahidake, the Biei Blue River and a limestone cave in Toma.

  • Tour Duration

    5 Day
  • Minimum Travellers

    4 People
  • Accommodation

    4 Night
  • Tour Starts

  • Included Meals

    4 Breakfast
    3 Lunches
    4 Dinner
  • Tour Finishes


Tour Highlights

  • Meet and learn about the Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido.
  • Explore the ancient Toma Limestone Cave, open exclusively to our group.
  • See steam roaring out from spectacular volcanic fumaroles at Mt. Asahidake.
  • Use snowshoes to hike through serene forest to Biei’s famous Blue River.
  • Relax with overnight stays at Asahidake Onsen and Shirogane Onsen.

About the Heart of Hokkaido

Checking in at 2,291 metres (7,500 feet), Mt. Asahidake in Daisetsuzan National Park is the tallest mountain in Hokkaido. Also known as the “Roof of Hokkaido”, the mountain has a special place in the hearts of Hokkaido people, including the indigenous Ainu. In winter the breath taking scenery is blanked in white snow that is shaped by the wind. At the foot of the mighty peak, steam roars seemly out of the snow, making the scenery all the more dramatic.

In contrast, the charm of Biei lies in its rolling hills and tranquil forests. The iconic Blue Pond gained a worldwide recognition when the image was used as the wallpaper on Apple computers. It’s always been a highly popular site to visit in summer, but in winter the frozen waters are covered in snow and the forrest is silent. We take advantage of the snow to put on our snowshoes to explore the forest beyond the pond. Our walk takes us to the Biei River, the source of the pond’s blue water.

The Toma Limestone Cave is one of the only two limestone caves that exist in Hokkaido and has quickly become one of our favourite local spots. Leaving the snowy landscape behind and descending into the darkness is a thrilling adventure. The cave is usually closed to visitors from October to April. However, thanks to the cooperation of the local town and fellow local guide we have exclusive access to the cave!

Mt. Asahidake, the Blue River and the Toma Limestone Cave are the best-matching winter gems of the area and experiences we’d like you to experience at least once in your lifetime!

Who is this tour for?

  • Active travellers who enjoy walking for 3 to 5 hours a day.
  • Curious travellers who enjoy a mixture of activities & sightseeing and learning about the regions they visit.
  • Winter hikers & snow lovers interested in hiking in snow with the help of snowshoes (No prior experience required).
  • Adventurous travellers who enjoy rural hospitality staying in Japanese style accommodations with natural hot springs on site.

Heart of Hokkaido Winter Tour
Itinerary at a Glance

*B: Breakfast   L: Lunch   D: Dinner
Day 1 (D)
Meet your group in Asahikawa
Day 2 (B, L, D)
Visit Ainu Museum & Toma Limestone Cave
Day 3 (B, L, D)
Snowshoe in the foothills of Mt Asahidake
Day 4 (B, L, D)
Snowshoe to the Biei Blue River
Day 5 (B)
Farewells in Asahikawa


Tour Inclusions

Items that are included in the cost of tour price.
  • 4 Breakfast, 3 Lunches, 4 Dinner
  • 4 Night accommodation on a twin share basis
  • Guided tour & admission fee at the Ainu Museum
  • Guided tour to the Toma Limestone Cave
  • Guided tour to Mt Asahidake fumaroles
  • Return cable car to and from Mt Asahidake
  • Guided tour to the Biei Blue River
  • Guided tour at the Takasago Sake Brewery
  • Snowshoe rental
  • All transport as described in the itinerary
  • English speaking local guide(s)

Not included

Items that are not included in the cost of tour price.
  • Airfare
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal expenses
  • Drinks with included meals

Meet your guide

  1. Day 1 Meet your group in Asahikawa

    We meet at 5:00 pm at our hotel near the Asahikawa JR Station. We will go over the tour details and introduce you to our upcoming 5 days of adventure. For dinner, we will walk over to a nearby restaurant. This will be a good chance to get used to walking on snow and ice if this is your first time visiting Hokkaido in winter.

    Included meals
    – Dinner
    – Hotel in Asahikawa
    – None

  2. Day 2 Visit Ainu Museum & Toma Limestone Cave

    We have breakfast at our hotel before a quick drive to the Kawamura Kaneto Ainu Museum. Established in 1916, the museum is the oldest Ainu museum in Japan, as well as the only privately owned one. Our hosts, Ainu descendants of the Kawamura family who have been running the museum for three generations. They will welcome us in the cise, a traditional Ainu house.

    We will learn about the culture and traditions of the Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido. The Ainu have been living in harmony with nature in Hokkaido from long before Japanese people started to colonise the island. We will share lunch with our Ainu hosts before moving to our next destination Toma.

    In Toma, we will be joined by a special local guide who has the key to the cave and he will lead us into the darkness of the ancient limestone cave. With no one else around, we have the silent cave all to ourselves! While walking through in the cave, light by just our head torches, we will hear about the stories of how they discovered this cave and how a limestone cave came to form far from the sea.

    After coming out of the warm cave, we will hop back in the van and drive up to Asahidake Onsen at 1,100m/3,609ft above sea level. Situated in Japan’s largest national park, the Daisetsuzan National Park, Asahidake Onsen is a popular hot-spring resort, as well as a base for adventures into the park. Relax overnight here enjoying the hot springs sourced directly from the Daisetsuzan Mountains.

    Included meals
    – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    – Ryokan at Asahidake Onsen
    – Snowshoeing (1hr) & Caving (1.5hr)

  3. Day 3 Snowshoeing on the foothills of Mt Asahidake

    After enjoying a hearty breakfast at our lodging, we start the day with a scenic cable car ride that takes us to Sugatami Station at 1,600m (5,249ft). There, we strap on our snowshoes and start hiking towards the fumaroles. There are more than 20 vents, energetically discharging the steam into the cold air. The cold winter temperature making the scene look even more spectacular. During the regular hiking season, we are not allowed to leave the trail and approach the fumaroles. In winter, however, the trail is wherever our snowshoes take us!

    From the fumaroles, we head back to Sugatami Station. Depending on the snow condition, we may have some fun sledding on the slopes by the snow-filled ponds before taking the cable car back to the village. We will have a late lunch at a cozy cafe/restaurant in Higashikawa before travelling onto the neighbouring town of Biei.

    Biei is famed for its beautiful rolling hills and patchworks of farming fields. In winter the snow cover highlights the shape of the terrain, making it even more picturesque. We will briefly call by a local museum to learn about the secrets of Biei’s pretty landscapes. In the late afternoon we arrive at Shirogane Onsen, a small hot spring village at the foot of the Tokachi mountains in the south of the Daisetsuzan National Park. If you don’t mind the cold, we recommend you stroll down to Shirahige Waterfall when it’s illuminated at night.

    Included meals
    – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    – Ryokan at Shirogane Onsen
    – Snowshoeing (2.5hr)

  4. Day 4 Snowshoe to the Biei Blue River

    We will have breakfast at our hotel and get ourselves ready for a snowshoeing adventure from the hotel’s doorstep. Shirogane Onsen (600m / 1,968ft) is surrounded by forests of birch and spruce. With our snowshoes on we venture into the forest to approach the Biei River. The Biei River is not easily accessible in summer due to thick bush, however in winter, the snow gives us complete freedom to wander around at our own will!

    As we proceed deeper into the forest, we will start hearing the sound of water, the Biei River. The Biei River is also known as the Blue River and it is the source of the water that gives the famous Blue Pond their colour. The water, containing aluminium particles, emerges from the cliff face at Shirahige Waterfall, pouring into the Biei River at Shirogane Onsen before flowing into the pond.

    We return following the route of the river, eventually joining the track we made on our way in. We will have lunch at local diner in Biei, and see some of the iconic trees and the rolling hills on our journey back to Asahikawa.

    In the late afternoon, we pay a visit to a local sake brewery Takasago. This central Hokkaido region, with abundant spring water and the rice production, is home to two prime rice wine breweries. At Takasago, we take a guided tour around the historic brewery and do some sake tasting before checking into our accommodation near the Asahikawa JR Station. We celebrate the completion of our tour at a local bar/restaurant in downtown Asahikawa.

    Included meals
    – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    – Hotel in Asahikawa
    – Snowshoeing (2.5hr)

  5. Day 5 Finish in Asahikawa

    The tour will wrap up after breakfast. Our hotel is conveniently located near Asahikawa JR Station, from where you can take a train to Sapporo, as well as the airport shuttle to Asahikawa Airport.

    Included meals
    – Breakfast
    – None

Travel to the Meeting Point

We will meet at 5:00 pm at our hotel in Central Asahikawa. The closest airport is Asahikawa Airport (AKJ), where you can fly directly from Tokyo Haneda (HND). From the airport there are seven buses a day departing for Central Asahikawa, which takes 30 to 40 minutes, and costs 630 yen per person.

An alternative to flight is a train (Japan Railway, abbr. JR), which travels every 30-60 mins between Sapporo and Asahikawa. Upon booking, please let us know your travel plans to Asahikawa, so we can assist you with more concrete transportation plans to get yourself to our first night hotel. You can check in after 3:00 pm if you are arriving earlier than our meeting time.

You can search train timetable in English on Japan Transit Planner website.

Heart of Hokkaido Winter Tour Accommodation

DAY 1 Hotel in Asahikawa Ensuite Onsen spa
DAY 2 Ryokan at Asahidake Onsen Ensuite Onsen spa
DAY 3 Ryokan at Shirogane Onsen Ensuite Onsen spa
DAY 4 Hotel in Asahikawa Ensuite Onsen spa

What to bring on your Heart of Hokkaido Winter Tour


  • Hard shell jacket and pants
  • Winter/snow boots & thick socks
  • Thick fleece or down jacket
  • Warm base layers top & bottom
  • Ski gloves, beanie, and items to keep you warm
  • Sunscreen & sunglasses
  • Insulated drink bottle
  • Personal medications
  • Backpack with enough capacity to carry all of the above
  • Enough face masks for the number of travel days (available to purchase locally)
  • Eco-friendly shopping bag and any other item to reduce single-use plastic waste
  • Travel insurance
  • Passport
  • Cash in Japanese yen. Small restaurants and shops in rural parts of Japan do not accept credit cards. Lunch in general costs 1,000-1,500 yen and dinner 2,000-3,000 yen. You can withdraw cash from an ATM at a post office and 7-eleven convenience stores.


  • Cellphone power bank
  • Travel SIM
  • Familiar snacks to eat during activities
  • Camera

We supply

  • Snowshoes and poles
  • Head torch
  • First aid kit
  • Safety equipment and maps

Please note that you will be asked to show your passport when checking in accomodation in Japan. It is a requirement for accommodation providers to take a photocopy of the passport of international visitors.

What to bring for a Winter Hiking Tour