Japan's Far East 7 Day Wild Winter Tour - February Special

Stellar's Sea Eagle soaring over the drift ice

Hop between ice floes, snowshoe along the rims of caldera lakes and warm yourself in hot springs along Japan’s wild eastern frontier. Not to mention the fantastic wildlife experiences that await you on this winter adventure!

Hokkaido’s far east region is often described as the last unexplored frontier of Japan. This region is popular for wildlife and outdoor lovers in the summer. It is also renowned internationally in winter as a bird-watching destination.

On this tour, we will visit some of Hokkaido’s beautiful national parks. We take in unique winter outdoor activities, including walking on the drift ice, watching the dancing cranes, and snowshoeing on the outer rim of a crater with marvellous lake views.

You don’t have to be an experienced skier or snowboarder to enjoy Hokkaido’s untouched deep snow. We will use snowshoes to hike through the snowy landscape, allowing anyone to enjoy Hokkaido’s winter scenery. Out on the drift ice, dry suits will keep you dry and warm despite the freezing temperatures. Let us guide your once-in-a-lifetime winter adventure!

Tour Highlights

Walk on drift ice as it floats on the sea

The drift ice travels all the way from Russia's Amur River to Utoro, Shiretoko where it collects along the coast. A unique spectacle.

Catch sight of Steller's Sea Eagles and White-tailed Eagles

Take a nature cruise off the Rausu coast, with the chance to see the eagles resting on the drift ice.

Dive into the world of the Ainu

Walk in native forest with an Ainu guid and experience their food, music and dance at the Lake Akan Ainu settlement.

Observe the Red-crowned Cranes performing synchronised dances

Visit a Red-crowned Crane sanctuary in Tsurui to observe Japan’s most symbolic bird.

Experience Hokkaido's diverse National Parks

Venture into Japan’s eastern frontier, home to a trio of national parks: Shiretoko, Lakes Akan & Mashu, and Kushiro–Shitsugen.


Day 1

Meet your group in Abashiri City

We will meet at our hotel at 6:00 pm near JR Abashiri Station in Abashiri, the largest city on Hokkaido’s eastern Sea of Okhotsk coast. Once everyone is gathered, we will spend some time getting to know each other and introducing the program for our upcoming adventure before we set off for dinner in downtown Abashiri. For those who aren’t used to walking on icy roads, we will introduce you to the penguin-walking technique!

Stay Hotel in Abashiri
Day 2

Snowshoeing at Lake Kussharo & See Whooper Swans

We’ll have breakfast at the hotel before we head south for Lake Kussharo, where a flock of Whooper Swans spend the winter. Lake Kussharo, found in the Akan–Mashu National Park, is the largest caldera lake in Japan. In winter, nearly all of the lake’s surface is frozen, save for some parts of the shore where hot spring water bubbles up from underground. The swans flock to these hot water areas to have a warming soak!

We will explore the lake shore by snowshoe, hoping to spot avian visitors to the forest. Some birds commonly seen in the area are woodpeckers, tits, Eurasian Nuthatches and the Eurasian Jay. They will keep you busy with your binoculars. We’ll enjoy a picnic lunch if the weather is favourable. Otherwise, we will have lunch at a local cafe.

We will leave for Utoro in the afternoon. Utoro is the gateway town to Shiretoko National Park. The national park is also a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site and we will stop by the World Heritage information centre before checking in at our accommodation for the night.

Snowshoe for 2 hours
Stay Hotel in Utoro, Shiretoko
Day 3

Walking on the drift ice at Utoro, Shiretoko

Ready to wake up with a dip in the icy ocean? Well, this morning is all about that! The drysuits will keep us afloat, dry and warm– so don’t worry if you are not a good swimmer.

After breakfast at our hotel, we will meet our guides, receive safety instructions and get kitted up to soak in the cold sea. We will keep our normal winter clothes on, such as fleeces and light down jackets, to act as warming layers under our drysuits.

The exact location of our walk/swim depends on the location of drift ice on the day, which has floated all the way south from northern Sakhalin to the coast of Shiretoko. The drift ice is a natural phenomenon that can be seen on the Okhotsk coast every winter, generally from February to March. However, the scale of the ice has been observably shrinking in recent years due to climate change.

After we enjoy the experience of walking on the floating ice, we will come back ashore and have lunch in Utoro. The afternoon sees us travel to the fishery town of Rausu on the other side of the Shiretoko Peninsula. In the evening, we visit an outdoor onsen hot spring, which is maintained by local volunteers passionate about hot spring bathing.

Drift Ice Walk for 1.5 hours
Stay Lodge in Rausu, Shiretoko
Day 4

Bird watching cruise in Rausu

Renowned for its kombu seaweed and sea urchins, the peculiar submarine topography makes Rausu a prosperous fishing town. It’s not just humans that visit to fish though, the rich waters attract all sorts of wildlife and local fishermen offer wildlife watching cruises to share this experience with visitors. 

After having breakfast at our hotel, we set out for a 2.5-hour cruise with Shiretoko Nature Cruise. If we are lucky we will see Steller’s Sea Eagles, White-tailed Eagles, Brunnich’s Guillemots, and Steller’s Sea Lions. After the cruise, we will have lunch in downtown Rausu before travelling on to Yoroushi Onsen.

It’s not just hot spring visitors who come to Yoroushi Onsen. A few Blakiston’s Fish Owls visit from time to time to feed in the river running behind our hotel. The Blakiston’s Fish Owl is the largest owl in the world and has lived in Hokkaido’s forests for centuries. The Ainu people worship it as kotan-kor-kamuy , the protector of the village.

While it is impossible to know when the owls will turn up, the hotel has a comfortable viewing lounge where you can relax on comfortable sofas while you stay up and wait for their visit. When they arrive the large windows let you photograph them from the warm indoors. What more could you ask for!

Nature Cruise for 2.5 hours
Stay Ryokan at Yoroushi Onsen
Day 5

Snowshoeing at Lake Mashu & Ainu concert at Lake Akan

After staying up late to wait for the appearance of the owls, wake yourself up with a soak in the hot springs. The onsen is open throughout the night into the morning at Yoroushi Onsen. Japanese visitors often take a bath before breakfast at these onsen retreats.

This morning we will depart for the Lake Mashu lookout and we will snowshoe along the outer rim of Mashu caldera. The lake is known as “Misty Mashu” for its mist and fog that frequently settle in the caldera, creating mystical landscapes.

We take in the serene views of the surrounding snow-covered landscape before transferring to Lake Akan’s onsen village.

We will have dinner at our lodging and then go out for an Ainu night concert at the Lake Akan Ainu Kotan (settlement). Like many other indigenous cultures, the Ainu did not have forms of writing; their folklore is deeply embedded in song and dance that varies from region to region. Tonight we will appreciate the traditions presented by the Akan Ainu.

Snowshoe for 2 hours
Stay Hotel at Lake Akan
Day 6

Akan Ainu forest walk & watch Red-crowned Cranes

Forming part of the Akan–Mashu National Park, Lake Akan is a picturesque area to explore on foot, with volcanoes and old growth forests surrounding the caldera lake. After having breakfast at our hotel, we venture into the forest, guided by a local Ainu. Our guide will teach us about Ainu history and their way of life, living in harmony with nature.

We will have lunch at a restaurant run by a local Ainu family to experience Ainu cuisine before we head south to Tsurui village.

Tsurui is famous for the successful recovery of Red-crowned Cranes. Their population has rebounded to over 1,200 birds in the area surrounding Tsurui, with a reasonably high chance to see one even from the main roads. We will visit the Ito Tancho Sanctuary to observe the cranes and learn about the community efforts which have contributed to their recovery..

Our lodging tonight has a unique moor hot spring containing plant-derived organic substances. The Tancho gallery/bar in the annex makes a perfect setting to celebrate our final night together.

Snowshoe for 1.5 hours
Stay Hotel in Tsurui
Day 7

Transfer to Kushiro & farewells

For early birds and keen birders, we can get up before dawn to go out and see the cranes taking off in the early morning. They nest on the river next to our lodging, spending the night in a flock and leaving all at the same time to feed.

We will have breakfast at a more civilised hour at our lodging and then drive for about 1 hour to Kushiro City to complete the tour. We can drop you off at either Kushiro JR Station or Kushiro Airport between 10 am and 11 am.

What Guests Say

Two guests do trick photography at Notsuke Peninsula.

I loved the whole trip.

The guides were very knowledgeable, helpful, fun-loving and really made the trip memorable for me. They were attentive to the group’s requests and needs and also very attentive to each of our individual needs and always watchful for the little details to make the trip comfortable for us. I am very grateful to Tobaji-san and Zac for the memorable and fun adventure I experienced. I will definitely return for more adventures with Adventure Hokkaido.

Dates & Prices

+¥47,000pp for single room

Travel Style

This tour includes a series of active experiences that while easygoing will still allow you to experience the great outdoors and work up a bit of a sweat! We will be outdoors in subzero temperatures for up to 4 hours at a time before returning to the van and travelling to the next stop. While it is cold outside, it will be warm in the van and indoors. This makes it easy to warm back up, but makes good layering important - make sure you check the packing list. Your luggage will stay in our van, freeing you up to enjoy the day’s adventure with only a light day pack. There is also a focus on the region’s wildlife and you will have multiple chances to catch a glimpse at some of Hokkaido’s incredible migratory winter creatures.