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Japan's Far East
7 Day Wild Winter Tour

Multi-day Guided Snowshoeing & Wildlife Tour in Eastern Hokkaido

from
¥377,000

A winter odyssey in Japan’s eastern frontier, touring through three national parks in eastern Hokkaido. Be mesmerised by the extraordinary landscapes, the unique ice and snow experiences, and the warmth of the hot springs on this winter tour in Japan.

Special offer
We will add an extra night’s accommodation free of charge for the Feb 19 2023 departure. See the travel special for more info.
  • Tour Duration

    7 Days
  • Minimum Travellers

    4 People
  • Accommodation

    6 Nights
  • Tour Starts

    Abashiri, Hokkaido
  • Included Meals

    6 Breakfasts
    5 Lunches
    6 Dinners
  • Tour Finishes

    Kushiro, Hokkaido

Tour Highlights

  • Walk on the ice that has drifted all the way from Russia’s Amur River to Utoro, Shiretoko.
  • Take a nature cruise, with a chance to sight Steller’s sea eagles and White-tailed eagles off the Rausu coast.
  • Dive into the world of the Ainu; Walk in native forest with an Ainu guide, experience their food, music & dance at the Lake Akan Ainu settlement.
  • Venture into Japan’s eastern frontier, home to a trio of national parks: Shiretoko, Lakes Akan & Mashu, and Kushiro Shitsugen Wetland.

About Japan’s Far East

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

On this tour, we 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, as well as snowshoeing on the outer rim of a crater with marvellous lake views.

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


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.

Japan’s Far East Wild Winter Tour
Itinerary at a Glance

*B: Breakfast   L: Lunch   D: Dinner
Day 1 (D)
Meet your group in Abashiri City
Day 2 (B, L, D)
Guided snowshoeing tour at Lake Kussharo
Day 3 (B, L, D)
Guided drift ice walking tour in Utoro Shiretoko
Day 4 (B, L, D)
Marine wildlife watching cruise in Rausu Shiretoko
Day 5 (B, L, D)
Guided snowshoeing tour at Lake Mashu
Day 6 (B, L, D)
Forest walk with Akan Ainu & crane watching in Tsurui
Day 7 (B)
Transfer to Kushiro & farewells


Tour Inclusions

Items that are included in the cost of tour price.
  • 6 nights accommodation on a twin share basis
  • 6 breakfasts, 5 lunches and 6 dinners
  • Guided snowshoeing tour on the shore of Lake Kussharo
  • Guided drift ice walking tour in Utoro Shiretoko
  • Guided marine wildlife watching cruise in Rausu Shiretoko
  • Guided snowshoeing tour on the outer rim of Mashu crater
  • Evening Ainu cultural show at Lake Akan Ainu settlement
  • Guided forest walk with Akan Ainu
  • Guided visit to Tancho crane sanctuary
  • 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 Abashiri City

    We will meet at our hotel at 5:00 pm near Abashiri JR Station in Abashiri, the largest city on Hokkaido’s eastern Okhotsk Sea coast. Once everyone joins, we will spend some time getting to know each other, introduce the programme for our upcoming adventure and then set off for a dinner in downtown Abashiri. For those who aren’t used to walking on icy roads, we will introduce you to the penguin-walking technique!

    Included meals
    – Dinner only
    Accommodation
    – Hotel in Abashiri
    Activities
    – None

  2. Day 2 Snowshoeing at Lake Kussharo & see Whooper Swans

    We’ll have breakfast at the hotel, then 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 an onsen soak!
    We will explore the lakeshore on snowshoes, hoping to spot avian visitors to the forest. Some birds commonly seen in the area are Woodpeckers, Tits, Eurasian Nuthatch and the Eurasian Jay. They will keep you busy with your binoculars. We’ll enjoy a picnic lunch if the weather is favourable, otherwise, have lunch at a local cafe.
    We will leave for Utoro in the afternoon. Utoro is a gateway town to the Shiretoko National Park. The national park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and we will call by the World Heritage information centre before checking in to our accommodation for the night.

    Included meals
    – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Accommodation
    – Lodge in Utoro Shiretoko
    Activities
    – Snowshoeing (2 hours)

  3. 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 dry suits will keep us afloat, dry and warm; So don’t worry if you are not a good swimmer.

    After breakfast at our hotel, we go meet our guides, receive safety instructions and get geared up to soak in the cold sea. We keep our normal winter clothes on, such as fleece and light down jacket, layered beneath our drysuits.

    The exact location of our walk/swim depends on the locations of the ice on the day, which has drifted all the way south from the north of 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 come back ashore and have lunch in Utoro. The afternoon sees us travel to the other side of Shiretoko Peninsula to the fishery town of Rausu. In the evening, we visit an outdoor onsen hot spring, which is maintained by local volunteers passionate about hot spring bathing.

    Included meals
    – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Accommodation
    – Lodge in Rausu Shiretoko
    Activities
    – Walking on the drift ice (1.5 hours)

  4. Day 4 Bird watching cruise in Rausu

    This morning we board on a cruise to explore the coastline on the Rausu side of Shiretoko. Renowned for its kombu seaweed and sea urchin, 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 the local fishers have recently started to offer wildlife watching cruises.

    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 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 the 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 the kotan-kor-kamuy, the protector of the village.

    While it is impossible to know when the owls 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 else could you ask for!

    Included meals
    – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Accommodation
    – Ryokan in Yoroushi Onsen
    Activities
    – Bird watching cruise (2.5 hours)

  5. Day 5 Snowshoeing at Lake Mashu & an 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 commonly take a bath before breakfast at these onsen retreats.

    This morning we depart for the Lake Mashu lookout, where we walk with snowshoes 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 nature covered in snow; before transferring to the Lake Akan onsen village.

    We 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 songs and dances that vary from region to region. Tonight we appreciate the traditions presented by the Akan Ainu.

    Included meals
    – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Accommodation
    – Hotel in Lake Akan Onsen
    Activities
    – Snowshoeing (3 hours)

  6. Day 6 Akan Forest Walk & Red-crowned Crane Sanctuary

    Forming part of the Akan–Mashu National Park, Lake Akan is a picturesque area to explore on foot, with volcanoes and native 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 have lunch at a restaurant run by a local Ainu family to experience the Ainu gastronomy before we head southwards to Tsurui village.

    Tsurui is famous for the successful recovery of Tancho cranes, their population has regained to over 1,200 in the area surrounding Tsurui, with a reasonably high chance to see one even from the road. We visit the Ito Tancho Sanctuary to observe the cranes and learn about the community efforts which have contributed to their recuperation.

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

    Included meals
    – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Acommodation
    – Hotel in Tsurui
    Activities
    – Snowshoeing (1.5 hours)

  7. Day 7 Transfer to Kushiro & farewells

    For early birds and keen birders, we can get up before dawn to go out to see the Tancho crane’s morning takeoff. The Tancho nest in the river next to our lodging. They spend the night in a flock and leave all at the same time to feed.

    We have breakfast at a more civilised hour at our lodging and then drive 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.

    Included meals
    – Breakfast only
    Activities
    – None

Travel to the Meeting Point

We will meet at 5:00 pm at our hotel in Central Abashiri. The closest airport is Abashiri Memanbetsu (MMB), where you can fly directly from Tokyo Haneda (HND), Tokyo Narita (NRT), Sapporo New Chitose (CTS) and Sapporo Okadama (OKD).

From the Abashiri Memanbetsu Airport, Airport shuttles depart for Central Abashiri with the arrival of every domestic flight. The shuttle takes 26 mins from the Airport to the Abashiri JR Station, and costs ¥920 per person.

Our hotel is within walking distance from the Station. Alternatively, you can take a JR train from Sapporo to Abashiri if you prefer. It takes 5.5 hours and costs just over ¥10,000 for a non-reserved seat.

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

Japan’s Far East Wild Winter Tour Accommodation

DAY 1 Hotel in Abashiri Ensuite None
DAY 2 Lodge in Utoro Shiretoko Ensuite Onsen spa
DAY 3 Lodge in Rausu Shiretoko Ensuite None
DAY 4 Ryokan in Yoroushi Onsen Ensuite Onsen spa
DAY 5 Hotel in Lake Akan Onsen Ensuite Onsen spa
DAY 6 Hotel in Tsurui Ensuite Onsen spa

What to Bring on your Japan’s Far East Wild Winter Tour

Essentials

  • 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
  • Backpack with enough capacity to carry all of the above
  • Toiletries
  • Personal medications
  • 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 post offices and 7-eleven convenience stores.

Recommended

  • Binoculars
  • Dry bag
  • Motion sickness pills for the boat ride (available to purchase locally)
  • Cellphone power bank
  • Extra snacks which you’re used to eating during the activities
  • Camera

We supply

  • Snowshoes & poles
  • First aid kit
  • Safety equipment

Please note that you will be asked to show your passport when checking in accommodation in Japan. Accommodation providers are required to take a photocopy of the passport of non-Japanese guests.

What to bring for a Winter Hiking Tour

Dates Trip Status Twin Price (PP) Single Price (PP)  
February 5, 2023 - February 11, 2023
Closed
Twin Price (PP): ¥377,000
Single Price (PP): ¥408,000
February 19, 2023 - February 25, 2023
Get an extra night's accommodation before or after this tour. See the travel special for more info.
Available
Twin Price (PP): ¥377,000
Single Price (PP): ¥408,000