WINTER WONDERS TOUR 2020

Winter Wonders, a sparkling journey through Japan's winter wonderland

  Japan is famous for the beauty of its four distinct seasons, and winter is perhaps the most    

  sublime. Winter is also arguably the best time of the year to visit Japan for culinary travelers.  

  Join Craig on a sparkling journey through Japan's winter wonderland!

  The highlight of the Winter Wonders Tour is the spectacular "Sapporo Snow Festival", one of

  Japan's largest winter events. Every winter about 2 million people visit Sapporo to see the large

  number of splendid snow and ice sculptures on display. During the festival Sapporo is

  transformed into a winter dreamland of crystal-like ice and white snow.

  The relaxed itinerary of this tour means that you will have plenty of time to enjoy Japan's

  winter wonderland in your own way. Hit the slopes in Nagano and Hokkaido, explore the winter

  sights, or simply spend your time relaxing in a soothing hot spring. It's up to you!

Snow monkey in a hot spring in Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, Nagano, Japan during our Winter Wonders small group tour of Japan.
Ice sculpture at the Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido, Japan during our Winter Wonders small group tour of Japan.
2 people eating lamb in Hokkaido, Japan during our Winter Wonders small group tour of Japan.

 Tour Highlights

 Enjoy majestic winter scenery throughout northern Japan

 Experience the wonder of the "Sapporo Snow Festival"

 See the snow monkeys bathing in mountain hot springs

 Visit the historic villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama

 Enjoy a relaxing night at a traditional hot spring inn

 Have ample time to hit the slopes in Nagano and Hokkaido

 Enjoy a relaxing cruise around beautiful Matsushima Bay

 Go to the very top of the Tokyo Sky Tree (450 m)

Inclusions

Airport-hotel transfers in Japan

Transport and entry to all places described in the itinerary

11 nights accommodation in carefully selected hotels/inns

11 breakfasts

2 dinners (welcome dinner and farewell dinner)

The services of Craig Campbell (tour guide/interpreter)

*Please note that tour prices do not include airfares to and from Japan

Goryokaku Fort in Hakodate in the middle of winter during our Winter Wonders small group tour of Japan.

Day 1 (Jan 27th, 2020) Tokyo
Travel to Tokyo by Monday January 27th, 2020.

Arrive at Narita or Haneda Airport by own arrangements.

Craig will meet you at the airport and assist you with the transfer to your hotel in central Tokyo. Once you have checked in to your hotel you will have free time to relax,

or enjoy some local sightseeing, shopping, dinner, etc.


Day 2 (Jan 28th, 2020) Tokyo

Enjoy a full day tour of Tokyo, taking in both the old and

the new of one of the largest cities in the world.

First we will visit the old downtown area of Tokyo (Ueno and Asakusa). In Ueno we will stroll through the Ameya Yokocho Markets, one of Japan's best street markets, and then enjoy a relaxing walk through Ueno Park, one of the largest and most famous parks in Tokyo. We will then

travel to Asakusa, where we will walk down the famous Nakamise Shopping Street to the Asakusa Kannon Temple (otherwise known as Sensoji Temple), the oldest and most visited Buddhist temple in Tokyo.

Next we will visit two of the most modern places in Tokyo, the Tokyo Sky Tree and Odaiba. The Tokyo Sky Tree was completed in 2012, and is the tallest building in Japan. We will go to the very top observation deck (450 m) to enjoy spectacular views of the Tokyo metropolis and Mt. Fuji.

We will finish the day by going to Odaiba, an ultramodern area on Tokyo Bay. Here you can enjoy pleasure cruising, shopping, and spectacular views of Rainbow Bridge,

Tokyo Bay, and the Tokyo skyline.

At night we will enjoy a lovely welcome dinner together

at a traditional Japanese izakaya (Japanese-style pub).

Day 3 (Jan 29th, 2020) Nagano (Shibu Onsen)
Travel from Tokyo to Nagano by shinkansen.
Once we arrive in Nagano we will visit the Jigokudani Monkey Park to see the adorable snow monkeys bathing

in natural mountain hot springs. This stunning place is

home to a troop of wild Japanese macaques who go about their daily lives here, including the unique behavior of bathing in onsen (natural hot springs). This particular

troop of monkeys, which was featured on the cover of

Time Magazine in 1970, is the only troop in the world known to enjoy this relaxing "human" activity.

At night we will stay at a traditional hot spring inn in the small hot spring resort town of Shibu Onsen. Dress in traditional Japanese attire (yukata and geta) and walk through the streets of this wonderful little town entering

the local public hot springs as you go. This is a unique Japanese experience that you will never forget!

Day 4 (Jan 30th, 2020) Kanazawa
Travel from Nagano to Kanazawa by shinkansen.
Once we arrive in Kanazawa we will visit the magnificent Kenrokuen Gardens, which is justifiably classified as one

of Japan's "three most beautiful landscape gardens". The spacious gardens used to be the outer gardens of Kanazawa Castle and were constructed by the ruling Maeda family

over a period of nearly two centuries.

After enjoying a leisurely stroll through these magnificent gardens we will then explore the sprawling grounds of Kanazawa Castle itself. This castle was the seat of the powerful Maeda clan from 1583 to the end of the Edo period.

We will finish the day by exploring Kanazawa's famous "Nagamachi Samurai District". This district, located at the foot of Kanazawa Castle, was where the ruling samurai

and their families used to live. The area preserves a historic atmosphere with its remaining samurai residences, earthen walls, private entrance gates, narrow lanes, and water canals.


Day 5 (Jan 31st, 2020) Kanazawa

Enjoy an amazing day trip to the historic villages of "Ainokura" and "Suganuma" in the Gokayama region and "Ogimachi" in the Shirakawa-go region. These three small villages were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1995, and are famous for their traditional "gassho-zukuri" architecture. Some of the buildings in these historic

villages are more than 250 years old, and their unique designs and beautiful natural surroundings have made them some of the most photographed buildings in all of Japan.

Day 6 (Feb 1st, 2020) Karuizawa

Travel from Kanazawa to Karuizawa by shinkansen.

Once we arrive in Karuizawa you will have free time to

hit the slopes, relax in the hot springs, or go shopping at Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza, one of Japan's largest outlet shopping malls. Karuizawa is an upmarket resort

town located at the foot of the active volcano Mt. Asama

in Nagano Prefecture. Karuizawa's convenient location, abundance of nature, beautiful scenery, ski resorts, and

large number of natural hot springs has made it an

extremely popular weekend getaway destination for

many people living in the Greater Tokyo Area.

Day 7 (Feb 2nd, 2020) Sendai

Travel from Karuizawa to Sendai by shinkansen.

After we arrive in Sendai we will then make the short trip

to Matsushima Bay to enjoy a relaxing cruise. Matsushima Bay is dotted with hundreds of pine clad islets, and has

been ranked as one of Japan’s "three most scenic views"

for centuries. After enjoying the beauty of Matsushima Bay from the water, we will then walk to a couple of islands and explore black and red pine forests and ancient temples and shrines.

Day 8 (Feb 3rd, 2020) Hakodate
Travel from Sendai to Hakodate by shinkansen.
Once we arrive in Hakodate we will travel through the streets of this beautiful port city by streetcar until we reach the historic Goryokaku Fort. This massive, star shaped, western style fort was built approximately 150 years ago

and was the first of its kind in Japan. It is now designated

as a "special historic site" due to its historical significance.

In the late afternoon we will make our way to the very top

of Mt. Hakodate by an aerial ropeway gondola to enjoy the sunset and stunning night views. The view from Mt. Hakodate is highly acclaimed, gaining the highest possible three-star rating in the "Michelin Green Guide Japan".


Day 9 (Feb 4th, 2020) Sapporo
Travel from Hakodate to Sapporo by limited express train.
Once we arrive in Sapporo we will then head to the center

of the city to experience the wonder of the world famous Sapporo Snow Festival, one of Japan’s largest winter

events. The Sapporo Snow Festival began in 1950 when a small group of high school students built a few snow

statues in Odori Park in downtown Sapporo. It has since turned into a spectacular annual event featuring

breathtaking snow and ice sculptures, and attracting more than two million visitors each year from throughout Japan and all around the world.


Day 10 (Feb 5th, 2020) Sapporo
Enjoy a free day to hit the slopes in Sapporo or take in
more of the Sapporo Snow Festival. A number of world famous ski resorts such as "Kiroro" and "Niseko" are

located only a short distance from Sapporo, and can be easily accessed by train or bus. The Sapporo Snow Festival is staged at three different sites, the Odori Site, the

Susukino Site, and the Tsu Dome Site. At the main Odori Site you can see the festival's famous large snow sculptures, some of which measure more than 25 meters in width and

15 meters in height. The Susukino Site, located in the

middle of Sapporo's largest entertainment district, exhibits approximately one hundred beautiful handmade ice sculptures. The Tsu Dome Site is a family oriented site with three types of snow slides, snow rafting, and more amazing snow sculptures.

At night the ice and snow sculptures on display at the Odori Site and Susukino Site are lit up, creating some of the most spectacular winter scenery you will see anywhere in the world. You can also watch high-tech laser mapping displays while enjoying delicious local cuisine from one of the many street stalls that line the streets of Sapporo during the entire festival.
 

Day 11 (Feb 6th, 2020) Sapporo

Enjoy a leisurely day trip to Otaru.

We will travel from Sapporo to Otaru on a local train which meanders along the beautiful coastline of western

Hokkaido. On this train ride you will see some of the most spectacular winter ocean views you are ever likely to come across. You may even be lucky enough to spot some of the local wildlife as well. Hokkaido is a wild animal paradise, featuring bears, deer, foxes, cranes, swans, and even orcas.

Once we arrive in Otaru we will visit the city's beautiful canal area and take a leisurely stroll up to the Otaru

Suitengu Shrine. The small port city of Otaru is often referred to as the "Venice of Japan" because of its historic and picturesque canals which are lined with brick warehouses and gas lights. The Venice connection has also been expanded to include a new focus on glass-blowing in the city. Not only can you enjoy the beauty of the canals,

but you can also enjoy locally brewed beers and ciders at one of the local breweries, or try some of the best sushi

in Japan on “Sushi Street”. Sushi Street is lined on both sides with dozens of delicious sushi restaurants, some of which have been in business for more than 100 years.

At night we will enjoy a lovely farewell dinner together at

a traditional Japanese izakaya (Japanese-style pub).


Day 12 (Feb 7th, 2020)

Relax in Sapporo before transferring to New Chitose

Airport by limited express train for your return flight.

Depending on your flight time you may be able to enjoy some more of the Sapporo Snow Festival, or even some

last minute local sightseeing or shopping in Sapporo.