JAN 28 - FEB 8 2024
TOKYO IN / SAPPORO OUT
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 us 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.
In addition to the Sapporo Snow Festival, you will also see other "winter wonders" such as the adorable snow monkeys in Nagano, the UNESCO World Heritage listed village of Shirakawago, and the spectacular Zao Snow Monsters in Yamagata prefecture. You will also have plenty of time to enjoy Japan's winter wonderland in your own way. Hit the slopes in Hokkaido, explore the winter sights, or simply spend your time relaxing in a soothing hot spring. It's up to you!
・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 Shirakawago and Gokayama
・Enjoy a relaxing night in a traditional hot spring inn
・Visit Yamagata to see the magnificent Zao Snow Monsters
・Enjoy a relaxing cruise around beautiful Matsushima Bay
・View Tokyo and Mt. Fuji from the Tokyo Sky Tree (350 m)
Airport-hotel transfers in Japan
Transport and entry to all places described in the itinerary
11 nights accommodation in carefully selected hotels/inns
3 dinners (welcome, farewell, and ryokan dinner)
The services of Craig Campbell (tour guide/driver/interpreter)
*Please note that tour prices do not include airfares to and from Japan
DATE: Jan 28th, 2024 Tokyo
Travel to Tokyo by Sunday January 28th, 2024.
Arrive at Narita International Airport (NRT) 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.
DATE: Jan 29th, 2024 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 (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 first observation deck (350 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 local izakaya (Japanese-style restaurant/bar).
DATE: Jan 30th, 2024 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!
At night we will enjoy a delicious Japanese dinner at our ryokan. You can even try wearing a traditional yukata (summer kimono) to dinner like the locals do!
DATE: Jan 31st, 2024 Kanazawa
Travel from Nagano to Kanazawa by shinkansen.
Once we arrive in Kanazawa we will visit the magnificent Kenrokuen Garden, which is justifiably classified as one of Japan's three most beautiful landscape gardens. The spacious garden used to be the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle and was 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.
DATE: Feb 1st, 2024 Kanazawa
Enjoy an unforgettable day trip to the historic villages of Ainokura and Suganuma in the Gokayama region and Ogimachi in the Shirakawago 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.
DATE: Feb 2nd, 2024 Sendai
Travel from Kanazawa to Sendai by shinkansen.
After we arrive in Sendai we will then make the short trip to Matsushima Bay to enjoy a relaxing cruise around the bay. 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.
DATE: Feb 3rd, 2024 Sendai
Enjoy an unforgettable day trip to Yamagata prefecture to see the spectacular Zao Snow Monsters and cute snow foxes at the Zao Fox Village.
Each winter a unique weather phenomenon where just the right combination of dense fog, heavy snow, strong winds and low temperatures produces "snow monsters" in the Zao mountain range. Hundreds of trees are glazed with ice and snow, morphing them into strange monster-like figures. Enjoy a leisurely ride in an enclosed cable car and see beautiful mountain views in the distance and the spectacular snow monsters directly below.
Our next stop is the Zao Fox Village, where you will not only see 6 different species of foxes, but also have the chance to feed and touch them.
DATE: Feb 4th, 2024 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.
DATE: Feb 5th, 2024 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.
DATE: Feb 6th, 2024 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.
Alternatively, you can join Craig on a half day tour to the Historic Village of Hokkaido. This wonderful open-air museum exhibits around 60 traditional buildings from all over Hokkaido, dating back to the Meiji Period (1868 - 1912). The museum brilliantly recreates four different townscapes; a fishing village, a farm village, a mountain village and a traditional Hokkaido town.
DATE: Feb 7th, 2024 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 local izakaya (Japanese-style restaurant/bar).
DATE: Feb 8th, 2024
Relax in Sapporo before transferring to New Chitose Airport (CTS) for your return flight. Depending on your flight time you may be able to enjoy some more of the Sapporo Snow Festival, or some last minute local sightseeing or shopping in Sapporo.