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Experience a Japanese celebration of winter – snow and ice festivals, and nature

Join our winter tour of Japan to experience snow & ice festivals on the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido.


As winter covers Japan, the people delight in snow, ice, light and fire – festivals and celebrations that cover the north of Japan.

Even if you’ve been to Japan before, you’ll gain a deeper cultural
experience during the winter season. Gourmet Japanese meals, local delicacies, off the beaten track experiences. The tour is led by Japanese speaking expert Takako Ishige & Owen Johnstone-Donnet, who have designed and organised the tour.


Date : Wednesday 27 January – Monday 15 February 2016

* The tour is limited to 16 guests.

  Fully booked  - See you next time! 

* Please contact us soon if you are interested in this tour.

Day 1

(Wed 27 Jan)

Daylight flight to Tokyo


 Daylight flight with JAL to Tokyo’s Narita Airport. You can also depart on an overnight flight with Qantas to Haneda Airport (Tokyo). We’ll advise on the best flight for you.

A relaxing evening in Tokyo to begin sightseeing tomorrow. Overnight Tokyo.


Day 2 - 3

(28 - 29 Jan)



Make the 713km journey from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori in just over three hours on the ‘Hayabusa’ super-express on the Tohoku Shinkansen then enjoy aboard the ‘Limited Express Hakucho’ service for the undersea crossing from Honshu to Hokkaido via via the 53.85km Seikan tunnel – one of the world’s longest undersea tunnels.

On arrival in Hakodate, we ascend Hakodateyama (334m) by ropeway. On clear days and nights the views from the mountain are spectacular, and the view is considered among Japan's three best night views.


Hakodate developed as a port town for trading with foreign countries at the end of the 19th century, and is the gateway of Hokkaido, connected as it is with the main island of Japan by the Seikan Tunnel. We will visit a Morning Market which is held where more than 360 stalls packed tightly together attract shoppers with freshly caught squid, scallops, salmon eggs, crabs, sea urchin, and many other fishes, as well as fresh produce such as melons.

We then travel to O-numa National Park which has 126 islands, large and small, and is famous for the spectacular views of these islands connected by 18 bridges. It is covered in snow, and we will explore on foot.

We then visit Fort Goryokaku - a massive, star shaped, Western style citadel and observation deck.

We head back to the city and catch the Hakodate City Tram to explore the foreign influenced area of  Motomachi.


After sunset, we enjoy the Hakodate Winter Festival – evening illumination of about 50,000 lights. You can take pleasure in the dreamy night view only seen in winter in Hakodate. Two nights in Hakodate.


Day 4 - 6

(30 Jan - 1 Feb)

 To Kushiro, Kushiro Marshland by steam train and crane watching


The train journey to Kushiro is dramatic - we follow the passing remnant volcanic mountains to Minami-Chitose, then head through the rugged mountains of central Hokkaido, past Shintoku and Obihiro, before returning to the coast on our approaches to Kushiro. The presence of winter is seen in snow covered tress, frozen rivers and waterfalls, and a brilliant whiteness so uncommon to Australians.

In the north of Kushiro is Japan's largest marshland, which supports the only known population of endangered Japanese Cranes ‘tancho cranes’ - in Japan.  We visit couple of viewing points of Tancho crane. Enjoy the splendid crane watching as the fly onto and dance on frozen riverstheir love dance in nature.


We also join a special steam hauled rail service - SL Fuyuno Shitsugengo - and travel north through Kushiro marshlands in the white snow fields and a walk in the National Park. Three nights in Kushiro.


(2 - 3 Feb)

Day 7 - 8

 Abashiri, Drift Ice Museum and Ice Floe cruise, Ryuhyo Norokko train, Ainu culture and Prison Museum


Facing the Okhotsk Sea, drift ice arrives on the coast in January and February.  We visit the Okhotsk Ice Floe Museum with its interesting video explaining the ice floes that come in from the Sea of Russia. In the late afternoon we join a cruise on the Sea of Okhotsk - icebreaker "Aurora" provide an extraordinary cruising experience into the drift ice on the sea. You may see Ojirowashi eagles spreading their wings and Northern Fur seals and Kurile seals having naps on the floes. Steller Sea Eagles can also be seen around the town, especially along the harbourside.


On the other day we visit the Abashiri Prison Museum and learn of how the road to Abashiri was constructed,

or visit the Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples which introduces the culture and traditional everyday life of the peoples inhabiting the northern, subarctic regions of the globe, including the Ainu, the First Nations people of northern Canada, the Inuit and the Siberian peoples. Two nights in Abashiri.


(4 - 5 Feb)

Day 9 - 10

To Asahidake Onsen and Daisetsuzan National Park


Head to the peaceful and remote mountain resort of Asahidake Onsen in Daisetsuzan National Park. 

It is Hokkaido's largest national park and preserves a mountainous area of virtually unspoiled wilderness. Since ancient times the Ainu people have referred to the Daisetsu mountain range as the "pleasure garden of the gods”.   The magnificent scene of the highest mountains in Hokkaido, with its pristine rich nature, has attracted many visitors.


Enjoy the luxurious hotel, fine food using local Hokkaido produce and high quality open air onsen (hot springs) admiring the snow and beautiful nature.


Dinner is included both nights during our stay – a classic French meal on one, and a Japanese on another.


Day 11 - 12

(6 - 7 Feb)

Asahikawa and Asahikawa Snow and Ice Festival, Asahiyama Zoo 


Asahikawa boasts one of the single largest snow structures in Japan, as well as a kilometre of more than 50 ice sculptures during the Asahikawa Snow and Ice Festival. The International Ice sculpture Competition is in full swing,  and we will be able to view the sculptors at work carving their ice masterpieces.


On the next day we visit the famous Asahiyama Zoo to see the penguin march and learn of the habitats of other arctic animals, including polar bears. Two nights in Asahikawa.


Day 13

(8 Feb)

67th Sapporo Snow Festival


Head to Sapporo - the capital of Hokkaido and Japan's fifth largest city. 

On arrival at Sapporo there is an option to visit the Mt. Moiwa-yama, which has wide foothills that stretch into the southwest of Sapporo and is known for its fine view.


Then we enjoy the Sapporo Snow Festival, one of Japan's largest winter events, attracts a growing number of visitors from Japan and abroad every year. Every winter, about two million people come to Sapporo to see the hundreds of beautiful snow statues and ice sculptures which line Odori Park and the main street in Susukino. For seven days in February, these statues and sculptures (both large and small) turn Sapporo into a winter dreamland of crystal-like ice and white snow. The Snow Festival began in 1950, when local high school students built six snow statues in Odori Park. In 1955, the Self-Defence Force joined in and built the very first massive snow sculpture, for which the Snow Festival has become famous. Three nights in Sapporo. 


(9 Feb)

Day 14

Sightseeing in Sapporo and Shikotsu Lake Snow and Lights Festival


This morning you have some free time – visit the snow clad Nakajima Park, and inspect the fine Kitara Concert Hall, or visit the Shiroi Koibito Park - a fantastic space based on the ideals of deliciousness, fun and stories of sweets from a bygone era. In addition to housing the Shiroi Koibito Factory where this well-known Hokkaido confectionery is produced, the park also has a cafe to savour Ishiya’s original sweets and lovely chocolate.


After lunch we head south by rail the forty minutes to Chitose. We change to a bus to take us to the shores of Lake Shikotsku to experience their Snow and Light Festival. An area of the shore is transformed by snow sculptures and ice creations, many lit with coloured lights to create unusual lighting effects.


Day 10

(10 Feb)

Day 15

(9 Feb)

Day 14

Sightseeing in Otaru, Otaru Snow Light Path Festival


We travel by rail to Otaru, where the Russian influence is most evident. It has developed and prospered as "the sea entrance of Hokkaido" over the last 100 years and glassworks shops, coffee shops, restaurants and shopping malls along the canal have been converted from stone or brick-built warehouses, which were used for storage when the canal was crowded with jostling barges in the former flourishing days of commerce. Visit either the Nikka Whisky Distillery or Otaru Transport Museum, before we walk the old canal and warehouse streets.

When evening falls, oil lamps on the cobbled streets are lit, and candles float along the canal, with the town gently evoking a nostalgic mood. Enjoy the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival along the canal.


(11- 12 Feb)

Day 16 - 17

Hirosaki and Goshogawara


Travel to Hirosaki in Aomori prefecture, in northern Honshu. Experience this castle town’s Snow Lantern Festival with beautiful winter scenes that elicit a myriad of poetic winters. More than 50 snow lanterns and 300 snow statues beckon you into this fantasy winter world.


On the next day we travel the short distance to remote Goshogawara. We visit its Neputa museum, which houses some of massive 23-metre tall and 19 ton parade floats for display, and has a fascinating exhibition on how they are built. Then we ride the unique ‘stove trainwhich runs only in winter - cook squid on the stove with locals and drink sake to become warm.  Two nights in Hirosaki.


(13 Feb)

Day 18

Resort Shirakami and Namahage festival in Oga


Travel on the Resort Shirakami train for the scenic journey along the Gono Line along the north west coast of Honshu to Akita Prefecture. 

This evening we participate in the small village winter festival 'Namahage Sedo Festival' on Oga Peninsula - our final highlight of our winter in Japan tour. The demon ‘Namahage’ visits the village houses and admonishes children who are lazy or naughty. Enjoy the performances such as Namahage Daiko (Japanese drumming) and Namahage dance in front of the Sedo fire.


Our last night in Japan is in a country ryokan and enjoy hot spring baths and a final dinner together.

Overnight in Oga.


(14 Feb)

Day 19

 To Tokyo and Narita / Haneda Airport


We enjoy breakfast and then a late morning departure south to Akita and then by Akita shinakansen to Tokyo. Enjoy a relaxing journey through the snow clad mountains back to Morioka, and then we head south through Sendai and Omiya to Tokyo.

In Tokyo we transfer to either Narita or Haneda airport for flights home.


(15 Feb)

Day 20

arrive Australia


A morning arrival back in Australia and the conclusion of our wonderful winter festivals tour of Japan by Rail.


 $10,880 (person (twin share), plus airfares from Australia)

 $  1,565  single supplement for hotels

Tour fare includes:

  •  19 day escorted tour

  •  18 nights accommodation in 4 star standard hotels

  •  Breakfast included every morning

  •  8 dinners

  •  First class rail travel


Tour size:

  •   Limited to 16 guests



*Bookings are confirmed on receipt of the booking form and your deposit. The booking form is attached to each tour brochure or can be downloaded above. After receipt of the booking form and deposit, we will send a confirmation letter to you.

For booking, any further details or information,

use the "BOOKING AND ENQUIRY" buttoms above  or  call us on

(02) 9326 9660

0418 585 838

or  email at

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