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Journey to the East (Hokkaido)

Journey to the East (Hokkaido)

7 Nights / 8 Days [Every Year in February]
From €3,700 / £3,200 / US$4,100 / AU$6,200 per person sharing

Journey to the East is an 8-day discovery to the most remote undiscovered areas of Eastern Hokkaido.

“A week-long discovery to the truly unknown and hidden parts of Eastern Hokkaido,
 featuring Sapporo Snow Festival, Red Crowned Crane Sanctuary, Lake Akan, Unesco World Heritage Shiretoko Peninsula and Abashiri Drift Ice Festival & Cruise.”

Hokkaido’s unspoiled natural beauty makes it a haven for outdoor lovers and nature enthusiasts. Among its vast national parks and lakes, you will come across an abundance of wildlife. Its most famous include the symbolic and endangered Red-Crowned Crane, wild bear, red fox, and giant eagles. Enjoy some coastal explorations in search of dolphins, whales and sea lions. Visit lakes set in volcano calderas. Learn about the indigenous Ainu people. Relax in open-air hot spring baths. Savour on Japan’s freshest and tastiest seafood and culinary treats. These are just some of the encounters you can expect on this incredible journey through Eastern Hokkaido.


Sapporo Local Guide (Full Day)

Make your own way to Sapporo International Airport where you will be met by our local Sapporo staff. If you need help booking flights to Sapporo, please ask one of our team.

After checking into your hotel, you will have time to enjoy the sparkling splendour that is the Sapporo Snow Festival by day and night: the giant snow and ice sculptures illuminated.

Tonight we will visit a local restaurant/izakaya and try some of the very famous crab dishes. Don’t worry, if you are not a fish eater, there will be options!

Sapporo Snow Festival

Enjoy a full day’s exploration in Sapporo during the much-loved Snow Festival. Over 60 international teams compete to build the most impressive snow and ice sculptures, some of which reach over 15m in height. The city’s atmosphere is festive, with hot food stalls and pop-up ice-bars lining the streets to cater to the 2 million visitors (double the city population!) that flock to see this spectacular winter festival.

Make the most of the many options to keep you entertained in Sapporo city (and some of the best seafood & beer in the world) with one more night at your city hotel before leaving the next morning to visit the winter wilderness of Japan’s northernmost island.

Or, if you prefer to leave the snow sculptures, why not visit the very pretty town of Otaru. Your guide will give you plenty of advice and options.

Scenic train journey east to Kushiro

Breakfast at your hotel.

Travel by train to Kushiro on Hokkaido’s east coast (a journey of about 4 hours).

HIGHLIGHT: Kushiro Shitsugen for your first experience of the wonderful red-crowned cranes. This sanctuary has large fenced in areas with pairs of birds to encourage breeding and provides a perfect chance to photograph the birds up close.

Sunrise with Tancho Cranes

HIGHLIGHT: Sunrise with Tancho Cranes at Setsuri River

Set out early to witness a magical sunrise with hundreds of red-crowned cranes gathered together in the river. The Setsuri-gawa River is where the Red-crowned cranes roost in winter and the nearby pastures are their feeding grounds. Rise early and seize this once in a lifetime opportunity to take in a spectacular northern sunrise in the company of the majestic Tancho Cranes at Setsuri-gawa River. Later, your tour leader will take you to explore the scenic Akan National Park and its many wonders.

HIGHLIGHT: Lake Mashu area sightseeing

You will visit an elevated viewing spot on Lake Mashu (tea break, pay locally) to witness whooper swans in a natural onsen alongside the frozen lake. After check-in at the luxurious Tsuruga Wings Hotel (or similar), enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet dinner with all manner of Japanese and western dishes (drinks separate) before experiencing one of the best onsen hot springs baths in all of Japan.

Meet the Ainu Community at Lake Akan

Today you will spend the day touring Lake Akan and surrounding areas. The stunningly scenic mountain drives will take you to Lake Kussharo for spectacular photographic opportunities of expansive winter landscapes vistas.

Dinner and onsen at your hotel always a highlight!

• Sunayu – Swans

EVENING HIGHLIGHT: Traditional Ainu Performance

After onsen, make your way to the local Ainu hall where you can visualise this authentic performance featuring traditional dress, language and dance.

Discover the breathtaking Shiretoko National Park

Breakfast at your hotel

Today you will explore one of the most remote regions in all of Japan, eastern Hokkaido’s Shiretoko Peninsula. Shiretoko National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to huge variety of wildlife, including brown bears, deer, winter red foxes and eagles. Sightseeing boat cruises are a great way to take in the rugged coastline of the Shiretoko Peninsula. They also provide an excellent opportunity to see brown bears who often stalk the rocky beaches of the coast. You might also see sea animals such as dolphins, whales and sea lions

HIGHLIGHT: Shiretoko Winter Boat Cruise or Drift-Ice Walking / Snow-Shoeing (Subject to weather conditions)

Enjoy dinner & hot spring at hotel (included)

Abashiri, home of the Okhotsk Drift Ice Festival

Breakfast at your hotel before transferring with private driver and guide to Abashiri on the northeastern coast.

This is another epic drive through stunning mountain vistas, with stops at certain scenic points for photo opportunities in the expansive natural winter landscape. Enjoy lunch upon arrival and an afternoon of sightseeing around the city amidst the hustle and bustle of 2019’s Abashiri Drift Ice Festival.

HIGHLIGHT: Abashiri Area Sightseeing

  • Abashiri Prison Museum
  • Abashiri Drift Ice Cruise (Subject to Weather Conditions)

Tour Ends in Abashiri

Breakfast at your hotel.

There are a number of options for you from now which you should consider, as part of your overall trip to Hokkaido, Japan.

Option 1: Continue on to Niseko or Furano to enjoy the snow. Ski/Snow board for an extra 3-5 days.

Option 2: As you have already been to the Sapporo Snow Festival, we have removed the Asahikawa Fesitval from our itinerary. If you are feel like seeing more snow sculputeres, then take a train to Asahikawa for their Winter Festival. Arrangements can be made though us.

Option 3: Travel to Memanbetsu Airport for your return flight to Tokyo, Osaka, or somewhere else in Japan. Consult with us before you plan your post tour journey. Expect to pay approx, 20,000JPY for your flight onto the mainland.

Option 4: Depart Japan on your international flight from Sapporo Int’l Airport. The journey to Sapporo will be by train. Details will be provided by us in advance.

Which ever option you prefer, our team are ready to assist. You will have experienced the best of Eastern Hokkaido which we are satisfied will not disappoint.

Dates and Prices

Triple Room€3,500£2,995US$3,800AU$5,900
Single Room€4,890£4,200US$5,300AU$8,200

Tour Starts:

February 04, 2025

Tour Ends:

February 12, 2025 (Sapporo Snow Festival)
Book Now

Tour Starts:

February 03, 2026

Tour Ends:

February 11, 2026 (Sapporo Snow Festival)
Book Now


Sapporo (2 nights)

4* Sapporo ANA Crowne Plaza (or similar)

Located in the centre of Sapporo city, this 4* hotel has everything you need for a very comfortable stay in Sapporo. Rooms are designed well. Lots of restaurants inside the hotel but we usually recommend to take a stroll in the evenings in the city centre. Crab meat is very famous here so why not indulge in a bowl of hot ramen with local crab!









Kushiro (1 Night)

4* Kushiro ANA Crown Plaza (or similar)

Lying adjacent to the Kushiro’s Fisherman’s Wharf, the ANA Crowne Plaza Kushiro is the largest hotel in its area and a favorite amongst many who visit the city on the east coast of Hokkaido. A stay promises a memorable experience with the high quality of service and elegance that is synonymous with the ANA chain of hotels.The classic exterior houses a spacious atrium lobby and 180 of the largest guest rooms in Kushiro specially designed for comfort, each of which boasts spectacular views of the harbor and its natural surroundings.








Lake Akan (2 Nights)

Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings (Superior Japanese style)

Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings is a stylish and contemporary – hot spring Ryokan (Japanese inn). Here you will enjoy delicious buffet dishes and of course traditional hot spring (onsen).








Shiretoko Peninsula (1 night)

4* Shiretoko Daiichi Hotel (or similar)

Shiretoko Daiichi Hotel is located on the Utoro Onsen,Japanese-style hot-springs resort, in the Shiretoko Peninsula registered in the World Heritage,rich in natural beauty. Shiretoko National Park, located on the Shiretoko Peninsula in eastern Hokkaido, is one of Japan’s most beautiful and unspoiled national parks. No roads lead further than about three fourths up the peninsula, and the northern tip can only be viewed from boats or be reached on multi day trekking tours.
The peninsula is home to a variety of wildlife, including brown bears, dear and foxes. In winter, the peninsula’s coast along the Sea of Okhotsk becomes one of the northern hemisphere’s southernmost regions to see drift ice. In 2005, Shiretoko was added to the list of world heritage sites for the irreplaceable value of the peninsula’s ecosystem and biodiversity.








Abashiri (1 night)

Hokuten No Oka Lake Abashiri Tsuruga Resort (Superior Japanese style)

Abashiri’s finest resort hotel located by the Lake with stunning views, relaxing onsen and treatment rooms, and large dining areas to decide from.








Tour Testimonial

Unique Japan Tours
Average rating:  
 1 reviews
 by Libby
'Hokkaido in Winter is a sight to behold'

I would like to thank you and Unique Japan Tours for my wonderful week in Hokkaido, in particular, for allowing the tour to proceed when I was the only subscriber. I know that it could not have been a very profitable exercise for the company. Sakura was a perfect person to have as my guide. We got on very well and shared common interests in food and nature. She took me to some wonderful restaurants and made sure that I saw & experienced many aspects of Japanese cuisine and sampled foods that I might not have done without her encouragement.

Hokkaido in winter is a sight to behold- truly a winter wonderland. The wildlife was spectacular & the festivals were evidence of how the people in this part of the world celebrate and embrace their harsh climate.

My only regret, is that more people did not get to travel with me to this unique and amazing place. I would totally recommend this trip to travellers who want to experience a different perspective of the beauty of the natural world of Japan.

Again, thank you.



Whats Included

Accommodation4 Nights x Superior (4*) Western Hotels

3 Nights x Superior Ryokans with hot springs and traditional Japanese evening meals

English Speaking Tour LeaderWhen 6 or more are on the group you will be escorted by our English speaking tour leader. If your group is less than 6 people, you will be doing the tour on a semi-escorted basis (Met in each area by our local assistants and guides).
  • Airport transfer on arrival from Sapporo to your hotel
  • Chartered vehicles when needed (some places are very remote with no public transport available)
  • Bus Tickets for necessary route
  • Express Train from Sapporo to Kushiro
  • Airport transfer to Memanbetsu Airport on final day
Local Tour GuidesLocal English speaking tour guides in

  • Sapporo
  • Kushiro
  • Lake Akan
  • Abashiri
Entrance Fees
Included for all sights when with a guide.
Cultural Experiences
  • Sapporo Snow Festival & sightseeing
  • Endangered Red-Crowned Crane Sanctuary and viewing spot
  • Overnight stays in traditional ryokans
  • Open-air hot spring baths
  • Shiretoko Snow Shoe Experience
  • Sightseeing at Lake Akan / Lake Kussharo / Lake Mashu
  • Ainu Culture Show
  • Abashiri Drift-Ice Cruise (subject to drift-ice conditions)
  • Abashiri prison museum
  • Amazing scenic drives, and more.
Meals Breakfast daily & 3 evening meals
Other Inclusions:
  • Comprehensive Travel Pack
  • Local Emergency Contact
  • All Taxes & Accommodation Surcharges
  • Fixed Price Policy (When deposit is paid, price is fixed)
  • No hidden Costs (what you read, is what you get)
This package does not include:
  • Internal Flights (Arrive Chitose Sapporo Airport on Day 1 / Depart from Memanbetsu Airport on Day 8). If you need help booking these flights, we can arrange for you.
  • Meals other than those specified in the itinerary. Generally, you can expect to pay 1,000yen for lunches and anything from 2,500yen for your evening meals.
  • Beverages consumed at any meal (Water served freely)
  • Baggage Handling (You are requested to carry your own bags so be careful when packing! Your guide will help you arrange luggage forwarding on some journeys by the reliable ‘Takkyubin Service’)
  • Tour Leader Or Driver Gratuity – can be arranged among your group (Optional)









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