Journey to the East 2020
€2,800 / £2,550 / US$3,272 / AU$6,150 (Per Person sharing twin, double or triple room)
€5,500 / £4,950 / US$6,400 / AU$9,000 (Single room throughout)
If you are willing to share a room with a fellow traveller of same gender, let us know. We will do our best to match you with a suitable room-mate.
Journey to the East is a 7-day discovery to the truly remote, undiscovered, hidden parts 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.
Journey to the East - Video Itinerary
Day 1 - Meet us in Sapporo
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 & 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!
Day 2 - Free Day in Sapporo or Day Trip to Canal city of Otaru
Breakfast at your hotel.
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.
Day 3 - 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.
Day 4 Sunrise to Sunset, stunning winter scenery
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.
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.
Day 5 - Relax and Meet the Marimo at Lake Akan
Breakfast at your hotel
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
• Mt. Iou
• Tea Break (pay locally)
Day 6: 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
Enjoy dinner & hot spring at hotel (included)
Day 7 - 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
Day 8 - 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
Tour Starts:Journey to the East February 3rd
Tour Ends:February 10th
Prices from:€2,800 / £2,550 / US$3,272 / AU$6,150 pp Book Now
|Accommodation||Selection of Western 3/4* (3 nights in 4*, 1 night in 3*) and Superior Japanese-style ryokans (3 nights with hot springs and traditional Japanese evening meals)|
|English Speaking Tour Leader||When 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).|
|Transfers||Airport transfers (on arrival from Sapporo to your hotel). Chartered vehicles & express train journeys in Eastern Hokkaido.|
|Local Tour Guides||Local English speaking tour guides in places|
|Entrance Fees||Included for all sights listed on the itinerary|
|Cultural Experiences||Sapporo Snow Festival & sightseeing, the endangered Red-Crowned Crane sanctuary and viewing spot, overnight stays in traditional ryokans, open-air hot spring baths, sightseeing at Lake Akan / Lake Kussharo / Lake Mashu, an 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|
|This package does not include:|
Sapporo Nikko Hotel (or similar)
Nikko Sapporo’s guestrooms are located on the 23rd and 24th floors of the JR Tower, the tallest building in Hokkaido and were designed with a sense of space and freedom. Here you will enjoy magnificent views of the cityscape, covered by a white carpet of snow.
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 Tsuruga Wings (or similar 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 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.
Dormy Inn Abashiri (or similar)
Dormy Inn’s are found scattered across the whole of Japan. They offer a very good standard of service and facilities for any 3 star hotel. This Abashiri Dormy Inn is no different, situated within 1.1 miles of the port and 2.5 miles of Abashiri Prison. Guests can enjoy an added bonus of a hot spring bath and sauna, especially attractive for Winter visitors. A buffet breakfast is served every morning at the property. At the economy hotel you will find a restaurant serving Asian cuisine.
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.
Ireland & Global
Tel: +353 (0)1 6787008
Tel: +44(0)20 3239 2519
USA & Canada
Tel: +1 (347) 688-3952