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Tel: 0117 370 9751
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Tel: 028 011 3229
contact USA
Tel: 1 303 952 0379

IJT eXplorer Winter Highlights

14 Nights: from US$5100 (excluding international flights)
Japan is a unique winter holiday destination and Winter Highlights brings you the very best of the season with the Sapporo Snow festival, rare birds, the charming snow monkeys and the hauntingly beautiful shrines and temples of Kyoto. This is a winter-time holiday treat you will savour forever.

The first two days of our Japan tour are spent in Tokyo's historic Asakusa area and include a chance to visit the city highlights of Hama Rikyu gardens, Sensoji temple and Meiji shrine as well as marvelling at the view from atop the Metropolitan Government building. Kabuki theatre, fantastic arts and crafts and restaurants to die for make this vibrant capital city a fantastic introduction to our tour of Japan.

We travel by plane to the northern island of Hokkaido where we first stay at the nature reserves of Tsurui. Here there is the opportunity to watch Red-crowned Cranes performing their graceful winter dances at sunset. A guided tour with a local bird watching expert will introduce us to many more of Hokkaido's feathered friends!

Onwards to the remote Shiretoko peninsula where we will stay overnight in Rausu. Here we will take an incredible boat trip crashing through the spectacular drift ice, a chance to get up close and personal with Steller's sea eagle. As at many of our night stops, sumptuous evening meals are included - as well as the chance for some karaoke if you wish! Or a wonderful Onsen Hot Spring bath if you would rather!

Next stop in Hokkaido is Abashiri, home to some amazing and unique museums including the prison museum. There is also a second chance at an ice breaker cruise if you wish - this time ever further north.

Next we traverse the northern island by train on to Sapporo the capital of Hokkaido and a real gem; spacious boulevards and parks, a fantastic atmosphere and great food to enjoy. The annual Sapporo Snow Festival will be taking place and we will catch the first full day of events! A fantasia of ice sculptures awaits us! If you fancy a day at the slopes then you can also take an easy day trip to Kiroro Ski Resort from our base in Sapporo.

From Hokkaido we'll fly down to Kansai airport and transfer to Kyoto, the cultural heart of Japan. Winter is a perfect time to explore the World Heritage temples and gardens without the crowds.

From Kyoto, we journey into the Japan Alps. The bullet train and a scenic local train ride will take us on to Yudanaka Onsen - a hot springs town with a difference; it's all about the famous snow monkeys bathing in the hot springs! Of course, our Japanese style accommodation here has hot spring baths for humans too!

The Winter Highlights tour of Japan finishes in the bright lights of Tokyo's Shinjuku district with a last night to enjoy the sights, sounds and food of this great city.

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Patricia - Winter Highlights, Feb 2014   starRating
Gillian - Winter Highlights, Feb 2014   starRating
Gillian - Winter Highlights, Feb 2014   starRating

Price

Tour Price from US$5100
Full Price Details
The price shown here is for the land arrangements only and does not include international flights. If you would like a quote for your flights, please ask.

 
What’s Included:
  • 14 nights accommodation - enjoy the hot spring baths in Tsurui and Yudanaka Onsen
  • All transport between destinations in Japan including airport transfer on arrival and departure and internal flights
  • Meet and Greet upon arrival at Narita Airport
  • Tokyo transport pass
  • Sumida River boat cruise in Tokyo
  • A mix of Western and traditional Japanese style breakfasts everyday
  • 7 quality evening meals
  • Ice Breaker Cruise in Rausu
  • Private minibus transport & local guide in Tsurui
  • Guided walking tour of the Gion Geisha district in Kyoto
  • Luggage forwarding between Sapporo & Tsurui and Kyoto & Tokyo
  • Full time services of your Tour Leader
  • InsideJapan Tours' complimentary Info-Pack
What’s NOT Included:
  • International flights
  • Local transport (buses, subways, taxis) unless otherwise specified
  • Any entrance fees including those for shrines,temples and museums unless otherwise specified
  • Baggage handling - you will be expected to carry your own bags for the duration of the trip except where specified

Important Practical Information

Maximum Group Size:
14

Single Supplement: This tour has a single supplement. This guarantees a single room throughout the tour.  

Transport: Please note that all transfers are by public transport making use of Japan's first-rate transport network. All the hotels and ryokan have been chosen for their location close to the nearest station. However, you will have to carry your bags for short distances and some stations do not have escalators. We highly recommend that to make your stay more enjoyable you pack reasonably light. Large suitcases will be an inconvenience to you. A small case or bag with wheels or a rucksack are most appropriate for this tour. Clothes washing machines are available in Rausu and Tsurui.

Weather and clothing: We will be spending 6 days in Japan's northern island of Hokkaido and you should be aware that it will be extremely cold here. Night-time temperatures can get below minus 20 degrees centigrade. There are many days on which the temperature drops below 0 degrees centigrade all day long. You will need heavy overcoats, caps, gloves, scarves, etc. in addition to sweaters and jackets. Our accommodation will of course be heated but for the outdoors you will also need shoes that are suitable for walking on snow or ice.

Accommodation: All of the accommodation except for in Tsurui are equipped with full en-suite facilities (attached bath / shower and toilet). The hotel in Tsurui has shared facilities (single sex).  

International Flights:
This tour starts and finishes in Tokyo for arrivals and departures at Tokyo Narita Airport.

Please note that the included meet-and-greet and airport transfer to the first hotel is ONLY available up to 2 days in advance of the tour and if you are staying extra nights pre-tour it is only available if those nights are booked through InsideJapan Tours.

Check-in:
Please note that rooms at the Tokyo hotel are only available from 3pm. (You can however securely leave your luggage at the front desk at any time).

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Day by Day Itinerary


Day 1 Tokyo

Meals: Dinner

The tour group convenes in Tokyo. Your Tour Leader will be available for up to two days before the start date of the tour to meet you at one of Tokyo’s international airports and help you find your way to our hotel in the historic Asakusa area. We are in the centre of this fascinating area meaning just a short walk for tonight’s included welcome dinner.

Day 2 Tokyo

Meals: Breakfast

A full day in Tokyo today with a tour of the city highlights included. We’ll be sure to visit Sensoji temple in Asakusa, we will take the water bus to Hamarikyu gardens and then we will explore the Harajuku area, including a visit to the Meiji shrine.

This afternoon it is up to you what extra sights you wish to see in Tokyo. Options include riding the monorail over the Rainbow Bridge to the Tokyo Bay area, taking in views of the city from the Shinjuku Metropolitan Government building or exploring the bustling streets of the Ginza. There are numerous galleries and museums to visit as well as lots of souvenir shopping opportunities too. Your tour leader will be able to advise further.

Day 3 Tsurui

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

Today we take a direct subway to Tokyo Haneda Airport and then fly to Kushiro in Hokkaido, Japan's northern island. We then transfer by private coach to Tsurui, home of the best crane sanctuaries in Japan. We have timed our arrival to see the famous dancing cranes at sunset.

Day 4 Rausu

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

This morning we will have a guided bird watching tour with a local expert. Don't forget to bring your camera as we get up close and personal with our feathered friends! After lunch we will transfer to Rausu by private coach. Our inn has fantastic onsen and delicious included meals.

Day 5 Abashiri

Meals: Breakfast

This morning we will climb aboard the Ice Breaker Boat and see some of the spectacular scenery of the Shiretoko peninsula from the icy cold waters. We will be getting up close to the birdlife including the impressive Steller’s Sea Eagles. We will then transfer by private coach to Abashiri, perhaps visiting the Northern People's Museum, Prison Museum or Ice Float Museum.

Day 6 Sapporo

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

Today we take a dramatic train journey across the snow covered wilderness of central Hokkaido and on to the capital of this island, Sapporo. Wide open avenues, the Odori Koen park and the excitement of the Snow Festival greet us upon arrival. This evening we have a tour of Sapporo brewery with a feast of a dinner included.

Day 7 Sapporo

Meals: Breakfast

The Sapporo Snow Festival is taking place in Hokkaido and today it is our chance to see the Ice Sculptures and parades up close. Perhaps in the afternoon we will visit some sites out of town for some Winter Wonderland themed activities, an ice maze, tobogganing and sledge rides. To top it all off, how about a drink at the Ice Bar?!

Day 8 Sapporo

Meals: Breakfast

There is lots to see in Sapporo and today we recommend the Botanical Gardens, Nijo Fish Market and Ainu museum - Hokkaido’s native population. The TV Tower meanwhile has some great views over the whole city. You could also take a day or evening trip to the nearby town of Otaru, known for its scenic canals, historic buildings and the winter lantern festival. Alternatively, if you want to go skiing or snowboarding then the Kiroro Ski Resort is only 60 minutes away by bus and your tour leader can help you arrange a great value package including ski hire and lift pass.

Day 9 Kyoto

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

Today we will fly back to the mainland and transfer directly to Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital city. A treasure trove of temples, shrines and gardens Kyoto is a must-see destination – and even more atmospheric in the winter when there are fewer crowds and the chance of snow covered temples.

Day 10 Kyoto

Meals: Breakfast

A full day to explore Kyoto with your tour leader today. There is lots to see and if you have any special interests then please let your tour leader know. Kyoto is the place for arts and crafts so now is your chance for hands on experiences or shopping! This afternoon we have an included tour of the Geisha district with an expert giving us an insight into this mysterious world.

Day 11 Kyoto

Meals: Breakfast

Kyoto is a great city in which to sight-see on foot and has hundreds of things to see. There are several walking tour routes all of which have many different places of interest along the way and your Tour Leader will be on hand to make sure you get to see the things you want to. Alternatively, you could take a day trip to Nara, Himeji Castle, Osaka or Kobe if you wished.

Day 12 Yudanaka

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

Today’s train journey will take us up into the mountains in Nagano prefecture for a two night stay at Yudanaka Onsen. It’s our first chance to take the bullet train and there is some great scenery on the way. Dinner is included at our ryokan tonight.

Day 13 Yudanaka

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

A full day in Yudanaka gives us the chance to see the famous Snow Monkeys as they enjoy the hot spring baths. The entrance fee to the Snow Monkey park is included. There are also some lovely baths for humans as well or an afternoon visit to a sake brewery is another way to keep warm!

Day 14 Tokyo

Meals: Breakfast

We will be taking the bullet train again today as we return to Tokyo for a final night's stay. This time we’ll stay in the bustling Shinjuku area – home to the bright lights Tokyo is famous for and fantastic for last minute souvenir shopping!

Day 15 Depart

Meals: Breakfast

Sadly the tour is over and we all have to say our farewells and go our separate ways. Your transfer ticket back to Narita airport is included and your Tour Leader will check out the times for you to make sure you're in good time for your flight home.

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Photos


A snowy day in Shinjuku

Frozen tuna add to the winter chill at Tsukiji fish market

Hairy Crabs at Sapporo's fish market

Sapporo's Odori Park during the annual Yuki (Snow) festival

The giant snow sculptures are the centre piece of the Snow Festival

The frozen waters of Abashiri harbour

The Sea of Okhotsk ice floes are home to hundreds of eagles

The 'tancho' red-crowned cranes performing their mating dance

'Tancho' cranes at sundown, Tsurui

Nabe, a classic dish for a cold winter's day

Kyomizu Temple, Kyoto

The famous snow monkeys at Yudanaka. Always very cute!

One of the many breathtaking ice sculptures at the Snow Festival

Pricing Information

2014
Tour Price: US$5100
Single Supplement: US$425
Extra Nights  
Pre-Tour: Twin Share pp US$85     Single pp US$102 
Post-Tour: Twin Share pp US$136    Single pp US$187
2015
Tour Price: US$5100
Single Supplement: US$425
Extra Nights  
Pre-Tour: Twin Share pp US$85     Single pp US$102 
Post-Tour: Twin Share pp US$136    Single pp US$187
 

Accommodation


Asakusa Blue Wave Inn

Tokyo

Moderate Hotel

The Blue Wave Inn is located just a stone's throw from Sensoji Temple, the oldest and most venerated in Tokyo. Rooms are modern and bright and fully en-suite. The Ginza and Asakusa subway lines are just a short walk away meaning access to the rest of Tokyo is easy and the nearby Tobu line provides direct trains to Nikko.

Tsurui Woody Hotel and Restaurant

Tsurui

Moderate Hotel

The Woody Hotel is located near Tsurui's famous Tancho (Japanese crane) reserved in the beautiful Tsurui area. The hotel is modelled on a Canadian style log-cabin and has its own hot spring baths.

Rausu Dai-ichi Hotel

Rausu

Moderate Hotel

Although the name Dai-ichi (no.1) is usually associated with 10-story chain hotels, this Japanese style hotel is a small three-storey hot-spring ryokan. There are two large outdoor pools for men and women behind the hotel, and a third little one up in the rocks for mixed bathing. There are also regular baths indoors. The heated lobby floor is especially nice in the depths of winter.

Abashiri Route Inn

Abashiri

Business Hotel

The Route Inn is a modern business hotel located just a short distance from Abashiri station. The hotel has its own bath house and free internet is available throughout. A coin laundry is also available for guest use. Breakfast is buffet style with a good range of western and Japanese style food.

Richmond Hotel Sapporo Eki-mae

Sapporo

Moderate Hotel

The Richmond Hotel is located just a short wallk JR Sapporo station and offers a great base for exploring the capital of Hokkaido. The botanical gardens and odori 'central park' are also just a few minutes away on foot. The hotel has well sized modern rooms, free internet throughout, its own restaurant and a useful coin laundry as well.

Hotel Sunroute Kyoto

Kyoto

Moderate Hotel

The Sunroute in Kyoto is a welcoming western style hotel in a great spot just a short walk from the Gion geisha district and the Minamiza theatre. Rooms are compact but have everything you need and the hotel has a particularly good buffet breakfast. There is a nice cafe downstairs and free internet is available throughout the hotel.

Shimaya Ryokan

Yudanaka

Ryokan (JP)

This friendly Japanese-style inn located just a short walk from Yudanaka station. The owners offer a free shuttle bus service to the jigokudani hot springs where you can see Japanese macaque monkeys enjoying the waters. The ryokan also has its own hot spring baths for you to enjoy and serves delicious home-cooked food.

Shinjuku Sunroute Plaza

Tokyo

Moderate Hotel

The Shinjuku Sunroute Plaza is conveniently located on the south side of Shinjuku station and opened in late 2007. The building has a sleek and modern design throughout, from the spacious lobby area to the well-appointed guestrooms, which offer flatscreen TV with video-on-demand and spacious bathrooms. The hotel has its own restaurant and bar and also a guest lounge providing internet access and complimentary hot drinks. The hotel is in a fantastic location in the lively Shinjuku district of Tokyo, with an endless choice of shopping, dining and entertainment options within a few minutes' walk. The hotel is also just two minutes on foot from Shinjuku station, offering easy access to other areas of the city.

Tour Dates
Tour Starts Tour Disbands Price Status
2014
Currently there are no departures available for this year. Please contact us using the enquiry form or call us - UK (0)117 370 9740 / USA 303 952 0379 / AUS 028 011 3229
2015
01 Feb 2015 15 Feb 2015 US$5100 ASK US
2016
Currently there are no departures available for this year. Please contact us using the enquiry form or call us - UK (0)117 370 9740 / USA 303 952 0379 / AUS 028 011 3229

What’s Included:
  • 14 nights accommodation - enjoy the hot spring baths in Tsurui and Yudanaka Onsen
  • All transport between destinations in Japan including airport transfer on arrival and departure and internal flights
  • Meet and Greet upon arrival at Narita Airport
  • Tokyo transport pass
  • Sumida River boat cruise in Tokyo
  • A mix of Western and traditional Japanese style breakfasts everyday
  • 7 quality evening meals
  • Ice Breaker Cruise in Rausu
  • Private minibus transport & local guide in Tsurui
  • Guided walking tour of the Gion Geisha district in Kyoto
  • Luggage forwarding between Sapporo & Tsurui and Kyoto & Tokyo
  • Full time services of your Tour Leader
  • InsideJapan Tours' complimentary Info-Pack
What’s NOT Included:
  • International flights
  • Local transport (buses, subways, taxis) unless otherwise specified
  • Any entrance fees including those for shrines,temples and museums unless otherwise specified
  • Baggage handling - you will be expected to carry your own bags for the duration of the trip except where specified

Important Practical Information

Maximum Group Size:
14

Single Supplement: This tour has a single supplement. This guarantees a single room throughout the tour.  

Transport: Please note that all transfers are by public transport making use of Japan's first-rate transport network. All the hotels and ryokan have been chosen for their location close to the nearest station. However, you will have to carry your bags for short distances and some stations do not have escalators. We highly recommend that to make your stay more enjoyable you pack reasonably light. Large suitcases will be an inconvenience to you. A small case or bag with wheels or a rucksack are most appropriate for this tour. Clothes washing machines are available in Rausu and Tsurui.

Weather and clothing: We will be spending 6 days in Japan's northern island of Hokkaido and you should be aware that it will be extremely cold here. Night-time temperatures can get below minus 20 degrees centigrade. There are many days on which the temperature drops below 0 degrees centigrade all day long. You will need heavy overcoats, caps, gloves, scarves, etc. in addition to sweaters and jackets. Our accommodation will of course be heated but for the outdoors you will also need shoes that are suitable for walking on snow or ice.

Accommodation: All of the accommodation except for in Tsurui are equipped with full en-suite facilities (attached bath / shower and toilet). The hotel in Tsurui has shared facilities (single sex).  

International Flights:
This tour starts and finishes in Tokyo for arrivals and departures at Tokyo Narita Airport.

Please note that the included meet-and-greet and airport transfer to the first hotel is ONLY available up to 2 days in advance of the tour and if you are staying extra nights pre-tour it is only available if those nights are booked through InsideJapan Tours.

Check-in:
Please note that rooms at the Tokyo hotel are only available from 3pm. (You can however securely leave your luggage at the front desk at any time).

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Inside Japan Tours - Independent British Travel Awards 2011 - Best Tour Operator To East and Central Asia
The Guardian, The Observer - Travel Awards 2010 Winner - Best tour operator (small)
Inside Japan Tours - Silver at the British Travel Awards 2009