East Hokkaido is full of epic winter activities: from dog sledding and snowshoeing, to winter canoeing and ice fishing. And let’s not forget meeting the locals and adding an authentic Japanese cultural experience to your active vacation!
Tokachigawa Hakucho Festival Sairinka and special hot springs
Welcome to Japan’s northernmost island! After meeting your private driver at the airport, you will head towards your first checkpoint, Tokachigawa hot springs. In the evening you can wander around Tokachigawa Hakucho Festival Sairinka right in the vicinity of the hot spring area. This enchanting light show festival is dedicated for the swans that arrive every year to Tokachigawa: “hakucho” means swan in Japanese. After basking in the festival atmosphere, you can soak in the famous amber-colored Tokachigawa hot springs and let your jet-lag melt away.
Dog sledding and Ainu culture
Let the action begin! Feel the wind and speed through the vast white fields of the Tokachi area with a pack of energetic sled dogs. You can control your own sled, but first you need to gain the trust of your crew. Getting to know your team of dogs is an important part of this winter activity, so you’ll have some time reserved just for petting and playing with the dogs. From Tokachigawa you will head to the wonderful Lake Akan in Akan Mashu National Park. Ainu, the indigenous people of present Japan and Russia, have historically lived around the Lake Akan area. Here, on the shores of Lake Akan, you can visit an Ainu “kotan” or village and learn about the traditions, history and modern realities of the Ainu people.
– Ainu are the indigenous people of present Japan and Russia. There are various Ainu subgroups from the people living on the island of Hokkaido to the groups living in the Sakhalin and Kuril Islands of Russia.
– The modern-day Ainu individuals speak Japanese as their mother tongue and lead their everyday lives as anyone else, but many people also take part in work that helps to sustain the Ainu traditions and philosophy.
– In Akan Ainu Kotan you have an exquisite opportunity to appreciate traditional Ainu dance performances that have been registered as UNESCO intangible cultural heritage.
Snowshoe adventure on frozen Lake Akan
Put on snowshoes and head out for a peaceful adventure in Akan Mashu National Park together with a local nature guide. After making your way through a silent, snowy forest, a panorama view of Lake Akan will open right before your eyes. You will cross over the surface of this frozen crater lake, surrounded by pure white mountains in the distance. Just the sound of the wind and your own steps crunching, your breath white in the cold winter air. You can enjoy some quality time with your guide, or perhaps just let your thoughts wander in the tranquil ambience of this ancient lake.
Winter canoeing in Akan Mashu National Park
Lake Kussharo is another beautiful caldera lake in Akan Mashu National Park. It is actually also the largest caldera lake in Japan. Because of the area’s volcanic activity, there are parts of the lake that do not freeze even during mid-winter. This makes Lake Kussharo an exquisite location for winter canoeing. The warm water also attracts whooper swans, that stop by at Lake Kussharo every year. Another form of volcanic activity in the area is Mount Io, a sulfur mountain with rising steam and peculiar color. You can stop by to catch some impressive pictures of the searing hot vents before steering towards Japan’s farthest east.
– The volcanic grounds and relatively warm water of wintertime Lake Kussharo attract whooper swans that stop here year after year on their way from Japan’s main island towards Russia.
– The lakeside is a recognized migratory resting site of these beautiful, large birds, and it is no wonder Lake Kussharo is also an extremely popular spot for photographers and birdwatchers from all around the world.
Japanese cuisine with the locals
Between all the activities, it will be nice to take it easy and try something different: today you will make some “ochazuke”, a dish of rice with tea poured on it in Shibetsu village. This is a traditional dish that most Japanese are familiar with, but that is not well known overseas. You will have a chance to taste different recipes created by the local fishers’ wives. Besides tasty local food, this is an excellent opportunity to get to know some charming individuals. After you have filled your stomach, you can sit down and enjoy a nature cruise and some wildlife spotting in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shiretoko National Park. You may even have the chance to encounter an impressively large Steller’s sea eagle or majestic white-tailed eagle!
Winter bicycle tour in Shiretoko Peninsula
Did you think cycling is only for the warmer weather? Let a local guide take you for a a bicycle tour with winter tires. You will be surprised: it is not slippery at all! After a guided tour around the village and some nature park trails, you can have a lunch at Shiretoko National Park Nature Center. Before heading to Abashiri city, let’s have a one last look at the marvelous Shiretoko scenery. You can climb the mysterious 60 meter tall Oronkoiwa Rock in Utoro harbor. This rock is named after the indigenous Oronko people who once lived in this area, but who have long been gone.
Ice fishing on a frozen lake in Abashiri
Local fishermen of Abashiri invite you to observe how professional smelt ice fishing on a frozen lake is done. Afterwards you can try your luck with more traditional fishing methods. Naturally, you will also have the chance to taste some fresh smelt that has been caught on the very same day. From Abarishi city by the Sea of Okhotsk the journey continues towardsthe inner parts of Hokkaido. Tonight you will be staying at Sounkyo’s hot spring resort, hidden in the gorge of Sounkyo in the Daisetsuzan National Park.
– Ginga waterfall and Ryusei waterfall are located in the Sounkyo area of Hokkaido’s largest national park Daisetsuzan National Park.
– These waterfalls freeze over winter and both are popular destinations for ice-climbers. The waterfalls provide challenges for those adventurers for whole days.
– From late January to February the Ice Waterfall Festival with its illumination displays, giant ice sculptures and spectacular performances is held in Sounkyo.
Fun ski day in a local ski center
Enjoy a full day of skiing at a charming local ski resort, Kamui Ski Links! There are ski slopes for skiers of all levels:
from beginners to advanced skiers. You can access all 25 slopes with the same cable car lift, which makes enjoying a skiing day easy even if there are people with different levels of experience traveling with you. From the summit you can enjoy a stunning view of the surrounding countryside and mountain ranges.
– There may be many excellent powder snow resorts across the world, but what really sets Hokkaido apart from the competition is the fact that excellent snow quality is guaranteed here every single year.
– The reason for Hokkaido’s heavy snowfall is related to its geographical location and the local weather: first the cold winds of Siberia meet the warm currents of the Sea of Japan, creating moisture. Then, this air encounters the cold air in inland Hokkaido, around the Niseko, Furano and Tokachi areas, resulting in snowfall that is extremely well suited for skiing.
Air board activity in picturesque Biei village
This is the last day of your action-packed Hokkaido winter tour. Before saying goodbye to Japan’s northernmost island, there is still time for one more unique winter experience: snow “air boarding” with the locals in picturesque Biei village. The friendly local guide will take you to a secret spot and show you how to ride a snow air board by sliding on your stomach. This speedy activity is extremely fun, and the scenery around here is breathtaking!
8 Nights Accommodation
8 Breakfasts / 2 Lunches / 7 Dinners
9 Days English speaking Licensed Guide
Parking, Fuel and Highway Fees
Taxes (10% Consumption Tax)
The quotation per person can be less in case of small children.