Winter is a beautiful time of year to explore Japan. The streets are lit up at night and blanketed in snow, the markets are bustling a piping hot bowl of ramen tastes especially good when it is below zero outside!. This is a brief but fun packed trip that gets the most out of the northern region of Hokkaido in a relatively short amount of time.. The Sapporo Ice and Snow Festival is world famous for its huge and elaborate sculptures. Make sure you get your camera out and have your batteries charged as you will take far more photos than you expected!. The picturesque Snow Light Path Festival in Otaru is a true winter experience. Stroll along the river, gathering around the glowing snow mounds and under lantern light.
Be entranced by winter in Japan. Experience the sensational Sapporo Snow Festival, be awestruck by the size of snow sculptures and watch the soft lantern light cast its magic over festivalgoers in Otaru. Explore picturesque landscapes, don some snowshoes for a wintery walk in the coldest Sounkyo and sample some of the region’s finest beers and sakes as you enjoy an adventure of natural, cultural and artistic delights that celebrates the splendour of Japan’s far north.
Breakfast Included: 7 Lunches Included: Dinner Included: 2
Konnichiwa! Welcome to Sapporo, Japan. As travellers are arriving from all over the world, there are no activities planned for today. However, you're expected to attend a group meeting in the evening - your group leader will leave a notice for you at the hotel detailing the exact time and place. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information during this meeting, so please bring these with you.
Nestled in a wide basin beneath snowcapped mountains, Sapporo is the lovely capital of Hokkaido and Japan’s northernmost island. Only 5% of the population live on over 20% of Japan’s land mass. It's a very special time of year in the city, as it hosts its annual Snow Festival. This is an incredible display of lights, ice sculptures and snow, which delights both domestic and international visitors. Join the eating, dancing, drinking and singing festivities during this art
Today visit the Sapporo Snow Festival in all of its glory. This is Japan's biggest snow festival and full of beautiful snow sculptures, exciting food and lots of different activities. The markets serve up hot wine, which is great to warm you up while you enjoy the spectacular sculptures. You'll also pay a visit the Sapporo JR Tower Observation Deck for amazing views over the city.
Head to the small, picturesque harbour city of Otaru today, which is about half an hour northwest of Sapporo by train. The Otaru canal that stretches through the whole city is still beautifully preserved along with many other buildings from the past. During your visit, Otaru holds it’s magical Snow Light Path Festival. The whole city is decorated with lanterns and snow statues, which creates a fantastic fairytale-like scenery when it gets dark. On your way to Otaru, there is also the option to get off at Yoichi and visit the Nikka whiskey distillery to warm up with some strong Japanese whiskey.
Discover the charm of Otaru wandering on its snow-covered streets with your leader. Check out the music box museum and maybe try your hand at glass blowing which Otaru is famous for other than the festival.
Visit Tanake sake museum to learn how sake is made and what makes a good sake.
A travelling day today from Otaru to Sounkyo. You'll have a couple of changes in between from train to train or train to bus depending on the availability.
Sounkyo is a small tourist town known for its hot springs. Located in a scenic narrow gorge that's flanked by 100-metre-high, forested cliffs, this region is also known as one of the coldest parts of Japan - so make sure you bring your winter woolies. After arrival, visit the Sounkyo Ice Festival in the evening after a hearty dinner at our hotel. This chilly winter festival takes place along the Ishikari River and features large, multi-story buildings and structures made of ice and snow.
While the layout of the festival can change from year to year, it normally features large ice sculptures, snow domes and a snow tubing run (small fee required to rent tubes). There's also a stage area that's built out of snow, where various shows and stage events are held. In the evenings, everything is illuminated with colourful lights and it's a great attraction to see.
A free day in a winter wonderland. Weather permitting venture down to the gorge which runs along the Ishikari River; you may wander on riverside paths where frozen waterfalls hang in mid-air. If the weather is clear you may opt to ride the Kurodake Ropeway to the higher reaches of Daisetsuzan National Park and near the summit of Mount Kurodake. Sounkyo offers the ultimate wintertime indoor / outdoor public onsen in the village or the resorts own onsens which are one of the best in town.
Travel back to Sapporo today.
Visit Nijo Market after return to Sapporo. The Nijo markets cover around one city block and is a public market. You'll find the locals here haggling for crabs, salmon eggs, sea urchin, and various fresh and prepared fish. Enjoy some local delicacies or check out the several restaurants that can be found among the shops, including a collection of small drinking places and eateries along a narrow corridor called Noren Yokocho.
Continue to the Sapporo Brewery and learn about the birthplace of beer in Japan at the Sapporo Beer Museum, while also enjoying some tastings. Sapporo beer is one of Japan's oldest and most popular beers, not to mention a good way to warm up. Maybe try the most famous Jingisukan (Genghis Khan) barbecue for dinner that Sapporo is famous for and celebrate the end of the journey with your new friends.
Your 'Japan Winter Festivals' adventure comes to an end today. You're free to depart the accommodation before check out time, and your leader can assist you with any onward travel plans you may have.