Wild Japan Winter Tour






Tokyo – Tokyo



Welcome to the land of the rising sun
Wild Japan is astonishingly diverse, and the reasons, though apparent, are little known amongst those who travel the standard tourist circuit of this ancient country. We are so excited to be offering our first Wild Japan tour in 2018.
Travelling during a Japanese winter offers some of Japan’s most incredible wildlife spectacles, from large numbers of striking Steller’s Sea Eagles, to elegant dancing Japanese Cranes and Japanese Macaques bathing in hot water springs. Although not a dedicated photographic holiday, we will endeavour to see these key species at close quarters, affording some fantastic photographic opportunities.
You do not want to visit Japan without immersing yourself in it’s unique culture so we will be staying in traditional Japanese-style inns (ryokans), bathing in the natural hot water springs (onsens) and sampling the delicious cuisine.
The itinerary has been especially designed for us by local and expert naturalist guide Dr Mark Brazil. Mark and his wife Mayumi, will also be leading the tour. Both have been involved in running nature tours in Japan and other destinations around the world for many years and have a genuine love for helping others enjoy the nature of Japan.
Nature is best experienced in small groups so we will only be taking a maximum of 12 lucky guests. Please register your interest now to join Mark and Mayumi on our inaugural Wild Japan tour.

Day                      Activity

1                           Depart Australia. Arrive Tokyo (Haneda Airport)
Transfer to your hotel and meet Mark & Mayumi your expedition leader and tour guide for a welcome dinner.
Accommodation: Tokyo Hotel Okura D

2                           Tokyo to Kambayashi Onsen via Lake Suwa and Matsumoto Castle
Transfer to Kambayashi Onsen, Nagano Prefecture, by microbus with lunch at a service area on the way or a picnic. Today we drive through the centre of Tokyo on our way out into the mountains of central Honshu. We make a stop at Lake Suwa to observe the wintering waterfowl; then continue to Matsumoto to visit one of Japan’s iconic castles and one of the few remaining that is original. We continue to Kambayashi and check in at our accommodation, have our first introduction to Japanese hot spring bathing and enjoy a banquet dinner.
Accommodation: Kambayashi Onsen, Senjukaku BLD

3                           Yaen-Koen
We walk to and from Yaen-koen to spend the day photographing Japanese Macaques and have lunch at a local lodge. It is a one-mile walk from our hotel to the monkey viewing area where we may also be lucky and encounter the endemic Japanese Serow, and birds along the way. We spend the day watching and photographing the endemic Japanese Macaques, capturing images of the young monkeys at play, of adults soaking in the pool, and individuals leaping the rushing stream that runs down the valley. We may end our day with a soak in the delightful hot spring at our hotel.
Accommodation: Kambayashi Onsen, Senjukaku BLD

4                           Kambayashi Onsen to Nakasendo
This morning we send our main bags ahead and set off with overnight bags (for five nights). Our destination today is the historical route, known as the Nakasendo, through central Honshu, but first we first visit Obuse to see the Hokusai Gallery (dedicated to the famous woodblock print artist). We lunch along on the way and continue to Narai, one of the historical post-villages for a walk in the afternoon.
Accommodation: Traditional Japanese Ryokan: Tsutaya Kinosato Kazari BLD

5                         Tsutaya Kinosato Kazari to Nagoya
This morning we visit another of the historical (Edo Period) post-villages, either Tsumago or Magome on the old “Nakasendo” then continue on our way to Nagoya where we will catch a train. We ride the famous Shinkansen, or bullet train, bound for Kyushu.
(Luggage space on the train is extremely limited; no porters are available, and stops at stations are extremely brief, hence the need to travel light, only with overnight bags that we can each carry easily). On arrival at Izumi station we transfer to our hotel which is a short distance from Izumi Station.
Accommodation: Hotel Sengokutei Izumi BLD

6                          Izumi and the Izumi Area
Our goal today is to enjoy the spectacle of Japan’s southern crane gathering. On the coastal reclaimed land at Arasaki 10,000-12,000 Hooded and White-naped cranes roost and feed. Amongst them we may find Common and Sandhill cranes, and many other bird species. This area is one of the finest for winter birding in Japan.
Early this morning we visit the crane roosting site at Arasaki just as the flock is waking up and witness the spectacle of them leaving for their foraging grounds. We return to our hotel for breakfast and then return to the cranes, spending much of the day photographing the groups and families of cranes foraging on the farmland north of Izumi. We visit the two feeding areas for shots of massed groups of birds and also climb to the roof of the Arasaki visitor centre for flight shots of cranes returning to the feeding grounds later in the day.
We will take time out from crane-watching and birding to visit the historical samurai quarter of Izumi and go inside one of the historical houses. We then have the option of returning to the crane sight to watch them as the light fades, before heading back to our hotel.
Accommodation: Hotel Sengokutei Izumi BLD

7                      Izumi / Kagoshima / Tokyo / Kushiro, Hokkaido
Today we leave Izumi, drive to Kagoshima Airport to catch a flight to Tokyo Haneda, with a connection to Kushiro in east Hokkaido. In Kushiro, we are met by our local bus and driver (who is also a wildlife photographer) who will be with us throughout our time in east Hokkaido.
Accommodation: Hotel Taito Tsurui BLD

8                         Kushiro Region
Today we explore the area of Kushiro Marsh, looking for roosting and foraging flocks of the iconic Bird of Happiness, the Red-crowned Crane. There will be other birds to look for too, and perhaps Japanese Deer and Red Fox too, as we travel around the marsh. We may also visit the Kushiro City Museum paying particular attention to the section devoted to the indigenous Ainu people, and to the natural history section.
Accommodation: Hotel Taito Tsurui BLD

9                         Tsurui to Abashiri
Today we drive from Tsurui north towards Abashiri. Along the way we visit Japan’s most beautiful scenic caldera, Lake Mashu and the Iwo-zan sulphur springs. We will enjoy lunch at a small local restaurant, then take a walk in the woods at the southern end of Lake Kussharo (Japan’s largest caldera lake). We continue over the Bihoro Pass for spectacular views back across Lake Kussharo (weather permitting) and continue on to the coastal city of Abashiri. Depending on our timing we may walk beside Lake Abashiri, or proceed directly to our lovely accommodation in time to enjoy a hot spring soak before a very special dinner.
Accommodation: Auberge Kitano Dandan Abashiri BLD

10                         Abashiri and the Sea of Okhotsk Coast
We have a range of areas to explore today, from Cape Notoro, just northwest of Abashiri, to Toufutsu-ko (a shallow lagoon beside the coast) where we may find wintering waterfowl and eagles, and along the coast towards the Shiretoko Peninsula, looking for eagles and other wildlife. At Cape Notoro we can walk along the cliffs enjoying the scenery as we look for seals and eagles. (If the weather is against us there are also various indoor options such as the Northern People’s Museum and the Sea-ice Museum in Abashiri).
Accommodation: Auberge Kitano Dandan Abashiri BLD

11                         Abashiri to Nakashibetsu
We continue our exploration of east Hokkaido by travelling along the Sea of Okhotsk then south to visit Ura Mashu, for views across the lake. We may picnic along the way or reach our next accommodation in time for a light lunch and early check in. In the afternoon we walk in the nearby forest near a rushing river looking for woodpeckers and other woodland birds, then enjoy a spectacular hot spring.
Our accommodation is at a lovely family run hotel set by a rushing river and within the territory of a pair of Blakiston’s Fish Owl – one of the rarest birds in the world and one of the deities of Hokkaido’s animistic Ainu people. We spend the early evening listening and watching for the owls, if we are fortunate to see them it will be one of the great highlights of the trip.
Accommodation: Yuyado Daiichi in Yoroushi BLD

12                         Yoroushi and Akan National Park
After an early morning walk, a soak in the hot spring, or watching the activity at the bird feeders outside our accommodation, we enjoy breakfast then set off to see more of east Hokkaido.
Today we continue our exploration by travelling to the east coast, for views of Russian-occupied Kunashiri Island, and to the low-lying coastal spit known as Notsuke Peninsula. There we will look for migratory seabirds, swans, geese and sea duck, and watch for indigenous Japanese Deer and Red Fox along the way.
We return to our lovely accommodation in time to enjoy the hot spring again, take a walk near the river in search of Crested Kingfisher, Brown Dipper and various woodpeckers, or relax while watching the bird-feeders outside, before begining another vigil for the local Blakiston’s Fish Owls.
Accommodation: Yuyado Daiichi in Yoroushi BLD

13                         Yoroushi to Kushiro and Tokyo
After a final early morning walk, hot spring soak or watching the activity at the bird feeders outside our accommodation we depart after breakfast and set off back to Kushiro. Along the way we will stop to look for more cranes, and if we haven’t already seen one by this stage of the itinerary we will drop in at a roosting site of a Ural Owl, hoping that it will be in residence.
From Kushiro we will fly down to Tokyo for our farewell dinner and final overnight.
Accommodation: Hotel Okura, Tokyo BLD

14                         Tokyo and departures for home
Our tour concludes with breakfast this morning. For those going home, Haneda Airport is an easy transfer away. For those staying on independently, Tokyo is the ideal starting point for further exploration. B

NB: The above itinerary may be varied according to conditions and advice.

8th December – 21st December 2018

  • Meals as per the itinerary
  • Accomodation as per the itinerary
  • Dr Mark Brazil – Naturalist Guide and Mayumi Brazil – English speaking Guide
  • A mixture of transport including; Shinkansen (Bullet) Train, Internal Flights,
  • Entry fees to; Matsumoto Castle, Jigokudani Monkey Park, Hokusai Gallery, Crane Centre Izumi, Kushiro Museum, Crane Centre Akan.

To make a booking download a booking form and return it to us via email/post or by clicking here to fill out the form online.