Japan – Winter Wildlife 2019
Japan – Winter Wildlife 2019
Japan – Winter Wildlife 2019
Japan – Winter Wildlife 2019
Japan – Winter Wildlife 2019

Japan – Winter Wildlife 2019

Hot springs - Snow Monkeys - Winter Birds

Thinking about Japan conjures up diverse and contrasting mental images. It is easy to imagine fast paced, high tech modern Japanese cities and yet envision mystical shrines set within landscapes softly colored with spring cherry blossoms or autumn maple leaves. All of these things are Japan today. But winter in Japans reveals a different type of mystical beauty. It is the best season to visit Japan. Besides having fewer tourists and less crowds, rural Japan, which is almost seventy percent mountainous, is covered beneath a glistening blanket of snow during the winter.

It is during this time that we will visit the island of Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s main islands. It is known for its volcanoes and natural hot springs (onsen). On Hokkaido, with a snow-covered backdrop, we will witness and photograph the intricate and choreographed mating dance of the endangered red crowned-cranes. Set in a beautiful winter landscape, we will photograph the Steller’s sea eagle - a magnificent and dramatic raptor. We will also be able to experience the beauty of hundreds of whooper swans floating in a wintry mist-fringed lake providing us with opportunities for dramatic winter photography or just a time of quiet to absorb Japan’s ethereal beauty.

A visit to rural Japan is a unique adventure. We will leave our Western expectations back in Tokyo and embrace the traditions of Japan. We will try different Japanese foods, drink warmed saki, bathe in natural hot springs called Onsens and sleep on Japanese futons behind shoji screens. This trip needs participants who have a spirit of adventure!

When we leave Hokkaido, we will embark upon one of the wild highlights of Japanese winter - a visit to the Japanese Alps. We will journey into the forests of the Jigokudani valley in Yamanouchi. It is here where we will see and photograph Japanese macaques, or snow monkeys. We will find these charismatic and highly approachable macaques relaxing in one of the natural hot springs. We will spend ample time photographing them, and we may even have one or two join us in our open-air onsen belonging to the ryokan where we will be staying. We hope you will join us on this special adventure.            Travel Different!


13 Days
Group Size
8 people


Trip Registration Form
Travel Insurance

Terms and Conditions

Travel Information

Per Person Sharing

Letters correspond to points on the map in the map tab.


Day 1 (January 25): Arrival in Tokyo

Arrival at Tokyo Airport Airport (either Narita or Haneda Airport). Please inform us in time at which airport you will arrive at.
Transfer from airport to Hilton Tokyo;
Dinner on your own

Day 2 (January 26): Flight to Hokkaido

Transfer to Airport
Flight to Kushiro on Hokkaido
Transfer from Airport to Hickory Winds Lodge where you will stay 8 nights.
Lunch is on your own
Afternoon drive to Tsurui Crane Reserve where you might get great opportunities to photograph courting red-crowned cranes
Dinner and overnight in lodge

Day 3 (January 27): Hokkaido

We are leaving the lodge early to drive back to the crane reserve where we will photograph from a bridge down to roosting birds in frost and fog and early morning light. We will also see other birds including white-tailed eagles. If we are lucky we even can add sika deer and red foxes to the day’s photo list. We will spend all day at the reserve;
Dinner and overnight in the lodge; lunch is on your own.

Day 4 (January 28): Hokkaido

Again we will be leaving very early for morning light in the crane reserve. We have the option staying there all day or drive to Lake Mashu for winter landscapes. In the afternoon we will photograph whooper swans at the lake.
Dinner and overnight in the lodge; lunch is on your own.

Day 5 (January 29): Hokkaido

Early morning we will drive back to Lake Mashu to photograph swans in fog caused by the geothermal activity. This makes for moody and very artistic images. We will spend the whole day in the area.
Dinner and overnight in the lodge; lunch is on your own.

Day 6-9 (January 30 - February 2): Hokkaido

The program for the next four days will depend on the weather conditions. We plan to drive at least twice to the fishing village of Rausu to photograph Steller's sea eagles. We will go out on a boat and will have the opportunity to take images of theses magnificent birds in flight and fighting over fish only a few feet away. We also have cahnce to vist the swans again at Lake Kussharo and the red-crowned cranes near Tsurui Village.
Dinner and overnight in the lodge; lunch is on your own.

Day 10 (February 03): Tokyo and snow monkeys

We will leave the lodge early morning. Transfer to Kushiro Airport and then flight to Tokyo. A privately chartered van will pick us up at the airport and drive us to the snow monkey reserve in the Jigokudani Yaen National Park. The drive takes 4-5 hours.
We will spend the night in the Korakukan, a traditional Japanese-style guesthouse which is located a short distance from the snow monkey hotsprings
This rustic mountain Minshuku (family operated, Japanese-style bed and breakfast) is the nearest ryokan (only 100 meters) to the beautiful Jigokudani Yaen National Park in the mountains of the Yudanaka Onsen in Nagano. There are indoor and outdoor hot spring baths for both women and men at Korakukan Jigokudani (and Japanese snow monkeys frequently visit the outdoor hot spring baths from late October as well!). From the outdoor hot spring baths at Korakukan Jigokudani, the nearby hot spring geyser can be seen. Fresh local vegetables and river fish are served to guests. Travel warning: It is a 2 kilometer (1.24 mile) walk to Korakukan Jigokudani lodge from the nearest road. So please wear good winter hiking boots.
Because the lodge is such a short distance to the snow monkey hot springs we can spend all day at the pools to photograph and also be able to walk to the lodge for lunch. Lunch is on your own.
Overnight at Korakukan Guest House

Day 11 (February 04): Snow monkeys

In the afternoon we will change the lodge and walk back to the nearest road to a modern and very comfortable Japanese-style hotel. Lunch is on your own.
Dinner and overnight in Senjukaku Hotel

Day 12 (February 05): Snow monkeys

After breakfast we will walk back up to the snow monkey hot springs. We can either stay all day or we can come back down for lunch time. Lunch is on your own.
Breakfast, dinner and overnight in Senjukaku Hotel

Day 13 (February 06): Tokyo and international flight home

Drive to Tokyo airport in private bus and flight back home the same day.
End of tour


  • Accommodations for 12 nights
  • All land and air transfers in Japan
  • All drives to the various wildlife sites
  • National park fees
  • All meals excluding lunches and meals on first and last day in Tokyo
  • Local English-speaking drivers/guides as well as two Wild Focus Expedition trip leaders

Not Included

  • International airfare to and from Tokyo
  • Change of itinerary
  • Lunches
  • Any items of personal nature such as beverages, laundry, telephone calls
  • Travel/medical insurance
  • Any extras not mentioned in the included list such as extra meals and activities

Expedition Leaders


Jami Tarris & Theo Allofs

Japan, is a magic country that keeps pulling us back. Imagine sitting in a steaming hot spring being joined by a group of snow monkeys; or watching the graceful courting dance of Japanese cranes, whooper swans approaching  through geothermal steam on a partly frozen lake, or Steller's sea eagles catching fish right next to our boat. And last we are always looking forward to the delicious Japanese cuisine! If you love winter, wildlife and exploring different cultures then join us on this adventure.

Wild Focus Expeditions

Wild Focus Expeditions provides specialized, small group photography tours. Our photography expeditions are designed to get participants into distinctive, engaging locations around the world at the optimum times for photography. Our photo tours are created by our team of photographers who want to experience and photograph the world's top wildlife, nature and traditional cultures locations.


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