19 days 18 nights
Arabic, Chinese, English, Francais, Indonesia
Start and end in Tokyo! With the Adventure tour Snow Monkeys & Cranes of Japan, you have a 19 days tour package taking you through Tokyo, Japan and 6 other destinations in Japan. Snow Monkeys & Cranes of Japan includes accommodation, an expert guide, meals, transport and more.
•Witness nearly 14,000 hooded and white-naped cranes in Arasaki, Kyushu.
•Visit the enchanting, snow-enveloped village of Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the tall, gable-roofed Gassho-Zukuri architecture, which literally means “hands folded in prayer,” is unique in Japan.
•Observe the celebrated spectacle of the snow monkeys that visit and soak in the thermal baths of Jigokudani, and enjoy the therapeutic properties of the hot springs at our lodge.
• In East Hokkaido, watch magnificent Steller’s eagles along the coast, graceful whooper swans at lakes and search for the world’s largest owl—Blakiston’s fish owl.
Board your independent flight, arriving in Tokyo the next day. Check in to the Haneda Excel Tokyufor dinner and overnight.
A morning flight takes you to Kyushu Island. From Kagoshima, drive through wooded hills into the Kirishima-Yaku National Park. Visit the ancient Kirishima Shrine and walk through the beautiful mature laurel forests around Lake Miike to observe resident forest birds and wintering waterfowl. Dinner and overnight at a hot spring hotel in Kirishima.
The fallow rice paddies around the coastal village of Arasaki are the site of a spectacular winter gathering of Asian cranes. The sights and sounds of nearly 14,000 hooded and white-naped cranes make this one of the most powerful wildlife experiences one can hope for, and a photographer’s dream. Overnight at Hotel Sengokuteifor the next two nights.
Rise early to visit the main concentration of cranes to witness their mass departure from the roost at dawn. After breakfast, explore the surrounding fields to photograph adults and juveniles and search for other wintering birds.
Leave Kyushu on an early morning flight for the snowy mountains of central Honshu. Visit the village of Shirakawa-go, located in an isolated, steep, mountainous area of the Sho River Valley. This World Heritage Site showcases the unique architectural style of houses that resemble hands folded in prayer. Overnight in Takayama.
This morning explore the historical town of Takayama, visiting a saké brewery and a miso store, before continuing by road to Matsumoto to visit the historical castle, ending at Kambayashi Onsen. Here you have the extraordinary opportunity to watch and photograph snow monkeys. Your ryokan,or inn, for the next three nights features an attractive and artistic interior and a delightful garden. With its own onsen(natural thermal spring), you are able to emulate generations of Japanese people (and the monkeys!) and enjoy a relaxing and therapeutic soak in the mineral waters.
Jigokudani is a steep-sided valley set amid forested mountains. After breakfast walk along the mile-long trail to the viewing area and spend the day observing and photographing the resident troop of Japanese macaques as they feed nearby and soak in their very own thermal pool. Also keep a lookout for the shy and elusive Japanese serow, and birds such as the brown dipper and alpine accentor.
Today drive across Honshu and then fly from Tokyo to Kushiro. Arriving in eastern Hokkaido, more wildlife spectacles await—several hundred red-crowned cranes, flocks of whooper swans, magnificent Steller’s eagles, and possibly Eurasian red squirrels, Japanese deer, and red foxes. Overnight at a family-run hot spring hotel in Tsurui-mura for the next three nights.
In snowy east Hokkaido, visit several areas to view red-crowned cranes. You can expect to see large flocks of these magnificent birds at ranges down to 100 feet or less. Greeting ceremonies and courtship dances involve leaps and pirouettes, posturing, and trumpeting cries. Such behavior can be infectious, spreading through the flocks in waves, and oftentimes dozens of cranes leap and trumpet together in a thrilling display.
Akan-Mashu National Park is geothermally rich and over two days you will explore a variety of visually stunning subjects—volcanic peaks, steaming sulphuroles, Hokkaido’s most scenic crater lake, and flocks of whooper swans. In the evening, retreat to your delightful lakeside pension.
Today drive to the Shiretoko Peninsula, another of Japan’s World Heritage Sites. This rugged, mountainous finger of land attracts white-tailed and Steller’s eagles, truly immense birds, half again as big as the bald eagle. Weather permitting, visit the edge of the sea ice by boat and lure these impressive raptors with fish scraps. Tonight stay at a local inn overlooking the sea.
Depart this morning for a second opportunity to watch the eagles at the ice edge. Continue your exploration of eastern Hokkaido, first along the Shiretoko Peninsula for more views of winter wildfowl and raptors, and to watch for foxes, deer, and seals (sightings of Steller’s sea lion and harbor seal are possible), and keep a look out for sea-urchin harvesters. Then head to our accommodations inland at Yoroushi where you will spend two nights.
Today explore the scenery of the southeast coast of Hokkaido, where there are more chances to encounter deer and foxes, as well as wintering swans, ducks, and raptors.
Learn the traditional ‘art’ of mochi (rice) pounding during breakfast, then drive back to Kushiro for your flight south to Tokyo. Pause for your last glimpses of cranes and views of Kushiro marsh before saying farewell to Japan’s wildest island, Hokkaido. Overnight at the Okura Hotel Tokyo, with a special farewell dinner.
Board your independent flight to head home.