AITO: The Association of Independent Tour Operators
Winter Hokkaido: Japan's Frozen

Winter Hokkaido: Japan's Frozen

Winter Hokkaido: Japan's Frozen Overview

Experience Winter on Japan’s wildest island on this activity, wildlife and culture holiday

Experience the wilds of Japan’s frozen north on this active winter holiday. Hokkaido during winter is mysterious, magical, and a world apart from the rest of Japan. Snow and ice transform the island, providing a striking contrast to the ubiquitous conical volcanoes and steaming hot springs (onsen). Sea ice, which has drifted across the Sea of Okhotsk from Siberia, closes like a fist around the Shiretoko Peninsula; nowhere else in the northern hemisphere does sea ice reach this far south. With winter comes an array of rare wildlife, from majestic Steller’s Sea Eagles, with their orange beaks and 8ft wing spans, to hosts of clione or “sea angels”, tiny floating sea slugs that accompany the drift-ice. The island’s resident foxes are also easily spotted at this time of year with their red coats illuminated against the snow blanketed fields. Hokkaido is the home of the Ainu, indigenous residents who worship the spirit of natural things. The Ainu way of life has been slowly disappearing, but is preserved and celebrated here; their philosophy of living in harmony with nature now feels more pertinent than ever. This 10 day holiday is designed to showcase all the natural winter wonders of Japan’s wildest island, through a combination of snowshoeing, Ainu folk performances, magical ice-festivals, drift-ice activities and wildlife cruises. We’ll also experience Japanese culture, enjoying Kaiseki dinners and picnic bento boxes, relaxing in steamy onsen, exploring neon-lit Sapporo and sleeping in traditional tatami-floored rooms.
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