Photo tour to Japan in the Winter

Photo tour to Japan in the Winter

Discover the winterly beauty of Japan on this extraordinary tour which is specifically drafted for photographers. Experience snow monkeys which enjoy taking a bath in hot springs in the middle of a winter landscape. Follow the rare Steller’s sea eagles to the pack ice. Take unique pictures of hundreds of whooper swans and dancing red-crowned cranes. If you are lucky you meet the rare Blakiston’s fish owl which can be photographed also at night time thanks to a specific technology. At each place you have plenty of time, sometimes several days, so that you can adjust to the animals and the situation.


Day 1: Arrival in Japan

Reception at international Tokyo Airport and drive to the hotel close to the national airport. In the evening you meet your fellow travellers and your tour guide. Overnight at the airport hotel Toyoko Inn Tokyo Haneda Kuko.

Day 2: National flight to Kushiro

Flight to Kushiro and transfer to your hotel. The city is located in the east of the Hokkaido Island. Overnight at hotel Route-Inn Ekimae. (B)

Day 3: Drive to Shiretoko Peninsula

Approximately four hours bus drive to Japan’s easternmost city Rausu to the Shiretoko Peninsula. The peninsula was declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site in 2005. It is the southernmost point at which sea ice usually forms in the Northern hemisphere, where the Oyashio Current causes fog on the southeastern coast and winter sea ice. This explains why the bulk of birds which can be observed here usually is domestic in Sibiria and Kamtchatka. Overnight at hotel Rausu-no-Yado Marumi. (B)

Day 4 – 6: Rausu

Rausi is one of the best places in the world to photograph the rare and beautiful Steller’s sea eagle. At winter time those birds are the main attraction at the pack ice. The Steller’s sea eagle usually breeds in the east of Russia, mostly in Kamtchatka. Each winter, more than 1, 000 eagles arrive at the Shiretoko Peninsula to bring up their offsprings in the pack ice. In order to respond for unfavourable weather conditions like storm, a three days stay is planned in Rausu. An exclusively chartered boat is available on two days which brings you to the eagles in good weather. The birds are also located in the coastal areas, however, the most beautiful pictures can be taken at the edge of the pack ice. Depending of the distance to the ice you drive several hours by boat to reach the eagle location. On days that don’t permit a boat ride, you go on safari at Shiretoko National Park where you can take shots of sika deer, Ural owls and red foxes if you are lucky. Another highlight is the photography of one of the world’s most uncommon owls, the Blakiston’s fish owl. Globally there are only a few left, around 1, 000 individuals. During two evenings you visit a project which specialised on photographers. The nocturnal hunting owl is illuminated by a stroboscope lamps which do not harm the animal. Certainly, you have to synchronize your camera to the stroboscope lights. Of course help is offered, if needed. Overnight at hotel Rausu-no-Yado Marumi. (B/D)

Day 7 – 8: Lake Kussharu

In the morning bus drive to the south to the lakes Mashu and Kussharu. The latter is a scenic crater lake at Akan National Park. With an extent of 57 kilometres it is the biggest lake in the national park. Each winter around 400 whooper swans return to the lake. Your guide knows the best locations for optimal shots. Due to the numerous hot springs the shore is always ice free, even when the water surface is frozen. Apart from atmospheric pictures you also have the opportunity to shoot flying swans. Overnight at Pension Birao. (B/D)

Day 9- 11: Akan National Park

Continue to swamps and marshland. Your hotel is situated close to the three main spots of the red-crowned cranes. You have the possibility to observe the animals searching for food at sunrise and sunset. White-tailed eagles, black-eared kites and various other raptors take advantage of the crane feeding times, so photographic opportunities are abounding. The cranes are very active and perform their mating dance – an illustrious spectacle which happens directly in front of your camera lense. The distance is only about 15 meters which allows you to use also a middle lense. Participants with a 600 mm objective can take head portraits of the cranes. Overnight at hotel Yamahana. (B)

Day 12: Flight to Tokyo and train ride to Yudanaka

Flight from Kushiro to Tokyo. There you take the high speed train Shinkansen to Nagano where you change to a regional train which takes you to Yudanaka. Transfer to your hotel which is located closely to Jigokudani Monkey Park. The park is famous for its snow monkeys and is part of the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park which lies in the Nagano Prefecture south west of Tokyo. The name Jigokudani means “Hell’s Valley” due to the steam and boiling water that bubbles out of small crevices in the frozen ground. Overnight at Ryokan Uotoshi. (B/D)

Day 13 – 14: Jigokudani Monkey Park

It is only a 1.5 kilometres walk from your hotel to the hot springs. The rules of the monkey park indicate that entry is only permitted after the apes have arrived at the hot springs. If humans reached the springs before the monkey, they would stay away. Approximately 200 Japanese macaques are native at Jigokudani Park. During the cold winter months, the snow monkeys relax in the hot springs during the day. If you are lucky, snow falls and provides the monkeys with a decorative hood. In the evening the snow monkeys return to the surrounding hills. You have two complete days to observe the primates while they relax and to capture numerous moments with your camera. Overnight at Ryokan Uotoshi. (B/D)

Day 15: Transfer back to Tokyo

In the morning you visit the monkey park for a last time. In the afternoon you take the high speed train back to Tokyo. Transfer to the airport for your return flight. A city trip or an extension programme is also possible. (B)

Travel dates

03.02.2018 – 17.02.2018 – Sold Out
17.02.2018 – 03.03.2018 – Only 3 places left


  • Per person in a double room: 4, 690 €
  • Single supplement:    890 €

Rates include

  • Overnight in a double room in middle class hotels, ryokans or guest houses as per itinerary
  • All transfers with private vehicles, public transport and busses
  • Chartered boat on two days for eight hours each day in Rausu
  • Meals as per itinerary (B=Breakfast, D=Dinner)
  • German-speaking tour guide and specialised local guides
  • National park fees
  • All excursions as stated in the program
  • Group size: minimum 12, maximum 12 participants

Rates exclude

  • Flights to/from Tokyo and all national flights (approximately 750 € – 950 € per person)
  • Gratuities

Contact and booking

If you wish to book a programme or require more details, please feel free to contact us here. The team of Wildlife Observations Worldwide will be happy to assist you.

Pictures are taken by Winfried Deist and Henk Nijlunsing.