Wednesday, February 3 (Day 01)
HONOLULU to NARITA to CHITOSE
Our tour commences this morning when we assemble at the Japan Airlines lobby at the airport for check in procedures for our flight to Narita International Airport. Lunch and a snack will be served on board the flight. After completing entry and customs formalities at Narita Airport, we will transfer to check in for our domestic flight to Chitose International Airport in Chitose city, one of the gateways to the Shikotsu-Toya National Park in Hokkaido, Japan.
Thursday, February 4 (Day 02)
On arrival at Chitose Airport in the evening, we will transfer to our hotel located in the airport to check in for the night.
Accommodations at HOTEL COM’S CHITOSE AIRPORT or similar
Friday, February 5 (Day 03)
CHITOSE - SAPPORO (B)(D)
This morning we’ll make a stop at a shoe shop to purchase special snow shoes to wear during our tour. (optional). Our winter festival tour begins in Chitose, visiting the Hyoto Ice Festival - a fantastic world of ice and snow sculptures displayed at Lake Shikotsu, a beautiful caldera lake located in the central part of Hokkaido. Famed for the clarity of its water, the lake forms a part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. We’ll continue on to the city of Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido to spend the next two nights. Enjoy viewing hundreds of spectacular snow statues and ice sculptures centered on Odori Park at the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri, the largest winter festival in Hokkaido. Created by various artisans, each block has its own special feature, turning Odori Park into a fabulous winter dreamland. In the evening, the festival site is a spectacular sight to see, beautifully illuminated with colored lights. This evening, enjoy a delicious Genghis Khan dinner at the Sapporo Beer Garden.
Accommodations at CENTURY ROYAL HOTEL or similar
Saturday, February 6 (Day 04)
We’ll travel to the charming port city of Otaru, best known for the historic Otaru Canal. Sections of the canal are lined with many photogenic Meiji and Taisho-era buildings, giving it the atmosphere of an old harbor town. Otaru is also known for its elegant glassware and we’ll have some time to browse through the glass shops displaying a nice selection of their intricate products. Hokkaido is the birthplace of beer in Japan and we’ll visit the Asahi Beer Factory to enjoy a guided tour of their facility explaining all about the production of beer. At the conclusion of the tour, samples of some of their delicious products will be available in the tasting room for you to enjoy. Stroll through Susukino - a crystal wonderland displaying hundreds of spectacular ice carvings lining the street of Sapporo’s main entertainment and shopping district. For lunch, try some Sapporo ramen at the popular Ramen Yokocho, a narrow alley with many small shops serving a variety of delicious ramen. Dinner will be on your own this evening to try some local cuisine at one of the restaurants in the underground shopping mall near the hotel
Accommodations at CENTURY ROYAL HOTEL or similar
Sunday, February 7 (Day 05)
SAPPORO - ASAHIKAWA - SOUNKYO VALLEY (B)(D)
We’ll continue our journey northeast to Asahikawa, the second largest city in Hokkaido located in the heart of the Daisetsu mountain range. Discover a fantasyland of snow and ice sculptures displayed on a beautiful white snowfield at the spectacular Asahikawa Winter Festival. The main shopping street - Kaimono Koen - is lined on both sides with these extraordinary carvings made by teams from all over the world. The main centerpiece of the festival is the magnificent giant snow sculpture made from pure snow with no framework or support of any kind. Hokkaido has ideal climate and water conditions needed to make superior sake and we’ll enjoy a tour of the Otokoyama Sake Brewery to observe the sake production process with photos and exhibits. Some of their delicious products will be available for you to sample. Our travel continues on to Sounkyo, a mountain hot spring resort nestled in the middle of Sounkyo Valley in Daisetsuzan National Park, the largest of Japan’s national parks. Enjoy dinner and relax in our onsen hotel overlooking the breathtaking Hyobaku Ice Festival in Sounkyo Valley. In the evening, the festival site is beautifully illuminated with colored lights.
Accommodations at HOTEL DAISETSU or similar
Monday, February 8 (Day 06)
SOUNKYO VALLEY - ABASHIRI (B)(D)
This morning we’ll visit the Hyobaku Ice Festival , a fantastic world of ice with spectacular man-made ice and snow sculptures and fascinating ice caves lined on the riverbed of the Ishikari River - the mother river of Hokkaido. We’ll continue on to Sounkyo Gorge, a spectacular gorge extending along the Ishikari River and is renowned for its impressive waterfalls. We’ll make a photo stop to see two of the most picturesque ones - Ryusei-no-taki (Shooting Star Falls) and Ginga-no-taki (Milky Way Falls) - both selected as two of the top 100 waterfalls in Japan. We’ll continue on to Abashiri, a town located on the northern coast of Hokkaido and best known as the site of Japan’s first maximum security prison and for its drift ice in the winter season. We’ll visit the Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum located on Mount Tento - a hands-on science center providing interesting information about the history of sea drift ice (ryu-hyo) that floes into the Sea of Okhotsk from Russia. Time permitting, enjoy an exciting outdoor snow activity at this site. This evening, enjoy dinner and relax in the soothing hot springs at our hotel.
Accommodations at ABASHIRI KANKO HOTEL or similar
Tuesday, February 9 (Day 07)
ABASHIRI - LAKE AKAN - IKEDA - TOKACHIGAWA ONSEN (B)(D)
Weather permitting, enjoy an exciting adventure as we board an icebreaker boat - a special purpose boat designed to move and navigate through ice covered waters, crushing the drift ice that floes into the Sea of Okhotsk. The crushing sound as we cruise on the North Hokkaido Sea is an experience you’ll never forget. We’ll continue on to Lake Akan, a beautiful crater lake in Akan National Park known for its marimo, a rare green algae species designated as a National Special Natural Monument. Experience and enjoy some of the outdoor winter activities offered at the lake - ice fishing, ice skating, snowmobile rides and more. (own expense). This evening, enjoy dinner and relax in the quaint surroundings of our fabulous onsen hotel.
Accommodations at HOTEL DAIHEIGEN or similar
Wednesday, February 10 (Day 08)
TOKACHIGAWA - SHIRAOI - NOBORIBETSU ONSEN (B)(D)
Our journey continues on to the town of Shiraoi, visiting Poroto Kotan, a reconstructed Ainu Village and Museum. The museum displays interesting exhibits and artifacts relating to the history, culture and lifestyle of the Ainu people. Enjoy a traditional song and dance performance by some of the Ainu villagers including a demonstration of how to play the mukkur, a kind of mouth harp made of a piece of thin shaved bamboo with a thread attached to it - creating a strange resonating sound. We’ll travel on to Noboribetsu, Hokkaido’s most famous hot spring resort beautifully surrounded by forested hills. One of the major attractions in the area is Jigokudani (Hell Valley), a spectacular ravine with sulfurous volcanic pits and hot steam geysers. Enjoy dinner and relax in the hot springs at our fabulous onsen hotel this evening.
Accommodations at NOBORIBETSU GRAND HOTEL or similar
Thursday, February 11 (Day 09)
NOBORIBETSU - CHITOSE - NARITA TO HONOLULU (B)
After breakfast this morning, we’ll proceed to the Chitose Airport for our domestic flight to Narita International Airport. On arrival, we’ll transfer for our early evening flight to Honolulu, arriving on the same day due to the crossing of the International Dateline. A meal will be served on board the flight.