Monday, October 8 (Day 01)
HONOLULU TO NARITA TO CHITOSE
Our tour commences this morning when we assemble at the check-in lobby at the airport for baggage check-in procedures. We will depart Honolulu for Narita International Airport. A meal will be served on board the flight. After completing entry and customs formalities at Narita Airport, we’ll transfer to the domestic ticket lobby to check-in for our domestic flight to Chitose Airport in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost and second largest island.
Tuesday, October 9 (Day 02)
Upon arrival at Chitose Airport, we’ll transfer to check-in for the night at a hotel located in the airport.
Accommodations at HOTEL COM’S NEW CHITOSE AIRPORT or similar
Wednesday, October 10 (Day 03)
CHITOSE - LAKE SHIKOTSU - SAPPORO (B)(D)
We’ll visit Lake Shikotsu, a beautiful caldera lake in Chitose. Famed for the clarity of its water, this lake is part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. Due to its small surface area to depth ratio, the water temperature of this lake remains constant throughout the year, making it the northernmost ice-free lake in Japan. We’ll continue on to Sapporo - the capital of Hokkaido - visiting some of the highlights of this metropolitan city. Enjoy a visit to the Historical Museum of Hokkaido in Nopporo National Park featuring interesting exhibits and displays of the lifestyle and culture of Hokkaido. The main exhibition covers the history of Hokkaido from two million years ago up to the present day. Sapporo is well-known for its delicious ramen and for our lunch option, you may want to try some at Ramen Yokocho in Susukino - a popular alley with many small shops serving several varieties of ramen. We’ll drive by to view Tokei-dai (Clock Tower), the symbol and landmark of Sapporo, and Odori Park, a wide promenade dividing the northern and southern part of the city bordered with beautiful flowerbeds. Odori Park is the location where the Winter Snow Festival is held annually during the month of February. Hokkaido is known as the birthplace of beer in Japan. Enjoy a guided tour explaining the process of beer production at the Asahi Beer Factory. At the conclusion of the tour, some of their delicious products will be available in the tasting room for you to sample. This evening, enjoy a delicious Genghis Khan dinner at the Sapporo Beer Garden.
Accommodations at SAPPORO CENTURY ROYAL HOTEL or similar
Thursday, October 11 (Day 04)
SAPPORO - RUMOI - HORONOBE - WAKKANAI (B)(D)
Our journey continues north along the coast through Rumoi to Horonobe, making a brief stop at the Reindeer Farm. Offspring of reindeer from Finland and the ones originally from Horonobe are raised here on this vast farm. We’ll continue on to Wakkanai, a city located on the northernmost fringe of Hokkaido and the access point for the islands of Rishiri-to and Rebun-to, two windswept islands off the northern tip. On arrival, we’ll visit Wakkanai Park featuring several interesting monuments. Highlights include the ‘Gate to Ice and Snow’ - a memorial dedicated to the former Japanese settlements on Sakhalin Island before it was ceded to the Russians at the end of World War II and the ‘Monument to Nine Ladies -a memorial commemorating the nine female operators who committed suicide at the post office on Sakhalin Island after Japan’s defeat in World War II. We’ll spend the night in Wakkanai.
Accommodations at WAKKANAI ANA HOTEL or similar
Friday, October 12 (Day 05)
WAKKANAI - NAYORO - ASAHIKAWA - SOUNKYO (B)(D)
This morning, we’ll visit Soya-Misaki (Cape Soya), the northernmost point of the island of Hokkaido - a lonely but significant spot. On the site of Cape Soya, several monuments are featured: the ‘Monument of the Northernmost Point of Japan’; the ‘Tower of Prayer’ -a memorial of Korean Airlines Flight 007 that was shot down in 1983 with its tip pointing toward the direction where the plane went down; and the ‘Tower of Peace’, a memorial of the USS Wahoo that sunk with 80 men aboard in 1943. On a clear day, it may be possible to catch a glimpse of the island of Sakhalin. We’ll continue our journey south through the town of Nayoro, arriving in Sounkyo - a popular hot-spring resort to spend the night. Enjoy dinner and relax in the hot springs at our onsen hotel this evening.
Accommodations at HOTEL TAISETSU or similar
Saturday, October 13 (Day 06)
SOUNKYO - KITAMI - - ABASHIRI (B)(D)
The geographical center of Hokkaido and the largest of Japan’s national parks - Daisetsu-zan - contains the very essence of rugged Hokkaido: vast plains, soaring mountain peaks, hidden gorges, cascading waterfalls, forests, and wilderness. The main route through the park is Sounkyo Gorge, a ravine that extends into the park and for a 5-mile stretch, sheer cliff walls rise on both sides of the canyon as the road winds through the mountains. This tame gorge is renowned for its picturesque waterfalls and we’ll make a photo stop at two of the main ones: Ryusei-no-taki (Shooting Star Falls) and the Ginga-no-taki (Milky Way Falls). We’ll continue on to spend the night in the city of Abashiri, a fishing port overlooked by Mount Tento-zan and the Sea of Okhotsk. Before checking into our hotel, we’ll visit the Okhotsk Ryuhyo (Drift Ice) Museum, featuring an interesting video and several exhibits that explain the history of drift ice that flows into the Sea of Okhotsk from the Aurora River during the winter season.
Accommodations at ABASHIRI KANKO HOTEL or similar
Sunday, October 14 (Day 07)
ABASHIRI - SHIRETOKO (B)(D)
The Abashiri Prison Museum consists of many buildings which were in use until the year 1984. Only the most heinous criminals were banished to this forbidding northern outpost known as the ‘Alcatraz’ of Japan. The cells, watch towers, and prison farm buildings show how stark and monotonous life was for inmates, relieved only by restricted bathhouse visits. Anguished-looking mannequins bring it all to life as we retrace the history of convict labor and the harsh life of a prisoner on a tour of this open-air site. We’ll proceed east to Utoro, located on the west coast of Shiretoko to make a photo stop at the Oshin Koshin waterfall - selected as “one of the 100 most beautiful waterfalls in Japan”. The peninsula, Shiretoko-hanto, remains one of the most remote wilderness in Japan and is known for its healthy brown bear population. As we enter the Shiretoko National Park at Utoro - the main gateway to the park - we’ll enjoy a cruise on the Shiretoko Sightseeing Boat, skirting the shores and rounding the cape’s tip with impressive views of the rugged cliffs and mountains (weather permitting). Within the peninsula are the Shiretoko Go-Ko (Five Lakes), a collection of five small lakes grouped together between the sea and the mountains. This evening, enjoy dinner and relax in the hot springs of our elegant onsen hotel.
Accommodations at SHIRETOKO DAI-ICHI HOTEL or similar
Monday, October 15 (Day 08)
SHIRETOKO - RAUSU - KUSHIRO (B)(D)
Our journey of Hokkaido continues southwest to enjoy a spectacular view of Lake Mashu from an observation point (weather permitting). The small isle (actually a lava hill rising from the lake bottom) in the center of the lake is known to the Ainu as the ‘Isle of the Gods’. On a clear day, the clarity of the water and its intense blue color is quite startling - its transparency depth was once a world record. We’ll travel south to Kushiro, visiting the Kushiro Marshland and Observatory. The marshland is renowned worldwide for its wildlife and you can view the entire park from the observatory. Flowers bloom all around the building, giving it the image of an old European Castle. The marshland is famed for its protected tancho-zuru (red-crested white cranes) - traditional symbols of Japan and longevity. These cranes were designated as a special Natural Monument of Japan and we’ll have an opportunity to see some moving freely about at the Japanese Crane Reserve in Kushiro city. Currently housed in a market building, enjoy bargaining and shopping for dried seafood products and other goods at Washo Market before we check-in for the night. Dinner will be provided for you at our hotel in Kushiro this evening.
Accommodations at KUSHIRO ANA HOTEL or similar
Tuesday, October 16 (Day 09)
KUSHIRO - LAKE AKAN - ASHORO - FURANO (B)(D)
Lake Akan, a beautiful volcanic lake, is best known for its marimo - a rare spherical green algae designated as a Special Natural Monument. Marimo is formed when separate pieces of algae at the bottom of the lake roll around and eventually forms into a ball, gradually growing larger and larger. We’ll enjoy a boat cruise on Lake Akan, providing us with a close-up view of the mountains, islands, and into hamlets, including a brief stop on Churui Islet to visit the Marimo Exhibition and Observation Center which displays a few tanks of these green fuzz balls. We’ll continue our journey through the town of Ashoro and on to Furano, a town nestled between the Tokachi mountain range to the east and the Yuubari mountain range to the west. We will spend one night in Furano.
Accommodations at FURANO PRINCE HOTEL or similar
Wednesday, October 17 (Day 10)
FURANO - BIEI - SAPPORO - OTARU (B)(D)
We’ll travel north through the picturesque town of Biei, known as the ‘town of beautiful hills’. Enjoy the spectacular view of Patchwork Hill, a hillside covered with various colors of shrubbery. We’ll continue on to visit Otaru, a charming port city best known for the historic Otaru Canal adorned with Victorian-style street lamps. 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 intricate glassware. Enjoy browsing through some of the glass shops to see some of their products available for purchase. We’ll spend the night in a quaint hotel located adjacent to the canal. Dinner will be provided for you this evening at the hotel.
Accommodations at OTARU HOTEL NORDE or similar
Thursday, October 18 (Day 11)
OTARU - YOICHI - KUTCHAN - LAKE TOYA - MT. SHOWA SHIN-ZAN - NOBORIBETSU (B)(D)
Our travel continues on through Yoichi and Kutchan, a town located slightly north of the perfect cone-shaped Mt. Yotei - Hokkaido’s own Mt. Fuji. Part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park, Toya-ko is a large volcanic caldera lake and the northernmost one in Japan that never ices. This picturesque lake was chosen as the location of the G8 summit which Japan hosted in the summer of 2008. In addition to the lake, this region features an active volcano, Mt. Usu and Mt. Showa Shin-zan, one of Japan’s youngest mountains. Showa Shin-zan originally emerged as a little bump, but after a series of earthquakes and mud slides, continued to surge upwards to reach its present height. It is an awesome sight to see as it sits there hissing steam. A view of Usu-zan that was the force behind the creation of Showa Shin-zan can be seen in the distance. We’ll continue on to Noboribetsu, Hokkaido’s most famous hot spring resort surrounded by forested hills to spend the night. Enjoy dinner and relax in the hot springs at our hotel this evening.
Accommodations at NOBORIBETSU GRAND HOTEL or similar
Friday, October 19 (Day 12)
NOBORIBETSU - CHITOSE - NARITA TO HONOLULU (B)
This morning, we’ll travel to the Chitose Airport to check-in for our domestic flight to Narita International Airport. Our evening flight to Honolulu will arrive in the morning on the same day due to the crossing of the International Date Line. A late meal will be served on board the flight.