Monday, February 4 (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 for our flight to Narita International Airport. Lunch and a snack will be served onboard the flight. After completing entry and customs formalities at Narita Airport, we will transfer to board our domestic flight to the New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido, the second largest and northernmost island of Japan.
Tuesday, February 5 (Day 02)
We’ll arrive Chitose Airport in the evening, then transfer to our hotel located nearby the airport to check in for the night.
Accommodations at ANA CROWNE PLAZA CHITOSE or similar
Wednesday, February 6 (Day 03)
CHITOSE - SAPPORO (B)(D)
A first visit of our winter festival tour of Hokkaido is at the Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival, located on the shores of Lake Shikotsu, Japan’s northernmost ice-free caldera lake that is part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. We’ll visit the fantastic world of ice featuring various snow sculptures created with water from the lake lined along the shores of the lake. We’ll continue on to spend two nights in Sapporo, capital city of Hokkaido, well-known for ramen, beer, and the annual snow festivals. We’ll travel to Susukino, Sapporo’s liveliest entertainment district packed with bars, restaurants, karaoke shops, and stores. The city also serves as the site of the Susukino Ice Festival featuring intricate ice sculptures created by various competitors lined along the main street. Noodle lovers will enjoy the famous Sapporo ramen at Ramen Yokocho, a narrow lane in Susukino, lined with many small shops serving a variety of delicious ramen. This afternoon, we’ll visit the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri, the largest winter festival in Sapporo, one of Japan’s most popular winter event. Centered on Odori Park, hundreds of spectacular large and small snow statues, are exhibited there, including huge snow sculptures many of which are used to host concerts and events. Created by various artisans, each block has its own individual creations, turning Odori Park into a fabulous winter dreamland. In the evenings, the festival venue is a breathtaking sight to see, beautifully illuminated with colored lights. Dinner will be provided for you this evening.
Accommodations at SAPPORO CENTURY ROYAL HOTEL or similar
Thursday, February 7 (Day 04)
SAPPORO - OTARU - SAPPORO (B)
We’ll travel to visit historical Otaru, a charming port city located in western Hokkaido. A well-known symbol of the city is Otaru Canal, lined with gaslights and old stone warehouses, providing a nostalgic and romantic atmosphere. Otaru is also noted for its intricate glassware - featuring its most popular item - a drip-free shoyu bottle. Created in all sizes, shapes and colors, this is one of the most popular items to bring home as a souvenir. We’ll visit the Mount Okura Ski Jump Stadium, a ski jumping venue located on the eastern slope of Mt. Okura. The stadium has hosted a number of winter sports events including the 1972 Winter Olympics and FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in 2007 and is now used as a prime training facility for athletes at Nordic events. Hokkaido is the birthplace of beer in Japan and this afternoon, we’ll enjoy a guided tour to observe the process of beer production at the Asahi Brewery, a leading brewery and soft drink company in Hokkaido. At the conclusion of the tour, some of their delicious products will be available for you to sample in the tasting room. Tonight, dinner will be on your own to try some local cuisine at one of the restaurants in the underground shopping mall located near the hotel.
Accommodations at SAPPORO CENTURY ROYAL HOTEL or similar
Friday, February 8 (Day 05)
SAPPORO - ASAHIKAWA - SOUNKYO VALLEY (B)(D)
We’ll continue our journey northeast to Asahikawa, a city 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, Hokkaido’s second largest winter festival located on the banks of the Ishikari River - the mother river of Hokkaido. The centerpiece of the festival is a magnificent giant snow sculpture, created with a different theme every year. This huge sculpture is used as a stage for concerts, events, and for the opening and closing ceremonies of the festival. An International ice sculpture competition is held at Heiwa-dori (pedestrian street) where international teams from all over the world compete to create extraordinary ice carvings at this competition. Hokkaido has the ideal climate and water conditions needed to produce superior sake. At the Otokoyama Sake Brewery, observe the step-by-step process of sake production through interesting displays, photos, and exhibits. At the conclusion of the tour, some of their delicious products will be available for you to sample and enjoy. Our travel continues on to Sounkyo, a 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 Sounkyo Hyobaku (Ice Waterfall) Festival. In the evenings, the festival site is a fabulous sight to see, beautifully illuminated with colored lights. A complimentary shuttle bus is available from the hotel to take you to see this spectacular winter wonderland of ice
Accommodations at HOTEL DAISETSU or similar
Saturday, February 9 (Day 06)
SOUNKYO VALLEY - ABASHIRI (B)(D)
This morning, we’ll visit the fantastic world of ice at the Hyobaku Ice Festival , featuring spectacular man-made ice sculptures, fascinating ice caves, pillars, domes, and tunnels lined on the riverbed of the Ishikari River. We’ll continue on to visit Sounkyo Gorge, a spectacular gorge extending along the Ishikari River and renowned for its impressive waterfalls. We’ll make a photo stop to view two of the most picturesque falls - 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 - 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. Experience walking through a room with freezing temperatures while swaying a wet towel that freezes as you exit the room. Time permitting and subject to availability, enjoy a fun and exciting outdoor snow activity at this site. This evening, enjoy dinner and relax in the soothing hot springs at our onsen hotel.
Accommodations at ABASHIRI KOSO or similar
Sunday, February 10 (Day 07)
ABASHIRI - LAKE AKAN - TOKACHIGAWA ONSEN (B)(D)
Weather permitting, enjoy an exciting adventure as we board the ‘Aurora’ - a special purpose sightseeing boat designed to move and navigate through ice covered waters, crushing the drift ice that floes into the Sea of Okhotsk. The incredible vibrations and crushing sounds as we cruise on the North Hokkaido Sea is an experience you’ll never forget. We may even be lucky enough to see white-tailed eagles and some seals along the way. We’ll continue on to Lake Akan, a beautiful crater lake in Akan National Park. Two volcanic mountains - Mt. Oakan (Male Mountain) and Mt. Meakan (Female Mountain) compliment the scenery around the lake. Lake Akan is also home to marimo, a rare green algae species, designated as a National Special Natural Monument. Marimo is formed when separate pieces of algae at the bottom of the lake roll around and eventually form into green balls, gradually growing larger and larger. A winter fun event on the frozen surface of Lake Akan features snowmen, igloos, numerous ice and snow sculptures including various winter sports. Experience and enjoy some of the outdoor winter activities offered at the lake such as snowmobile rides, smelt ice fishing, ice skating, and exciting banana-boat rides (at own expense). We’ll continue on to spend the night at our luxurious onsen hotel in Tokachigawa. Dinner will be provided for you this evening at the hotel.
Accommodations at HOTEL DAIHEIGEN or similar
Monday, February 11 (Day 08)
TOKACHIGAWA - SHIRAOI - NOBORIBETSU ONSEN (B)(D)
Our journey continues on to the town of Shiraoi, visiting Porotokotan (Shiraoi Ainu Museum), an outdoor reproduction of a small Ainu village. Exhibits and artifacts are displayed in the museum relating to the history, culture and lifestyle of the Ainu people. Enjoy a traditional Ainu song and dance performance performed in a chise (Ainu home) by some of the villagers. One of them will demonstrate 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 spend the night in Noboribetsu, one of Hokkaido’s famous hot spring resort, beautifully surrounded by forested hills - part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. Before checking into our hotel, we’ll visit Jigokudani (Hell Valley, a spectacular ravine located just above the town of Noboribetsu Onsen. Displays of hot steam vents, sulfurous streams, and other volcanic activity can be viewed at this magnificent site - the main source of Noboribetsu’s hot spring waters. Enjoy dinner and relax in the hot springs of our fabulous onsen hotel this evening.
Accommodations at NOBORIBETSU GRAND HOTEL or similar
Tuesday, February 12 (Day 09)
NOBORIBETSU - CHITOSE TO HANEDA TO HONOLULU (B)
The morning is free to relax or enjoy a stroll through the town of Noboribetsu. At mid-morning, we’ll proceed to the Chitose Airport to check-in for our afternoon flight to Narita International Airport. On arrival at Narita Airport, we’ll transfer to board our evening flight home to Honolulu, arriving on the same day due to the crossing of the International Date Line. A light meal will be served on board the flight.