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Hokkaido tour

15 days tour : Tokyo (2nts) - Sapporo (3nts) - Tsurui (1nt) - Abashiri (2nts) -
(2nts) - Hakodate (2nts) - Tokyo (2nts)

Tour start date:  3rd February 2013

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"The Ainu lived in this place a hundred thousand years
before the Children of the Sun came"

from the Yukar Upopo (Ainu legend)


Hokkaido is a land of haunting, natural beauty where vast, virgin forests are cut through by raging icy torrents and huge, brown bears roam in the shadow of towering snow-capped volcanoes - a magical, and in many ways still unexplored, wilderness. Despite being Japan’s second largest island Hokkaido remains its least populated region and it retains a distinct frontier feel, partly explained by the fact that it has only relatively recently come under true Japanese control. Both in climate and culture this stunning island represents a refreshingly different side to Japan, unique among the country’s many jewels, and with this new trip it becomes the last of the archipelago’s four main islands to be touched by the ever turning wheels of The Oriental Caravan.

Our journey takes place in February when the winter wonders of Hokkaido really come into their own. From the bright lights of Tokyo we head straight for the island’s vibrant capital Sapporo and the city's annual Snow Festival, famous for its utterly spectacular ice sculptures. After time to enjoy Sapporo’s unique nightlife (not to mention remarkable beer museum!) we start our train journey eastwards through an unfolding wilderness to Kushiro where the tranquil marshlands of Tsurui are home to the beautiful Red-crowned Crane. Perhaps the coolest bird in the world we should be able to witness its truly enchanting February mating dance, something that has to be seen to be believed. Further north we reach the delightfully intriguing town of Abashiri and take an unforgettable ice-breaking cruise through drift ice caused by the flow of the River Amur into the Sea of Okhotsk. We also visit the town’s Prison Museum which details the disturbing history of the area as a penal colony – a rare and thought-provoking insight into the real, human story behind modern Japan. In Asahidake we have a chance to ascend, by cable car, the highest mountain in Hokkaido, go snow shoe walking to observe the woodland wildlife and – a real treat – bathe in hot springs in the snow just like the locals! Before leaving Hokkaido we spend two fascinating nights in Hakodate, with its Nagasaki-like ambience, turn-of-the-century Western-style buildings and amazing fish market.

Who are the Ainu? Once the sole inhabitants of Japan's archipelago, the indigenous, hunter-gathering Ainu were, over many centuries, gradually pushed North by Japanese newcomers until Hokkaido became their last refuge. During the nineteenth century even this sanctuary was taken from them and they became completely subjugated by their newly modernized neighbours from the South. It is only in very recent years that Japanese state suppression has ceased and the remaining Ainu have begun to rediscover some of their cultural identity. Known for their enchanting music and beautiful textiles we will, as an adjunct to this trip, endeavour to learn a little more about this mysterious people and their almost lost world...

For more about The Oriental Caravan's tour programme in Japan… Japan tours

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Day 1 - Tokyo Arrival (Hotel)
Day 2 - Tokyo Full day's exploration of Tokyo (Hotel)
Day 3 - Sapporo Fly Sapporo, capital of Hokkaido. City sightseeing. (Hotel)
Day 4 - Sapporo Attend Sapporo Ice Festival. (Hotel)
Day 5 - Sapporo Visit Sapporo Beer Museum and botanical gardens. (Hotel)
Day 6 - Tsurui By train to Kushiro. A rare chance to observe the mating dance of the Red-Crowned Cranes of Hokkaido (Lodge)
Day 7 - Abashiri Beautiful journey through Kushiro nature reserve. Abashiri Prison Museum (Hotel)
Day 8 - Abashiri Ice-breaker voyage on the Okhotsk Sea. Museum of Ainu Culture in Hokkaido (Hotel)
Day 9 - Asahidake By train across Northern Hokkaido. Hot baths in the snow.  (Hostel/ Ryokan)
Day 10 - Asahidake Ascend Asahidake, the highest mountain in Hokkaido. Opportunities for snow shoe walks in the woods  (Hostel/ Ryokan)
Day 11 - Hakodate Via Sapporo to Hakodate. Stunning night views of the city.
Day 12 - Hakodate Free day to tour and explore Hakodate with its fine old colonial buildings
Day 13 - Tokyo Early morning fish market (optional!). We leave Hokkaido by train to Tokyo
Day 14 - Tokyo Free day. Optional visit to see the snow monkeys bathing in the hot springs of Yudanaka.
Day 15 Caravan concludes...
Hokkaido tour dates (land only)
Tour starts Tokyo

Tour ends Tokyo


Tour Price
(land only)

Tue 03 February 2015 Tue 17 February 2015 Spaces available GBP2795.00
Tour Accommodation We stay in good tourist class hotels throughout Hokkaido. In Tsurui we stay in a delightful lodge on the edge of the nature reserve. In Asahidake we stay in another lodge which is home to an outdoor hot spring in the snow. The tour is sold on a twin share basis. An optional single supplement is available at a cost of £416.
Food and drink Breakfasts are included throughout. Three dinners are included at Tsurui and at Asahidake. As always the Hokkaido tour leader will be on hand to suggest restaurants and, where necessary, assist with ordering meals.
Mode of travel From Tokyo we will fly direct to Sapporo. Elsewhere we make full use of Japan’s highly efficient rail system using both 'bullet' and local trains. In Hokkaido the trains are often small and local but travel through some stunningly picturesque scenery with progress - sometimes slow as the train waits for wildlife to move from the track! We also make occasional use of taxis and buses, sometimes using our own private coach, and at Abashiri we will board an 'ice-breaker' cruise boat. Some of the sightseeing is done on foot and at Asahidake there is the option of spending a full or half day exploring by snowshoe.
Staff  This tour of Hokkaido is escorted throughout by a bilingual tour leader from The Oriental Caravan, assisted by local guides where applicable.
Group size Minimum 6 - Maximum 12
Flights & Insurance For information on insurance and flights please contact The Oriental Caravan. 


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             Revised and last updated: November 20th 2013. Links