Winter Japan

Pack some winter gear and head out to explore the far north of Japan - a fascinating and rarely visited part of this diverse country. See the amazing Sapporo Snow Festival and enjoy some of Hokkaido?s energising winter sports. Return south to visit the beautiful Nikko National Park - a truly beautiful winter wonderland, peppered with ancient temples and shrines among the 400-year-old cedars.


Days 1-2 Tokyo

Beneath the neon lights and high-tech gadgetry, this busy metropolis still harbours ancient traditions and cultures. Make an early morning visit to the enormous Tsukiji Market to witness the frenzied sale of fish from tiny sardines to 300 kg tuna. Choose to spend time exploring some of the key areas at the heart of the city, including Harajuku to see Tokyo's street-fashion elite and Ginza for some retail therapy.

Days 3-5 Sapporo

Nestled in a wide basin beneath snow-capped mountains, Sapporo is the lovely capital of Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island. This is a very special time of year in the city as it hosts its annual Snow Festival - an incredible display of lights, ice sculptures and snow statues. Join in the eating, dancing, drinking and singing festivities and discover unique frosty art.

Days 6-7 Asahikawa

Further into the northern wilderness from Sapporo is Asahikawa, which hosts a smaller snow and ice festival. Admire ice sculptures while munching on festival food from the local stalls and visit a local brewery to sip on sake. Surrounded by mountains and long famous for winter sports the city has something for everyone - hit the slopes for some skiing or snowboarding, soak in an onsen, ride a dog sled or check out one of the museums.

Days 8-9 Hirosaki

Home to apple orchards galore, Hirosaki is a lovely castle town that makes an excellent stop-off point on the way back south. At this time of year the well-preserved garden and park area of the castle looks stunning and there is time to explore the town in the lead-up to its own Snow Lantern Festival. This annual event is a popular fixture on the winter calendar and originated as an opportunity for community interaction and exercise during the long frozen months.

Days 10-11 Matsushima

This beautiful region is famous for its many sites and great scenery. Visit Zuigan-ji, one of the loveliest Zen temples in the area, and spend some time enjoying the stunning bay.

Days 12-13 Nikko

Home to Japan's most lavishly decorated shrine, Nikko offers a peek into the secret world of the samurai as well as the history of Buddhism as it entered Japan and melded with the native religion of Shinto. For breathtaking volcanic scenery, glassy lakes and a chance to get up close to Japanese wildlife, head out on a hike in the nearby national park.

Days 14-15 Tokyo

Returning to Tokyo, there is time to experience city life, visit some more sites or go shopping for unique Japanese gifts. Gaze at galleries or eye the electronics in this dynamic metropolis before a final night on the town; slurp some noodles, take a nip of sake and maybe even 'go local' and belt out a karaoke classic or two.

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