National Geographic-approved tour company, Walk Japan, have added two new off-the-beaten-track tours to their portfolio; the Hokkaido Snow Tour and the Oita Hot Spring Trail. Leading you through Japan’s gorgeous countryside, these tours are sure to not disappoint.
Hokkaido Snow Tour
The eight-day, seven-night Hokkaido Snow Tour is a fully-guided, snowshoe exploration of east Hokkaido, a seemingly empty and vast landscapes, bordered by towering mountains and the steely-grey Pacific Ocean and Sea of Okhotsk. Here high-quality powder snow, the same snow that has made west Hokkaido a soughtafter destination for skiers, falls copiously and creates a beautiful winter landscape. Few visitors come this far. Even fewer venture onto the snow, where wildlife usually leave the only other footprints to be seen.
Sunny weather brings crystal clear air and brilliant blue skies, which fall to a far horizon lined with the towering mountains of Hokkaido’s Daisetsuzan National Park, the Shiretoko Peninsula, or, the islands of Russia’s Siberian far east. In complete contrast, at other times as snow gently falls, enveloping everything around in a quiet, intimate calmness, the perspective may only be as far as a silhouetted tree standing a few metres away.
The weather is always crisply cold outside but each night the tour accommodation is cosy and warm. Some also feature onsen hot spring baths, a classic Japanese experience and a fine way to relax and luxuriate at the end of the day. Meals are derived from locally-sourced ingredients, some of the finest found anywhere in Japan.
The tour begins at the fishing port of Kushiro. From here it ventures over frozen seas where fishermen huddle around ice holes; through snowy landscapes past remote farmsteads, and along cliff-tops, where deer gambol with impunity on the precipice. En route Hokkaido’s famed tancho red-crested cranes make an appearance. The tour finishes in Utoro, a small, onsen hot spring resort town on the coast of the Shiretoko Peninsula, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here the setting sun, reflected on a sea patterned with ice flows, provides a dramatic finale to the tour.
The Hokkaido Snow Tour is an eight-day, seven-night, fully guided snowshoeing tour for up to 11 participants. It is a Level 3 tour and is suitable for anyone who can walk at a gentle pace for six hours in comfort.
From JPY498,000 per person. This price includes local travel from tour meeting point to finishing point; accommodation for seven nights; seven breakfasts, three lunches and seven evening meals; snowshoe rental and baggage transfers. Not included are flights, some lunches and drinks with meals.
Oita Hot Spring Trail
This fully-guided, six-day tour explores Oita Prefecture, which rightly claims the accolade as Japan’s mecca for onsen hot springs. Here they are found both in abundance and variety including an unusual one with naturally carbonated, fizzy waters. A delight to relax in, onsen are an attractive element of any tour and the Oita Hot Spring Trail, as its name implies, makes them a central theme. We luxuriate in them frequently and enjoy the distinctive and gracious Japanese culture associated with bathing. The onsen are complemented by Oita’s beautiful countryside, varied and high-quality cuisine, enlightened history and its relaxed, friendly people.
The tour is suitable for all walkers. In the expert company of the Walk Japan Tour Leader, participants follow gentle paths, on one occasion on bicycles, that wind their way past farmhouses and neatly tended fields to a spectacularly sited temple and, of course, hot springs. We travel through thickly forested valleys to a high plateau and the foothills of the majestic Kuju Mountains before finally reaching the seaside at Beppu. Here plumes of water vapour from onsen often dominate the cityscape.
Accommodation is in traditional Japanese inns with onsen baths. Meals are sumptuous feasts of Japanese cuisine created from local produce harvested from Oita’s seas, fields, forests, rivers and mountains.
The Oita Hot Spring Trail is a six-day, five-night fully guided walking tour for up to 12 participants. It is a Level 2.5 tour and is suitable for anyone who can walk at a gentle pace for three to four hours in comfort.
From JPY316,000 per person. This price includes local travel from tour meeting point in Fukuoka to finishing point in Beppu; accommodation for five nights; five breakfasts and five evening meals and baggage transfers. Not included are flights, all lunches and drinks with meals.
Further information about Walk Japan and these tours are available on Walk Japan’s Facebook page and at the links below:
Walk Japan > Hokkaido Snow Tour
Walk Japan > Oita Hot Spring Trail
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