2021 White Christmas Tour of Japan

2021 White Christmas Tour of Japan

Ever dreamt of fresh powder snow and perhaps making a snowman on Christmas Day? This tour is designed to travel Japan in the quieter off-season experiencing a peaceful White Christmas as well as the traditional festive atmosphere towards the New Year in Japan.

Tour Overview

The 2021 White Christmas Tour of Japan is an opportunity for one of the most memorable Christmas holidays you have ever had. You will be stunned by the streams of beautiful decorations in Japan. Be part of the cultural and traditional rituals leading up to the most important day on the Japanese calendar - New Years Day.

The temples, shrines and Japanese castles all compete for attention with the stunning natural beauty of the countryside at this time of the year. In addition, the best seafood and other festive delicacies are available in the winter months too. It is not surprising Japan at this time of the year makes such a wonderful experience.

Although Japanese are mostly not Christians, Japan offers much of the traditional spirit associated with Christmas. Snow can set the scene, but the coloured lights and decorations in the streets and shops add greatly to the season. Naturally, because Christmas is not a public holiday, it is a more peaceful time. The holiday feeling is still in the air as the most important holiday in Japan is only a few days away – New Years Day.

The 2021 White Christmas Tour of Japan includes some of the must-see destinations such as Snow Monkey Park, Kawaguchiko (Mt Fuji), Shirakawa-go and Sapporo in Hokkaido.

Group size:

Minimum 4, Maximum 8

Length:

15 Days

Start: Wednesday 15th December 2021 in Tokyo

Finish: Wednesday 29th December 2021 in Tokyo

Price per person twin share: AU$9,300 (US$7,350*)

Single Supplement: AU$1,650 (US$1,350)

Status: Available

Tour Code: GWC-21

*US$ price is approximate, using recent average exchange rate. AU$ price is the official price and will always be charged. Please refer to Terms and Conditions 2.1.

Itinerary

 

Day 1: Arrival

Welcome to Japan! On arrival at one of Tokyo’s international airports, you will be met by a Journey to the East guide and escorted to your hotel by public transport. After a good night’s sleep, you will be ready to start the first full day of your 2021 White Christmas Tour of Japan.

Tokyo (Park Hotel or similar)

No meals

Tokyo

Day 2: Guided tour of Tokyo

Orientation of Tokyo by your guide precedes a guided tour at Asakusa along with Sensoji Temple (the oldest temple in Tokyo built in 628) and Nakamise merchant street. This old part of Tokyo retains the charms of Japan of a bygone era - a whole world away from the images of the advanced technology and modern city.  After a group lunch your guide will take you to a modern commercial district of Tokyo to show you some fascinating contrasts of old and new.

December is the biggest month for retail in Japan. The beautiful window displays and shop decorations will instantly get you into the mood for this very special holiday!

In the evening, we will have a "Welcome Japan" dinner.

Tokyo (Park Hotel Tokyo or similar)

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Kawaguchiko (Mt Fuji)

This morning you travel westward on a scenic train to the town of Kawaguchiko, located in the lakes district in the foothills of Mt Fuji.

Kawaguchiko offers some breathtaking views of the majestic Mt Fuji and its lakes, and hosts a number of boutique museums and galleries.

Tonight you will stay at a traditional Japanese inn, and sleep on a futon bedding in a tatami matted Japansese style bedroom.  Here you have the chance to soak in a hot-spring onsen bath with dramatic views of Mt Fuji across the lake (weather permitting of course!).

Dinner will be a multi-course Japanese kaiseki banquet.

Kawaguchiko (Fuji Ginkei or similar - Japanese-style room with futon)

Breakfast, Dinner

Day 4: Kawaguchiko to Tokyo

This morning you experience a traditional Japanese-style breakfast – a nutritious mix of grilled fish, miso soup, rice and pickles!

Before leaving Kawaguchiko, a visit to Itchiku Kubota Art Museum is a treat, where you see superb examples of kimono art using the centuries-old “shibori” tie-dyeing technique.

After arriving back in Tokyo, the rest of the day is free. It would be a great opportunity to go out and look around the beautiful Christmas illumination around your hotel.

Tokyo (Park Hotel Tokyo or similar)

Breakfast (Japanese style)

Day 5: Snow Monkey

This morning, you leave Tokyo and take trains into the snow country to Yudanaka and its snow monkey park.

Here  you will encounter the serene beauty of visiting the reserve where the Snow Monkeys live. (Note: you need to walk for around 30 minutes to get to where monkeys play.) You will never forget seeing the cute snow monkeys soaking in the hot springs.

Tonight’s accommodation is in the atmospheric old onsen town of Shibu near the Snow Monkey reserve. A favourite pastime of the Japanese people is soaking in an onsen (mineral hot spring spa), especially in the cold season. Today, you too can enjoy soaking in a hot tub as you take in the beautiful  3,000 m class snow-capped mountains. This is another night in a Japanese style bedroom.

Shibu Onsen (Shibu Hotel or similar - Japanese style room with futon)

Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6: Matsumoto

Before travelling further into the snowed countryside, you will stop at the city of Matsumoto today. Matsumoto’s beginnings go back to the 8th century, later becoming an important castle town ruled by a powerful clan in the 1600s. Its feudal past is best exemplified today by the impressive castle that dominates the city’s skyline.

Our guide takes us on a tour of Matsumoto’s castle, Japan’s oldest wooden castle and one of the nation’s five castles designated national treasures. To explore the castle’s wooden interior we climb to the top of its distinctive black-and-white turret.

In the afternoon, you will go on scenic coach ride to the little hamlet of Hirayu Onsen to stay in another onsen village deep in the mountains to enjoy the natural hot springs and beautiful environment. Our accommodation also has outside baths where you can soak and relax surrounded by nature. Enjoy a restorative soak after an active day outside and heartwarming country-style dinner.

Hirayu Onsen (Hirayu no Mori or similar) *own bedroom with shared bathroom

Breakfast (Japanese style), Dinner

Matsumoto Castle in snow with mountains and trees in background in Winter
Shin-Hotaka ropeway, winter, snow, Japan Alps, snow tour of japan, journey to the east

Day 7: Shin-Hotaka Ropeway

A ride on the Shin-Hotaka Ropeway, one of the world’s longest ropeways, is on the cards today. From the viewing platform, 2,200 metres above sea level there is a spectacular uninterrupted view of Japan’s pristine northern alps. Here you will have an opportunity to explore the summit's short walking circuit.

We then travel to our next destination, Takayama. A compact, historic town surrounded by mountains, Takayama is known for its beautifully preserved streets of timber merchant houses dating from the late 17th century.

Takayama (Best Western Hotel Takayama or similar)

Breakfast (Japanese style), Dinner

Day 8: Takayama and Shirakawago

In the morning, we will have a guided tour of Takayama including morning market and the elaborately decorated Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall.

Then, a private minivan takes us to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go, in the heart of the rugged Hida region. This exquisite rural village features the traditional thatched-roof farm houses unique to Japan’s alpine regions.

With their steeply-slanted roofs built to withstand heavy snowfalls, they resemble “hands clasped together in prayer” (hence their name, gasshozukuri). A walk through the village allows us to experience the magic of the farmhouses in the snow, and learn more about the construction of these houses and the traditional life of the villagers.

This evening is free for you to explore Takayama for its abundant selection of places to eat. Takayama is famous for Hida brand wagyu beef and you may like to visit one of the local restaurants serving this succulent local marbled beef.

Takayama (Best Western Hotel Takayama or similar)

Breakfast

Day 9: Transfer to Sapporo

After a few days exploring the central Japanese alps, we take a train trip down a scenic river valley all covered in snow, to the eastern seaboard city of Nagoya. Here we transfer to a domestic flight to Hokkaido for the second half of 2021 White Christmas Tour of Japan.

With large tracts of pristine wilderness, Hokkaido is a popular destination for those who love its vast, open landscapes and  extensive wildlife.

We fly into the capital of Hokkaido, Sapporo.

Sapporo (Cross Hotel Sapporo or similar)

Breakfast

 Day 10: Sapporo and Otaru

Our guide takes us on a walking tour of central Sapporo this morning. We stop to have a look at the historic Clock Tower, built in 1878.  Wander past other early brick buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries on our way to Odori Koen, the 1.5km-long stretch of public park in the city’s heart.

Then your guide will take you on a afternoon guided tour of the nearby picturesque town of Otaru. It was once a vibrant trading centre where the indigenous Ainu people, Japanese, Chinese, and Russian traders mingled to exchange goods. Otaru retains many of the grand stone and brick buildings from its late 19th century boom times. Many of the warehouses from its trading past have been converted into attractive museums and cafes along its canals. Today we wander down Otaru’s iconic central canal with its Victorian-era street lamps.

It is Christmas Eve tonight, and we will have a group Christmas dinner tonight in Sapporo.

Sapporo (Cross Hotel Sapporo or similar)

Breakfast, Dinner

Day 11: Sapporo

It is Christmas Day today, and we have a late start today. Sapporo has a great Christmas Market, and we will visit there before having a Christmas lunch together.

Your afternoon is free. Although Japan is not a Christian country, there is no shortage of Christmas atmosphere here. Especially, you will enjoy gorgeous Christmas illumination against white snow everywhere in Sapporo.

Sapporo (Cross Hotel Sapporo or similar)

Breakfast, Lunch

Day 12: Transfer to Hakodate

Today you will take an express train to the enchanting city of Hakodate, Hokkaido. This historic port city with its 19th century streetscapes has a distinctly European feel. It was designated one of Japan’s two foreign trade ports that could legitimately engage with foreign traders, and that foreign influence and architecture make this city so intriguing.

In the evening we head up Mount Hakodate. From the hill-side restaurant, there is a panoramic view of Hakodate all lit-up at night which is considered one of the top three views in Japan.

Hakodate (Hakodate Kokusai Hotel or similar)

Breakfast, Dinner

Day 13: Hakodate

The Hakodate Morning Market trades a wide array of seafood in a relatively casual environment and many small restaurants allow you to sample the local delicacies. On the guided tour of Hakodate you will visit a number of historical sites as well as the heritage Red Brick Warehouse district down on the waterfront to enjoy the beautiful harbour views. The Ainu Museum included in the tour provides information on the diversity by celebrating the history and culture of Hokkaido’s indigenous people.

You will have some free time this afternoon and evening to enjoy Hakodate at your own pace.

Hakodate (Hakodate Kokusai Hotel or similar)

Breakfast

Day 14: Transfer to Tokyo

This morning, you will take a famous Japan's shinkansen train from Hakodate back to Tokyo. The bullet train takes you under the sea back to the 'mainland', Honshu island and on down the East coast of Japan.

Back at hotel, you will gather one more time to enjoy the farewell Japan dinner and talk about the highlights of the trip together.

Tokyo (Park Hotel Tokyo or similar)

Breakfast, Dinner

Christmas illumination at Shiodome Tokyo in December in winter in Japan

Day 15: Goodbye

After breakfast, your 2021 White Christmas Tour of Japan concludes. Your can leave Japan from one of two Tokyo's international airport, or stay in Japan a little longer.  We will be delighted to plan your personal post-tour extension to show you a different part of Japan. Please see our Extension Model Itineraries for inspirations.

 

Note: The cost of an escorted transfer to your departure airport is not included in our Small Group Tours (as we find many guests choose to stay in Japan a bit longer), however,  we will be happy to arrange your transfer to next destination or to exit airport. Please see our FAQ for more details.

Breakfast

Please note that there may be slight changes to the itinerary described above to accommodate changes in train timetables, opening hours, and hotel and restaurant availability.

All photographs on this website are representative only and are not a commitment to what may be on view on the day.

Inclusions

Includes:

  • 14 nights accommodation (including traditional inns)
  • Meals as specified
  • Airport meet & greet and hotel transfer by public transport on arrival
  • All local transport (train, bus and taxi)
  • Flight from Nagoya to Sapporo
  • Pre-loaded Suica card
  • Locally licensed English speaking tour guides
  • Most cultural activities and entry fees included in itinerary
  • Luggage transfers (1 piece per person)

Does not include:

  • International and domestic airfare (unless otherwise stated)
  • Transfer on the last day
  • Travel insurance
  • Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
  • Tips and gratuities (not routinely expected in Japan)
  • Transport during free time
  • Personal expenses (laundry, internet, telephone, coin lockers etc.)
  • Visa (if required)