Ice & Fire: A Unique Japan Tour in the Winter

Arashiyama bamboo grove on a snowy winter day in Kyoto, Japan
A 13 day trip to Japan 
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42 reviews

This is not your typical Japan tour but an exciting, sensual experience of the best and the unique. Whether it's your first visit or your tenth, we assure a once in a lifetime experience! Touring in an unusual season, you'll encounter unusual experiences, from the “must-see” highlights such as Kyoto and Tokyo to behind-the-scenes Japan, with a never-ending dialogue/dance with nature.

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Most tours are customized for private travel.

General Information

Gateways in Fushimi Inari-Taisha in Kyoto, Japan.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Hokkaido, Sapporo, Asahikawa & Daisetsu national park Abashiri & Shiretoko national park, Tokyo, Hot Spring resort in Nagano prefecture, Kyoto, Nara, Okayama, Kurashiki & the inland sea, Osaka.

Departure Dates 

Being a private tour, our specialized Japan travel agent will be happy to customize the dates to fit your schedule.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Yokoso! Welcome to Japan!
After arriving Japan you will be transferred to the accommodation in Sapporo.
In the evening you will meet the guide and group, gathering for a tour orientation and welcome dinner.

Day 2: A Festival of Snow Sculptures
The day will be spent walking or by public transportation (due to traffic regulations during the festival) just like the locals, in Sapporo’s main sights and mainly around the biggest snow festival in the world, where you can enjoy some amazing palaces, Samurai castles, huge sculptures, world famous buildings and more -in real size, created out of snow or ice.

Sapporo is also famous for its local beer, and you can enjoy tasting this renowned Japanese brand name where it is made.

Day 3: A Celebration of Snow 
In the morning you will be leaving Sapporo by coach, heading for another impressive snow festival in Asahikawa, famous for the usage of laser beams to enhance the experience. En route you will visit a fascinating art project (subject to weather conditions and time).

Day 4: Hokkaido’s Nature Parks Dressed in White
This day will be dedicated to exploring Hokkaido’s famous nature reserves– visiting Daisetsuzan national park, the biggest and most impressive national park in Japan. After witnessing dramatic mountains scenery, white carpets of snow on the plains in the horizon and rushing rivers, you will continue to Abashiri where you will be exposed to the culture of the indigenous people of Hokkaido- the Ainu.

Day 5: Drifting on Ice
Subject to weather conditions, you will take a cruise to see drifting sea ice, which is thickest around Abashiri in recent decades due to global warming.

Abashiri also has an interesting prison museum and other sightseeing spots, which you will explore before boarding a domestic flight to what would seem like a world apart- the big metropolis, Tokyo.

Day 6: The Many Facets of Tokyo 
Today you will explore Tokyo - the center of modern Japan, exploring the main sights of the city and getting a thorough introduction to a typical Tokyoite life. Tokyo is a huge metropolis, which has surprises in store for us at every street corner. This is an exciting vibrant and bustling city, where everything and everyone moves on high speed. At night, Tokyo reveals yet another side to it with its neon signs brightening the sky, thousands of lively restaurants and bars, and colorful entertainment districts.

For those who love sushi and want to learn the art of making the best sushi, we can arrange the option to learn from a sushi chef from one of the best sushi restaurants. Start the day with the chef, who'll take you to visit the Tsukiji fish market, the largest seafood market in the world. The chef will explain how he selects the best fish. Experience the market's behind-the-scenes action. In the evening, enjoy a dinner with the chef demonstrating how he transforms the morning's shopping into a fine dining experience.

Day 7: Hell Valley - Snow Monkeys’ Heaven
You will start the day experiencing one of the most punctual train systems in the world, taking the train to Nagano prefecture visiting very unique nature phenomena and some other sights as time allows. Your day will focus on visiting a natural park (called hell valley) to see the famous “snow monkeys”, wild Japanese macaque monkeys that come to warm up in an open air hot spring. You will continue to a night at a Japanese traditional inn, set in the countryside, where you can soak the day at one of the highlights of any visit to Japan- the hot springs. You will also enjoy a traditional Japanese meal and an evening of traditional Japanese culture.

Day 8: Modern Technology and Architecture with Traditional Influences
The morning will begin with a beautiful train ride through the snowy countryside to Nagoya, where upon permission, you will visit the welding line of the Toyota Automobile Factory, for a glimpse of the reasons behind the company’s rise to the world’s number one automobile factory. From there you will continue to the renowned Miho Museum, famous for its unique architecture, combining traditional styles with modern influence and materials. The critically acclaimed architect I.M. Pei, who also designed the pyramid in the Louvre, designed this building as homage to the spiritual heritage of the country. In the evening, you will arrive in Kyoto- the old capital.

Days 9-10: Kyoto, the Heart of Traditional Japan
The next few days will be dedicated to Kyoto - the hub of traditional culture, a city that for hundreds of years has been and continues to be an island of tradition in the swirling whirlpool of progress. Kyoto has 17 World Heritage Sites- the most properties in one city- each a representative master piece of the era in which it was constructed. Over these days you will encounter the history, cultural esthetics, religion and the daily tales that make up the Japanese puzzle. You will discover the past rippling through the every day life of locals.

During your visit you will be exposed to the fundamentals of esthetics, Zen, architecture and horticulture through visits to famous places such as the distinguished stone garden, the spectacular Golden Pavilion, the Shogun’s castle, a downtown market and other less known spots as well as walking along picturesque streets trying to get a glimpse of a Geisha rushing on her way to work.

The tour will also incorporate a visit to Nara, Japan’s first capital, where you will find an impressive large wooden building housing a Great Buddha statue, and stroll around a huge park in the middle of town where deer roam freely, often interacting with the many tourists.

NOTE for Japanese garden lovers: Kyoto has some of Japan’s finest gardens. As an option, an expert guide on Japanese gardens can provide an in-depth tour of Kyoto’s exceptional gardens, providing perspective on the history and aesthetics of Japan’s gardening culture. Your private tour will include a diversity of garden genres that are unique to Japan – from tea ceremony gardens to temple gardens, dry landscaped gardens, stroll gardens, etc. These gardens will range from famous ones enjoyed by many visitors as well as hidden ones that give you a true flavor of peace and tranquility tied to Japan’s zen practice.

Day 11: Pottery, Warehouses with Weeping Willows and Naked Men
The day will take you through a unique style of pottery, closely connected to Zen Buddhism. From there you will continue to Kurashiki, a cozy town with a charming persevered quarter of white-walled warehouses used by merchants in the feudal period that have been converted to art museums, a toy museum, galleries, cafés and shops. The white warehouses are aligned along a canal surrounded by weeping willows, adding a special charm to the quarter. The late evening will reveal one of the highlights of the tour, the Hadaka festival (naked festival) one of the wildest festivals in Japan, featuring 9000 men only wearing a white loincloth running around town toward the temple. The overnight will be spent at nearby city, Okayama.

Day 12: Naoshima, Sea of Art
Your last day in Japan will be spent in the incredible Naoshima, an island which has been transformed to an impressive art project. This island, while still maintaining its traditional functionality as a fisherman village, boasts 3 impressive museums and a unique art project which uses houses inside the village. The museums are highly acclaimed for their architecture, designed by Tadao Ando, as well as for their exhibitions. Some exhibitions display fascinating uses of light and darkness while others are interactive incorporating the visitor, making this an incredibly unique experience. In the evening you will take a bullet train to Osaka, spending the night in Osaka.

Day 13: Sayonara
Today you will depart from the land of the rising sun. We wish you a pleasant and easy trip home as you take with you enduring memories of places and people revealed to you through the unique windows that we have opened for you over the past 13 days.


Starting Price 

This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.