JAPAN [PRIVATE TOUR]: Winter Wildlife Photography

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PHOTOGRAPHY

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SCHEDULED TOURS

2025 :: February 27 - March 12

TRIP LEADERS

TOUR COST

From: $8,350 (See details)
Cost is per person, double occupancy from Tokyo, Japan (HND)

GROUP SIZE

4 Participants

AVAILABILITY

2025: FULL

PRIVATE TOUR OPTION

This tour is available as a private trip for any size group. The tour cost will vary with the number of people and any custom requests.

  • If not already completed, please enter the tour name above.

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Highlights of JAPAN [PRIVATE TOUR]: Winter Wildlife Photography

  • Hands-on photo instruction for bird photography and snow landscapes with Tamron Ambassador, Alyce Bender
  • Photographing the iconic Red Crowned Cranes, Steller’s Sea Eagles and other wildlife.
  • Search for birds and exotic wildlife in an iconic winter wonderland of Japan
  • Photograph the endangered Red-crowned crane and the vulnerable Steller’s sea eagle against the backdrop of winter
  • Watch as Ezo red fox hunt the frozen seaside for their next meal
  • Visit the largest caldera lake (by surface area) in Japan where wild whooper swans overwinter in the geothermal waters
  • Learn special tips and trick to photographing in winter environments
  • Enjoy traditional Japanese foods and try regional specialties

Description of JAPAN [PRIVATE TOUR]: Winter Wildlife Photography

Hokkaido, Japan – a magical place filled with stunning wildlife. The most northern island in Japan, Hokkaido holds some of the largest areas of wild lands left in Japan. The sparsely populated Eastern region hosts a wide variety of wildlife. Some, like the Steller’s Sea Eagle migrate to the area to overwinter while others, such as the Red Crowned Crane are year-long residents. Set against a landscape draped in snow, these creatures allow us to observe them as they go about their daily rituals in this frozen wonderland. Some behaviors we will see include the Red Crowned Crane mating display, Steller’s Sea Eagles fishing, and red foxes patrolling for their next meal. Join me as we explore these frozen wilds in Eastern Hokkaido and all they have to offer.

Species commonly found: Red Crowned Crane (Grus japonensis), Whooper Swans (Cygnus cygnus), Steller’s Sea Eagles (Haliaeetus pelagicus), White-tailed Eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla), Ezo Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes schrencki), Yezo Sika Deer (Cervus nippon yesoensis).

Length of Tour

16-days/15-nights

Brief Itinerary

 

Day 1 Arrive Kushiro
Day 2 Kushiro to Beie – cranes, minimalist landscapes
Day 3/4 Biei – minimalist landscapes, trees, waterfalls
Day 5 Biei to Haboro – tetrapods, torii gate in the sea, fishing port details
Day 6 Haboro to Lake Saroma – forests, lake edge, fishing port details
Day 7 Lake Saroma – lake edge, minimalist landscapes
Day 8 Lake Saroma to Lake Kussharo – Whooper Swans
Day 9 Lake Kussharo to Rausu – Whooper Swans
Day 10 Rausu – Sea Eagles, Fox, Deer
Day 11 Rausu to Nemuro – Sea Eagles, Fox, Deer
Day 12/13 Nemuro – Sea Eagles, Swans, Cranes, Fox
Day 14 Nemuro to Kushiro – Red crowned cranes
Day 15 Kushiro – Red crowned cranes
Day 16 Flights out

Detailed Itinerary

 

Day 1 Arrive in Hokkaido – Kushiro

Upon arriving we will get our first sight of the endangered red-crowned cranes as we visit the Akan International Crane Center. After the visit we will head into Kushiro to get checked in and settle down for the evening. (O/N Kushiro)

Day 2 Kushiro to Beie

We are out early to photograph the red-crowned cranes before making the long drive to Beie. Along the way we will stop as the countryside catches our eyes. (O/N Beie)

Day 3/4 Biei – minimal landscapes, trees, waterfalls
Arriving in Biei, we explore the rolling landscapes for minimalist landscapes both unique and some that are becoming iconic for the region. We will also visit the Blue Ponds and Shirohige Falls. Both these locations offer beautiful blue waters when the light it right. (O/N Beie)

Day 5 Biei to Haboro – tetrapods, torii gate in the sea, fishing port details

Leaving the manicured agricultural fields behind, we head for the western coastline. Haboro, a small fishing village, offers a great base to create images of juxtaposition between tetrapods and the waves as well as a beautiful torii gate that stands at the edge of the ocean, surrounded by the waters at high tide. (O/N Haboro)

Day 6 Haboro to Lake Saroma – forests, lake edge, fishing port details

Here we cross to the northeastern coastline in order to photograph the largest lake in Hokkaido, Saromako. As large as the surface is, it is not very deep and thus freezes over in large swaths setting the scene for more minimalist winter images. (O/N Lake Saroma)
Day 7 Lake Saroma – lake edge, minimalist landscapes
We take a full day to explore the lake and surrounding areas, stopping when things catch our interest. (O/N Lake Saroma)

Day 8 Lake Saroma to Lake Kussharo – Whooper Swans

From the sea and lakes, we drive up into the mountains to Lake Kussharo. This is the largest caldera lake in Japan and there is geothermal activity still to this day as evidenced by warm sandy spots and the hot spring outflows along the shore. Here several hundred whooper swans gather during the winter and we will take this time to photograph them in the evening on this day. (O/N Kussharo)

Day 9 Lake Kussharo to Rausu – Whooper Swans
We will take this morning to again photograph the swans along the lake while keeping an eye out for long-tailed tits and wood nuthatches. After a morning of shooting we will collect our belongings and make the trek off the mountain and towards the northeastern coastline to the small fishing village of Rausu. Located on the UNESCO Natural Heritage site and on the boarder of the Shiretoko National Park, Rausu is a hub of natural wonders. (O/N Rausu)

Day 10 Rausu – Sea Eagles, Fox, Deer

Depending on the weather conditions, we will either be up very early or just early to catch out boat out onto the Nemuro Strait where we will be able to photograph the vulnerable Steller’s sea eagles and White-tailed sea eagles amongst the drift ice. Out for several hours, we will return to warm up at the hotel. Early afternoon we will head out to explore further looking for the endemic species of fox – the Ezo red fox. Sika deer, short eared owls, and more eagles can potentially be seen as well. (O/N Rausu)

Day 11 Rausu to Nemuro – Sea Eagles, Fox, Deer

Depending on the weather conditions, we will either be up very early or just early to catch out boat out onto the Nemuro Strait where we will be able to photograph the vulnerable Steller’s sea eagles and White-tailed sea eagles amongst the drift ice. Out for several hours, we will depart Rausu for Nemuro, another port city further south. On the way we stop to look for more wildlife along the coast in several places. (O/N Nemuro)

Day 12/13 Nemuro – Sea Eagles, Swans, Cranes, Fox

Each morning, we will gather and head out to the frozen lakes to watch eagles (and maybe fox) come to scavenge the leavings of ice fishermen. Beyond that we will continue to search for fox, swans, owls, and deer. (O/N Nemuro)

Day 14 Nemuro to Kushiro – Red crowned cranes

We pack up and head to Kushiro for a bit more time with the cranes, having made a complete circuit of this rural and beautiful land. (O/N Kushiro)

Day 15 Kushiro – Red crowned cranes

Up early we make the drive out into the rural countryside to photograph the red crowned cranes from several locations throughout the morning. Taking a break for lunch, we will have the option to either stay in Kushiro and explore the town or we can photograph the cranes one final time. (O/N Kushiro)

Day 16 Flights out

As all good things do, this is when the tour comes to an end. We get up early in order to make the drive to Kushiro airport for flights out of Hokkaido. You will most like want early flights to account for any weather delays between Hokkaido and Tokyo.

Cost

Cost is $8,350 per person, based upon double occupancy, from Tokyo, Japan (Airport code HND.
This trip ends in same as arrival city (Airport code ).

The price includes the following:

  • all accommodations per single or double occupancy
  • some meals as noted
  • all ground transport within country
  • Boat Fees for Eagle Photography
  • Entrance fees to Akan International Crane Center

 

Single Supplement

If a single hotel room is preferred, or we are unable to find a suitable roommate for you, a single supplement fee of $0 will be assessed.

NOTE: For boat-based tours, see pricing options for single cabins. Single cabin cost includes the single hotel cost above.

 

Minimum Number

If fewer than the minimum number of required participants are registered, we may still be able to run the trip by adding a small-group supplement fee, per person, determined by the number of participants registered.

 

Deposit Requirements

A $2,000 deposit per person is required to hold each space on this tour. Deposit may be made online by clicking the "Book Your Trip Now" button and using any credit card. If you prefer, you may call us at 888-875-9453 to pay by phone. You may also mail us a check, however, remember that all space is held on a first come-first served basis as deposits are received.

How to Book

In order to hold your space, click the "Book Your Trip Now" button above and complete the deposit process, including payment of the deposit through our Paypal portal using ANY CREDIT CARD. Upon completion of deposit, please visit our secure, online CLIENT INFORMATION FORM to complete your registration.

Final Payment

For all land-based tours: full payment by check is due 120 days prior to the departure date.

For all boat-based adventure cruises of 7-days or longer: full payment by check is required 180 days prior to departure.

NOTE: If you prefer to use credit card for final payment, a 3% fee may be added to cover the credit card merchant fees we incur.

This trip includes standard hotel rooms.

Activity Level Rating: (Note: 1 is easy and 5 is difficult)

(Hokkaido) Intermediate – no long walks but exposure to freezing temperatures for extended periods of time, footing will be snow and ice with slipping hazards, and standing on the deck of a boat in motion.

Gear Suggestions:

Since this tour provides a wide range of photographic subjects, a wide variety of lenses is highly recommended. Wide angle for landscapes and telephoto lenses for wildlife and landscapes. Here are my suggestions:

 

  • Your longest telephoto for wildlife and birds – I use the Tamron 150-600mm G2 on DSLR and the Tamron 150-500mm on mirrorless. Anything 500mm or longer is going to be great for photographing the various wildlife, from cranes to fox.
  • A shorter telephoto such as a 70-300mm or 100-400mm for wider environmental shots and intimate portraits – I typically carry the Tamron 18-300mm or Tamron 50-400mm for covering this range.
  • A lightweight wide to midrange variable lens (24-70, 18-400, 18-300, 18-70) would be great to have for when we come across landscape or street scene photo opportunities.
  • Tripod/monopod for extra support of long lenses and for when we are waiting for action and want to put our hands in our pockets for warmth as well as when we are working in low light and/or with long exposures.
  • Filters – a series of ND filters and a polarizer are highly recommended for our work with minimalist landscapes.
  • Microfiber towels/lens cloths for cleaning lenses – with snow prevalent you want something to wipe lenses off if we end up shooting into the wind or in a heavy snowfall.
  • Gear and trip insurance – because you never know what might happen. Working out in the elements, I always highly suggest having gear insurance as, should the worst come to pass, you want to know that at least you can replace what’s been damaged when you return home.

Purchasing Flights

Do not purchase your flights until the trip has been confirmed to go.

Detailed Trip Information

Upon notification that final payment is due (120 days prior to departure for land based tours / 180 days for boat based tours), you will receive a trip package of detailed information for your tour.

Any additional information about the trip, including lodgings, contacts, participants, meeting locations, etc., will sent about 2 weeks prior to the trip departure, or after final payment is received for late registrants.

Travel Insurance

As with all tours, we recommend purchasing Travel Insurance to help cover your investment, for covered reasons. Please see our section on Travel Insurance.

Passport & Visa

US Citizens may require a visa to enter certain foreign countries. See above for any required visa information.

Participants arriving to the USA from a foreign country may need to get a travel visa to enter the United States. Be sure to check the requirements for your country of origin.

Itinerary Changes

The trip itinerary is developed many months ahead of time. Occasionally, despite our best planning, changes may occur during the trip, or we may be forced to alter our plans. Changes may occur because of weather, road conditions, safety concerns or other circumstances. In these situations, it is the leader(s) responsibility to carefully consider and implement appropriate alternatives. Any additional costs incurred because of changes will be the responsibility of each individual participant. Refunds will not be issued as a result of itinerary changes.

Location Map