10 Day Hokkaido Photography Tour in Japan
Capture the spectacular sights of winter on this 10-day photography workshop in Hokkaido, Japan!
Hokkaido island bursts with stunning scenery during the winter season, when its magnificent landscapes become swathed in a layer of pure white snow. Gorgeous mountain peaks, vast open fields and breathtaking frosted lakes make this a dream destination for those seeking to add something more unique to their portfolios. You'll have the chance to photograph an abundance of extraordinary wildlife, including snow monkeys, whooper swans, red-crowned cranes, owls, deer, eagles and more as you immerse yourself in this winter wonderland. Be prepared to experience a melting pot of fascinating traditions, rich culture and delicious, authentic cuisine as you explore the northernmost island of Japan.
Throughout this tour, you'll be guided by three world-renowned photography guides – Daniel Kordan, Kenji Yamamura and Hokkaido wildlife specialist, Hiroki Inoue. Together, they possess a wealth of knowledge and expertise which will guarantee you a remarkable and strongly educational tour of the second largest island in the Land of the Rising Sun. They'll teach you everything you need to know for a truly wonderful winter adventure in this uniquely splendid part of the world.
Don't miss out on the unspoilt snowy landscapes of Hokkaido in winter! Check availability by choosing a date.
Day 1 - Arrival at Kushiro
You'll arrive to Kushiro Airport (KUH) in Hokkaido. We recommend that you take flight ANA 741 from Tokyo Haneda, which will give you an arrival time of 13:00. While it is possible to fly to Kushiro from Osaka or other cities in Japan, we request that you arrive no later than 13:00, when the tour is scheduled to begin. Your photo guides and drivers will meet you upon your arrival at Kushiro. From there, you'll be transferred as a group to your hotel in the remote village of Tsurui. There will be some time to rest and freshen up, before you meet together in the evening for a wonderful dinner, sampling the local cuisine to your heart's delight. After dinner, you'll have the chance to unwind and relax in a traditional, steaming hot Hokkaido onsen bath, before retiring for the night.
Day 2 - Tsurui
On day two, you'll rise early to capture the spectacular birdlife that Tsurui is well-known for. You'll spend the next couple of days exploring the area, in search of one of the world's rarest birds – the red-crowned cranes. Your photography guides will take you to strategic locations where you'll have stunning opportunities to photograph the cranes in their natural habitat. Once thought to be extinct, these revered birds make for an extraordinary sight, set against the stark white landscape with their glorious plumage. It's no wonder that they're a symbol of love.
Day 3 - Tsurui
On day three, you'll continue your foray around Tsurui for graceful cranes in the enchanting white snow. Your guides will also take you to various locations where you'll keep an eye out for Sika deer, Hokkaido foxes and other birds such as eagles and Ural owls. They can be a little difficult to spot in the thick blanket of snow but our expert wildlife guides are excellent spotters who will do their best to help you capture incredible images.
Day 4 - Rausu, Lake Furen
Day four sees you rising early to journey to Rausu, a fishing town on the edge of Nemuro Strait. With a population of just 5000 people, it's small but not without charm. This region is home to the Steller's sea eagle, which migrates from Russia to Japan for the winter. With any luck, you'll also spot some white-tailed sea eagles, circling in the sky. The day will be spent on an excursion at sea with a number of local bird specialists. As we sail along the coastline, we'll be perfectly placed to witness flocks of these designated protected eagles as they hunt for fish on the pack ice which has drifted down from the Okhotsk Sea. This experience will be a bird photographer's dream so be sure to have your telephoto lenses at the ready as we sail around the Shiretoko Peninsula. Once we make our way back to shore, we'll head to our sunset location at Lake Furen in the Notsukefurendoritsu National Park. The lake freezes over in winter, making for an extraordinary place to spot eagles and other birds.
Day 5 - Akan National Park
On day five, we'll have breakfast before heading to a sunrise session capturing the wildlife surrounding Lake Furen. Thereafter, we'll check out of our accommodation and journey onwards to lakeside town of Teshikaga. Here, we will enter the Akan National Park, one of the oldest national parks in Hokkaido. It is home to the famous Lake Mashū, a crater lake that sits within the caldera of an active volcano. This tranquil body of water is some of the clearest in the world, making for a wondrous sight when frozen in winter. It is surrounded by subarctic forest, in which you'll find many lone trees making for magical minimalistic shots. Our visit here will be truly unforgettable.
Day 6 - Biei
Day six sees us rising to meet the first rays of the sun back at Akan National Park, this time at Lake Kussharo. This caldera lake is simply breathtaking when viewed from the Bihoro mountain pass, situated at 493 metres above the lake itself. You'll be well-placed to capture a spectacular panoramic view of the surroundings, before we head back down to breakfast at the hotel. After breakfast, we'll check out from our accommodation and make the journey to Biei, a rural town surrounded by rolling hills and steep cliffs covered in pure white snow. Along the way, we'll make numerous stops to further explore compositions for minimal photography, as we focus upon single trees standing steadfast in the enchanting snowscapes. We'll arrive in Biei in the evening, checking in to our hotel just in time for dinner. This will be our base for the next 3 nights.
Day 7 - Biei
The next two days will be spent in search of classic minimal scenes through the snowy landscapes of Biei, as we concentrate upon photographing trees. We'll make a visit to the famous "Christmas tree" of Biei, as well as the Blue Pond which becomes especially alluring in the winter months. Tinged blue from colloidal aluminium hydroxide, this man-made reservoir makes for awe-inspiring images.
Day 8 - Biei
Aside from these iconic locations, we'll also visit some spots off the beaten track, for more unique compositions in the Hokkaido landscape.
Day 9 - Sapporo
On day nine, we'll head south towards Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido. There will be a lot to shoot along the way, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled as we make our way across the stunning winter landscape. Our sunset session will be by the sea, where you'll find an extraordinary torii gate in the water offshore, marking the gateway between the secular and holy worlds. It's a great place to practice long exposure photography, which can make for some dreamlike scenes.
Day 10 - Departure
This will be the final day of our photography adventure in Hokkaido. For sunrise, we'll visit Ebisu Iwa, a cove where you'll find some amazing rock formations at sea. It's the perfect place to learn all about capturing seascapes as you make use of neutral density filters to slow your shutter speed, creating drawn-out clouds and smooth, silky water. Once the sun has risen, we'll return to the hotel for breakfast, before packing our belongings and checking out. We'll then begin the 2 hour drive to Sapporo Chitose Airport (CTS), arriving by noon. From there, you'll be able to catch your flight home or onwards to your next destination. We recommend that you arrange any flights for departure after 14:00, in case there are any delays. If you choose to stay in Sapporo, then our guides can drop you off at the Sapporo main train station, where you'll bid each other farewell.
8 – 15 February 2025
We highly recommend that you get a travel and medical insurance. Your own domestic medical insurance and private health scheme will not cover you whilst you are overseas.
The tour is always dependent on weather, as the weather can indeed be highly unpredictable. Likewise, wildlife sightings dependent on favourable conditions and there is no guarantee that they will appear on a given day.
Renowned landscape photographer, Daniel Kordan, is an explorer at heart. Having realized his passion for photography and traveling at a young age, he now spends his time sharing his vision and the many wonders of the world with people all around him.