8 Day Hokkaido Photography Tour in Japan
Capture the spectacular sights of winter on this 8-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 will give the recommended flights that arrive no later than 13:00 from Tokyo, Osaka or other cities in Japan. 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, Sika deer, Hokkaido foxes, eagles and owls 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 - 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 4 - Lake Mashu
As the sun rises, we focus our lenses on the captivating wildlife surrounding Lake Furen. Following this, we bid farewell to our hotel at Lake Furen and set our course for Teshikaga. Today, we transition from wildlife photography to capturing the stunning landscapes of the area. Our destination for the evening's sunset adventure is Lake Mashū, a magnificent crater lake nestled within a vast caldera. Situated in Akan National Park on Japan's Hokkaido Island, Lake Mashū has earned the reputation of being one of the clearest lakes globally.
Around Lake Mashū, we'll discover numerous minimalist scenes featuring solitary trees. Additionally, you'll have the opportunity to photograph the elegant whooper swans as they gracefully bask in the warm, golden-hued waters of Kusshiro Lake during sunset. These swans spend their winter here, enjoying the soothing hot springs, creating a picturesque and serene atmosphere for our photography.
Day 5 - Lake Kussharo
We capture the beauty of Lake Kussharo from the most picturesque vantage point, the Bihoro Pass. Following a splendid sunrise, we indulge in a hearty breakfast, complete our hotel check-out, and embark on a scenic drive to Biei, punctuated by several stops to capture the essence of Hokkaido's pristine snow-covered landscapes. Today, our photography focus centers on the minimalist charm of solitary trees amidst the deep powder of Hokkaido's snow-covered hills.
Upon reaching Biei in the evening, we make ourselves comfortable at our hotel, where we will spend the next three nights, ensuring we have a cozy and convenient base for our photography adventures in the region.
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 - Sapporo
Our Hokkaido exploration continues as we journey southward from Biei toward Sapporo. As the day draws to a close, we have the opportunity to photograph the striking torii gates perched atop the rocky outcrop in the water. Prepare your ND filters to capture long exposures that will transform your shots into timeless images, preserving the essence of this picturesque scene.
Day 8 - Departure
Revisit Ebisu Iwa at sunrise to further hone your seascape photography skills, including the use of filters for achieving captivating long exposures. Following a satisfying breakfast at the hotel, we'll proceed with packing and checking out. Our journey then takes us to Sapporo Airport Chitose, a scenic two-hour drive away.
Our aim is to arrive at the airport by noon, so I recommend scheduling your flight departure after 14:00. A great option is ANA Flight 66, departing at 14:30 bound for Tokyo.
Alternatively, if you wish to extend your stay and explore Sapporo, we'll be happy to drop you off at Sapporo's main train station. This way, you can independently reach your chosen hotel and immerse yourself in the city's unique offerings at your leisure.
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.