Japan winter break: Nagano snow monkeys

Trip ideas
Duration (in days): 9

From: Tokyo

To: Tokyo

From

£1,935

Exc. International flights (per person, based on 2 sharing) 
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Overview

Explore snowy Tokyo and its surrounds during this short Japan winter break. Start in Tokyo, where snowflakes will float through the air as you explore the ancient culture and buzzing modern vibes of this enormous city. From here, head north into the mountains to spot the Nagano snow monkeys taking a steamy dip in the hot springs of Jigokudani Park and explore the artwork of Hokusai in Obuse. Finish your trip with a visit to Mount Fuji and stop for gorgeous views of the snow-capped mountain at the lake below, before returning to Tokyo for a few final days of sushi and sumo – the perfect winter break in Japan. 

This Japan winter holiday can be tailored to suit your requirements, so please contact one of our consultants to start planning your dream trip.

Highlights

  • Explore the winter lights of Tokyo
  • Learn about Japan’s Shinto religion in intricate shrines and temples
  • Enjoy views of Mount Fuji from the iconic Chureito Pagoda
  • Stay in a Japanese ryokan and relax in the onsen
  • Taste fresh sashimi in Tokyo’s stylish sushi bars
  • Spot the Nagano snow monkeys relaxing in the hot springs of Jigokudani
Itinerary


Itinerary in brief:

  • 2 nights Tokyo  
  • 2 nights Shibu Onsen    
  • 1 night Tokyo    
  • 1 night Lake Kawaguchi
  • 2 nights Tokyo  

 

Day 1: Arrive Tokyo   

On arrival in Tokyo, you will be met at the airport and driven into the city by shared minibus. When you arrive at your hotel, you will check in for two nights.


Day 2: Tokyo     

In winter, Tokyo is awash with sparkling lights and snow drifts, making it a magical time to visit this city. Spend your first day exploring the main temples of the city – Senso-ji and Meiji-jingu - and learning about Japanese religion, art and history. For lunch, grab some sushi at the Tsukiji Market, where you can taste fresh sashimi and sake with the smell of salt in the air. Tokyo also hosts a big sumo tournament every January, so winter is a great time to visit if you want to see a match in action. You can even see Mount Fuji from Tokyo on a clear day, but don’t worry if you don’t spot it, you’ll be heading to the mysterious mountain later in your trip.


Day 3: Tokyo to Shibu Onsen        

Today you’ll travel out to Nagano, taking the Hokuriku bullet train that reaches speeds of up to 260kph. On arrival in Nagano, you’ll hop on the express train to Tudanaka station, where a shuttle bus will take you to the ryokan. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese-style hotel and the one you are staying at, Kokuya, dates back over 400 years. Its present owner is the 16th generation to run the ryokan, which features six different hot springs, all rich in natural minerals to benefit your muscles, joints and skin.

The ryokan is situated on the Shibu Onsen “Spa Street”, which has nine public onsen open for general use. You will see people strolling down the street in their light robes, heading for a dip in the warm waters. In the evening, you will enjoy a kaiseki, a traditional Japanese meal comprised of nine or more dishes, all made from fresh and local Nagano ingredients.


Day 4: Shibu Onsen    

After breakfast, you have a free day to explore the area. We very strongly recommend a visit to Jigokudani Park, home of the famous Snow Monkeys – it’s magic. Jigokudani literally means “hell’s valley” due to the steam and boiling water that bubble out of small crevices in the frozen ground. These hot springs form perfect baths for the resident Japanese Macaques take to soak and stay warm.

In the afternoon, you could head to the nearby charming town of Obuse, a small town with several traditional houses and little shops. The locals often participate in an ‘Open Garden’ event, so if you see a sign outside a house, you can enter at your leisure and enjoy the gardens. It’s a great way to gain insight into Japanese homes. Obuse was home to Hokusai, the famous woodblock artist, and it’s also the base of Masuichi-Ichimura, a local sake brewery, making it a great place to explore. Back in Shibu Onsen, you’ll enjoy another delicious dinner tonight at your ryokan.


Day 5: Shibu Onsen to Tokyo        

Today, you’ll head back to Tokyo by train. You can spend the afternoon and evening exploring the city a little further, stopping into local ramen bars, hiring bicycle s or wandering through one of the huge parks. Tonight, you’ll stay in Tokyo before heading to see Mount Fuji tomorrow.


Day 6: Tokyo to Kawaguchiko      

After breakfast, you’ll take an early bus to Lake Kawaguchi, one of the five lakes that sit at the foot of Mount Fuji. You’ll spend the day exploring this pretty area, either visiting the Kubota Itchiku Museum, the Kawaguchiko Museum of Art or Saiko Iyashi, a tiny village of thatched cottages with traditional craft studios and local cafés. Afterwards, you can choose to take a boat out on the lake for views over Mount Fuji, which is much more likely to be seen during the clear winter days.


Day 7: Kawaguchiko to Tokyo

Take one last soak in the onsen this morning or head to Chureito Pagoda for the famous view past its deep red temple towards Mount Fuji. After a morning enjoying the area, head back to Tokyo on the bus and check into your hotel for two nights. You’ll spend the afternoon at your leisure, perhaps heading to one of Tokyo’s bizarre cafés for dinner or finding a rooftop bar for views over the twinkling city.  


Day 8: Tokyo     

Take it from us - you won’t run out of things to do in Tokyo. If you want to discover the food of Japan a little further, we can book you a cooking class or a street food tour – if you want to add this, just ask! Alternatively, you can explore further afield, heading up to Nikko to admire the ancient architecture or over to Kamakura, a small seaside town full of shrines, temples and surfers.


Day 9: Depart Tokyo   

You’ll spend the morning at your leisure, before taking a shared minibus back to the airport in time for your onward flight.

Info

Winter in Japan is dry and sunny along the coast, with temperatures not usually dropping below freezing. In the northern islands, you are more likely to come across snowfall – you can even go skiing in Hokkaido! Winter is the best time of year to see the Nagano snow monkeys, who are drawn to the hot pools to keep warm. Japan is also quite quiet during the winter months so is a good time to visit if you want to avoid the tourist numbers.

This itinerary can be done at any time of year although we recommend winter, due to the likelihood of seeing snow monkeys and the clear views of Mount Fuji between November and March.     

Our Japan winter holiday is purely a suggestion and can be tailor-made to your requirements, so please contact us with your dates and requests and we’ll put together a bespoke quotation for you.

What's included: 

  • Accommodation for 8 nights     
  • Daily breakfast and three dinners           
  • Shared return transfers               
  • PASMO card for local transport in Tokyo with 1,500 JPY
  • Shinkansen tickets from/to Shibu Onsen
  • Roundtrip bus tickets from/to Kawaguchiko

Not included: 

  • Transport not mentioned above              
  • Personal expenses and tips       
Accommodation

8 nights in 4* standard and ryokan style accommodation.

Hotels in this category include:

  • Park Hotel Tokyo

  • Kokuya

  • Mizu no Sato

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