2023 White Christmas Tour of Japan
The 2023 White Christmas Tour of Japan is an opportunity for one of the most memorable Christmas holidays you have ever had. You will be stunned by the streams of beautiful decorations in Japan. Be part of the cultural and traditional rituals leading up to the most important day on the Japanese calendar – New Years Day.
The temples, shrines and Japanese castles all compete for attention with the stunning natural beauty of the countryside at this time of the year. In addition, the best seafood and other festive delicacies are available in the winter months too. It is not surprising Japan at this time of the year makes such a wonderful experience.
Most of Japan does not experience snowfall in December. The northern island of Hokkaido, on the other hand, is different. So, this trip takes you Hokkaido to provide you with that more authentic White Christmas experience that you want.
Although Japanese are mostly not Christians, Japan offers much of the traditional spirit associated with Christmas. Snow can set the scene, but the coloured lights and decorations in the streets and shops add greatly to the season. The holiday feeling is still in the air as the most important holiday in Japan is only a few days away – New Years Day.
The 2023 White Christmas Tour of Japan includes some of the must-see destinations such as Snow Monkey Park, Kawaguchiko (Mt Fuji), Shirakawa-go and Sapporo in Hokkaido.
Dates & Prices
2023 White Christmas Tour of Japan
Per person twin share:
Day 1: Arrival
Welcome to Japan! On arrival at one of Tokyo’s international airports, you will be met by a Journey to the East guide and escorted to your hotel by public transport. After a good night’s sleep, you will be ready to start the first full day of your 2023 White Christmas Tour of Japan.
Day 2: Tokyo
Orientation of Tokyo by your guide precedes a guided tour at Asakusa along with Sensoji Temple (the oldest temple in Tokyo built in 628) and Nakamise merchant street. This old part of Tokyo retains the charms of Japan of a bygone era - a whole world away from the images of the advanced technology and modern city. After a group lunch your guide will take you to a modern commercial district of Tokyo to show you some fascinating contrasts of old and new.
December is the biggest month for retail in Japan. The beautiful window displays and shop decorations will instantly get you into the mood for this very special holiday!
In the evening, we will have a "Welcome Japan" dinner.
Day 3: Kawaguchiko (Mt Fuji)
This morning you travel westward on a scenic train to the town of Kawaguchiko, located in the lakes district in the foothills of Mt Fuji.
Kawaguchiko offers some breathtaking views of the majestic Mt Fuji and its lakes, and hosts a number of boutique museums and galleries.
Tonight, you will stay at a traditional Japanese inn, and sleep on a futon bedding in a tatami matted Japanese style bedroom. Here you have the chance to soak in a hot-spring onsen bath with dramatic views of Mt Fuji across the lake (weather permitting of course!).
Dinner will be a multi-course Japanese kaiseki banquet.
Day 4: Kawaguchiko and Tokyo
This morning you experience a traditional Japanese-style breakfast – a nutritious mix of grilled fish, miso soup, rice and pickles!
Before leaving Kawaguchiko, a visit to Itchiku Kubota Art Museum is a treat, where you see superb examples of kimono art using the centuries-old “shibori” tie-dyeing technique.
After arriving back in Tokyo, the rest of the day is free. It would be a great opportunity to go out and look around the beautiful Christmas illumination around your hotel.
Day 5: Snow Monkey
This morning, you leave Tokyo and take trains into the snow country to Yudanaka and its Snow Monkey Park.
Here you will encounter the serene beauty of visiting the reserve where the Snow Monkeys live. (Note: you need to walk for around 30 minutes to get to where monkeys play.) You will never forget seeing the cute snow monkeys soaking in the hot springs.
Tonight’s accommodation is in the atmospheric old onsen town of Shibu near the Snow Monkey reserve. A favourite pastime of the Japanese people is soaking in an onsen (mineral hot spring spa), especially in the cold season. Today, you too can enjoy soaking in a hot tub as you take in the beautiful 3,000 m class snow-capped mountains. This is another night in a Japanese style bedroom.
Day 6: Matsumoto
Before travelling further into the snowed countryside, you will stop at the city of Matsumoto today. Matsumoto’s beginnings go back to the 8th century, later becoming an important castle town ruled by a powerful clan in the 1600s. Its feudal past is best exemplified today by the impressive castle that dominates the city’s skyline.
Your guide will take you on a tour of Matsumoto’s castle, Japan’s oldest wooden castle and one of the nation’s five castles designated national treasures. To explore the castle’s wooden interior, we climb to the top of its distinctive black-and-white turret.
In the afternoon, you will travel in a private minibus to the little hamlet of Hirayu Onsen to stay in another onsen village deep in the mountains to enjoy the natural hot springs and beautiful environment. Our accommodation also has outside baths where you can soak and relax surrounded by nature. Enjoy a restorative soak after an active day outside and heartwarming country-style dinner.
Day 7: Shin-Hotaka Ropeway
A ride on the Shin-Hotaka Ropeway, one of the world’s longest ropeways, is on the cards today. From the viewing platform, 2,200 metres above sea level there is a spectacular uninterrupted view of Japan’s pristine northern alps. Here you will have an opportunity to explore the summit's short walking circuit.
We then travel to our next destination, Takayama. A compact, historic town surrounded by mountains, Takayama is known for its beautifully preserved streets of timber merchant houses dating from the late 17th century.
Day 8: Takayama and Shirakawago
In the morning, we will have a guided tour of Takayama including morning market and the elaborately decorated Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall.
Then, a private minivan takes us to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go, in the heart of the rugged Hida region. This exquisite rural village features the traditional thatched-roof farm houses unique to Japan’s alpine regions.
With their steeply-slanted roofs built to withstand heavy snowfalls, they resemble “hands clasped together in prayer” (hence their name, gasshozukuri). A walk through the village allows us to experience the magic of the farmhouses in the snow, and learn more about the construction of these houses and the traditional life of the villagers.
This evening is free for you to explore Takayama for its abundant selection of places to eat. Takayama is famous for Hida brand wagyu beef and you may like to visit one of the local restaurants serving this succulent local marbled beef.
Day 9: Transfer to Sapporo
After a few days exploring the central Japanese alps, we take a train trip down a scenic river valley all covered in snow, to the eastern seaboard city of Nagoya. Here we transfer to a domestic flight to Hokkaido for the second half of 2022 White Christmas Tour of Japan.
With large tracts of pristine wilderness, Hokkaido is a popular destination for those who love its vast, open landscapes and extensive wildlife.
We fly into the capital of Hokkaido, Sapporo.
Day 10: Sapporo and Otaru
Your guide takes you on a walking tour of central Sapporo this morning. You stop to have a look at the historic Clock Tower, built in 1878. Wander past other early brick buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries on our way to Odori Koen, the 1.5km-long stretch of public park in the city’s heart.
Then your guide will take you on an afternoon guided tour of the nearby picturesque town of Otaru. It was once a vibrant trading centre where the indigenous Ainu people, Japanese, Chinese, and Russian traders mingled to exchange goods. Otaru retains many of the grand stone and brick buildings from its late 19th century boom times. Many of the warehouses from its trading past have been converted into attractive museums and cafes along its canals. Today you wander down Otaru’s iconic central canal with its Victorian-era street lamps.
It is Christmas Eve tonight, and you will have a group Christmas dinner in Sapporo.
Day 11: Sapporo
It is Christmas Day today, and you have a late start today. Sapporo has a great Christmas Market, and we will visit there before having a Christmas lunch together.
Your afternoon is free. Although Japan is not a Christian country, there is no shortage of Christmas atmosphere here. Especially, you will enjoy gorgeous Christmas illumination against white snow everywhere in Sapporo.
Day 12: Transfer to Hakodate
Today you will take an express train to the enchanting city of Hakodate, Hokkaido. This historic port city with its 19th century streetscapes has a distinctly European feel. It was designated one of Japan’s two foreign trade ports that could legitimately engage with foreign traders, and that foreign influence and architecture make this city so intriguing.
In the evening we head up Mount Hakodate. From the hill-side restaurant, there is a panoramic view of Hakodate all lit-up at night which is considered one of the top three views in Japan.
Day 13: Hakodate
The Hakodate Morning Market trades a wide array of seafood in a relatively casual environment and many small restaurants allow you to sample the local delicacies. On the guided tour of Hakodate. you will visit a number of historical sites as well as the heritage Red Brick Warehouse district down on the waterfront to enjoy the beautiful harbour views. The Ainu Museum included in the tour provides information on the diversity by celebrating the history and culture of Hokkaido’s indigenous people.
You will have some free time this afternoon and evening to enjoy Hakodate at your own pace.
Day 14: Transfer to Tokyo
This morning, you will take a famous Japan's shinkansen train from Hakodate back to Tokyo. The bullet train takes you under the sea back to the 'mainland', Honshu Island and on down the East coast of Japan.
Back at hotel, you will gather one more time to enjoy the farewell Japan dinner and talk about the highlights of the trip together.
Day 15: Goodbye
After breakfast, your 2023 White Christmas Tour of Japan concludes. You can leave Japan from one of two Tokyo's international airport, or stay in Japan a little longer. We will be delighted to plan your personal post-tour extension to show you a different part of Japan. Please see our Extension Model Itineraries for inspirations.
Note: The cost of an escorted transfer to your departure airport is not included in our Small Group Tours (as we find many guests choose to stay in Japan a bit longer), however, we will be happy to arrange your transfer to next destination or to exit airport. Please see our FAQ for more details.
Accommodation listed in itineraries at the time of publishing is an indicative choice only and we may select a similar alternative.
- 14 nights accommodation (including traditional inns)
- Meals as specified
- Airport meet & greet and hotel transfer by public transport on arrival
- All local transport (train, bus and taxi)
- Flight from Nagoya to Sapporo
- Pre-loaded Suica card
- Locally licensed English speaking tour guides
- Most cultural activities and entry fees included in itinerary
- Luggage transfers (1 piece per person)
- International airfare
- Transfer on the last day
- Travel insurance
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
- Tips and gratuities (not routinely expected in Japan)
- Transport during free time
- Personal expenses (laundry, internet, telephone, coin lockers etc.)
- Visa (if required)
Thank you for the impeccable standard of customer service you and the whole team provided to us, from my initial enquiry to our last day. If you are considering a trip to Japan – Journey to the East should be your 1st consideration, you won’t be disappointed.
This tour changed our perceptions of what group tours can offer. The quality of accommodation, tour guides, food and the overall itinerary were professional and individualised. I cannot praise enough, the professionalism of the tour guides who managed to navigate our small group around Japan.