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JAPAN IN WINTER

Birdquest's Japan in Winter birding tour is the 'alternative Japan' birdwatching trip. Our Japan in Winter tour concentrates on the wildlife spectaculars for which Japan is famous: the Hooded and White-naped Cranes of Arasaki, the Snow Monkeys of Honshu, the Red-crowned (or Japanese) Cranes of eastern Hokkaido and the Steller's Sea Eagles and Blakiston's Fish Owls of the Shiretoku Peninsula. As well as these marvels, we will also see plenty of other good birds, including both endemics and wintering specialities. At the end of the tour there is an optional pelagic in search of Short-tailed Albatross and other seabirds.

Sunday 18th February — Sunday 4th March 2018
(15 days)


Pelagic Extension: Sunday 4th March — Tuesday 6th March (3 days)

Leaders: Dave Farrow and Chikara Otani

Group Size Limit: 12

Tour Category: Easy walking, but cold conditions at times, and mostly comfortable accommodations

Sunrise at Rausu on northern Hokkaido and the huge Steller's Sea-Eagles are gathering on the ice, ready for their breakfast! (Pete Morris)

Sunrise at Rausu on northern Hokkaido and the huge Steller's Sea-Eagles are gathering on the ice, ready for their breakfast! (Pete Morris)

Japan, with its many islands and its wide range of climatic conditions, has a rich avifauna and, in particular, a number of fascinating endemic species ranging from the beautiful Copper Pheasant to the attractive Japanese Green Woodpecker. It is, however, during the winter months that Japan really comes into its own, for then it plays host to three of the greatest avian spectacles on earth: the great gathering of the Hooded and White-naped Cranes at Arasaki, the amazing concentration of that king of raptors, the huge Steller’s Sea Eagle, in eastern Hokkaido and, on that same island, the incomparable dancing amidst the snow of the Red-crowned Cranes.

This tour provides the perfect opportunity to see the best birding that Japan has to offer; its awesome crane and eagle spectacles. In addition we shall see many other wintering birds ranging from Spectacled Guillemot to Asian Rosy Finch, as well as many resident species, including the remarkable Blakiston’s Fish Owl.

A visit to upcountry Japan (the ‘real’ Japan) is an experience in itself and one that requires of the traveller a spirit of adventure and a willingness to adapt to new ways of doing things. Simple things like eating Japanese food, sleeping on futons and bathing in an ‘ofuro’ are very different from back home, but will be great fun if you are tolerant of cultural differences. The difficulty of travelling around in a country where few people speak a foreign language of any kind is the main reason why only a few non-Japanese birdwatchers have explored the islands. A superb travel infrastructure, mostly comfortable accommodations, interesting food and friendly, helpful people make travelling through Japan a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

After leaving the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo behind us, we will head inland for an exploration of the forested mountains of central Honshu where Copper Pheasant, Japanese Green Woodpecker, Japanese Waxwing, Japanese Grosbeak and a series of other interesting species can be found. From here we will drive, via the incredible ‘snow monkeys’ of Nagano, to Komatsu on the Japan Sea coast of Honshu, our base for a visit to Katano Kamo-ike, home of one of the few regular wintering flocks of the beautiful Baikal Teal in the islands.

Next we will fly southwards to the island of Kyushu, where we will visit the famous crane reserve at Arasaki (where up to six species of crane occur!) and search for Black-faced Spoonbill, Saunders’s Gull, Japanese Murrelet and Grey Bunting.

In complete contrast, the last part of the tour will be spent in far northern Japan. During our visit to Hokkaido we will make a thorough exploration of the eastern end of this superb island, a region of mountains, forests, frozen lakes and seacoasts which contains some of Japan’s most exciting birding localities, including Capes Nosappu and Kiritappu with their seabirds, sea ducks and Asian Rosy Finches, Rausu with its Steller’s Sea Eagles and Blakiston’s Fish Owls, and the marshy country north of Kushiro where the Red-crowned Cranes dance in the winter sunshine.

During the optional extension, we will take an overnight pelagic trip by large ferry out beyond Tokyo Bay, where we will have an excellent chance of seeing the highly-sought-after Short-tailed Albatross, as well as Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses, and Tristram’s Storm-Petrel.

Birdquest has operated tours to Japan since 1987.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The western-style or Japanese-style hotels are mostly of good standard. At Arasaki (for two nights), at Mi-ike (for two nights), near Kushiro (for one night) and at Rausu (for one night) we will be staying in Japanese-style guesthouses (minshuku). These will be spotlessly clean and quite comfortable, but it should be appreciated minshuku are quite simple establishments with Japanese-style futons to sleep on rather than conventional beds. There may be two or more people per room at Arasaki and bathroom facilities are shared. At Rausu, the minshuku is very small, so there will be several people in each room and bathroom facilities are shared. During the extension, accommodation for one night is on a large ferry in comfortable twin-berth cabins. Road transport is by minibus and roads are good.

Walking: The walking effort is easy throughout.

Climate: Rather variable. It will be quite mild (i.e. merely cool) in Kyushu, but it will be cold in Honshu and it will be cold or very cold in Hokkaido. It may rain at times in the south, or snow in the north (where snow will be lying on the ground), but the weather is predominantly dry and sunny at this season.

Bird/Mammal Photography: Opportunities are excellent.

These are provisional prices

Tour Price: £5150, €6080, $6750 Tokyo/Tokyo. Pelagic Extension: £680, €800, $890.

Price includes all transportation (including all flights inside Japan), all accommodations, all meals, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, leader services. Tipping is not customary in Japan.

Single Room Supplement: £264, €312, $346 (excluding two nights at Arasaki and one night at Rausu). Pelagic Extension: £77, €91, $101 (excluding the night on the ferry).

Deposit: £650, €780, $850. Extension: £50, €60, $70.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.

The superb dancing Red-crowned (or Japanese) Cranes of Kushiro provide a fitting finale to our fabulous tour (Pete Morris)

The superb dancing Red-crowned (or Japanese) Cranes of Kushiro provide a fitting finale to our fabulous tour (Pete Morris)

111 photos View Gallery Photos From JAPAN IN WINTER
The remarkable Blakiston's Fish Owl, the world's largest owl, is often a great favourite on this tour! (Pete Morris)

The remarkable Blakiston's Fish Owl, the world's largest owl, is often a great favourite on this tour! (Pete Morris)

The rare Saunders's Gull is regularly seen in small numbers on the southern island of Kyushu (Pete Morris)

The rare Saunders's Gull is regularly seen in small numbers on the southern island of Kyushu (Pete Morris)

This stunning White-naped Crane was one of over 11,000 cranes of up to six species at Arasaki! (Pete Morris)

This stunning White-naped Crane was one of over 11,000 cranes of up to six species at Arasaki! (Pete Morris)

The wonderful Japanese Macaques (or Snow Monkeys) provide great entertainment and have a wonderful set of facial expressions! (Pete Morris)

The wonderful Japanese Macaques (or Snow Monkeys) provide great entertainment and have a wonderful set of facial expressions! (Pete Morris)

A superb selection of wildfowl can be seen in Japan in the winter. As well as Falcated Ducks (a fine male is depicted above), we are likely to see the splendid and rare Baikal Teal! (Pete Morris)

A superb selection of wildfowl can be seen in Japan in the winter. As well as Falcated Ducks (a fine male is depicted above), we are likely to see the splendid and rare Baikal Teal! (Pete Morris)

The impressive Steller's Sea-Eagle (right) makes the White-tailed Eagle seem small! (Pete Morris)

The impressive Steller's Sea-Eagle (right) makes the White-tailed Eagle seem small! (Pete Morris)

The stunning Japanese Waxwing is an erratic visitor, but can be seen most winters (Pete Morris)

The stunning Japanese Waxwing is an erratic visitor, but can be seen most winters (Pete Morris)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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