Tag Archives: hokkaido

Japanese Winter Wildlife Photography for only £4999

One of the juvenile snow monkeys of the Jigokudani Valley photographed on the NaturesLens Japan in Winter Photography Holiday

We have an offer that might entice you to join our Japanese Winter Wildlife Photography Holiday in February 2019; this is early-bird pricing for a single-occupancy room … you can book a place for £4999 each instead of £5249! We’ve managed to lower the pricing due to speaking with hotels & renegotiating our rates for rooms – & we’re passing those savings on to our clients.

You can join us & spend time with the gorgeous snow monkeys as shown in this post, also several days with the red-crowned cranes & the whooper swans, & four days focussed on stellers sea eagles & white-tailed sea eagles on our six boat trips & also at a couple of other locations.

A young snow monkey of the Jigokudani Valley photographed on the NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Photography Holiday

You can book now & hold your place with 20% deposit only! That is £1000 now, with the balance due in November 2018.

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Winter Wildlife of Japan – the Guide’s perspective

Perched on one of the pack ice icebergs, one of the Steller's Sea Eagles photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

I was excited when I was asked to co-guide the NaturesLens Winter Wildlife of Japan photography holiday. Japan is a country I’ve often thought of visiting, intrigued by the culture &, of course, the wildlife. How big a culture shock would it be? The holiday is primarily based on the Northern-most island, Hokkaido, which is very rural & nothing like the famous image of Japan as a land of teeming masses & neon signs.

There are gently rolling hills, extensive flatlands, & mountains, all snow-covered in February. The people are incredibly friendly & the accommodation clean & welcoming. Of course, there are cultural differences. You need to be a bit adventurous with the food; full of taste & always immaculately presented. A science degree & operator’s manual is required to ‘fully appreciate’ the WC! Not to forget the onsen – hot bath – one of life’s sublime pleasures after a day out in the cold.

One of Hokkaido's red crowned cranes flies overhead photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

The first port of call for two nights was the Tsurui area, with the focus on the Red-Crowned Cranes. An early start was needed to bag a good place on the Otowa Bridge to glimpse the birds at roost in the river & flying off for the day searching for food in the surrounding fields.

The famous red crowned cranes roost photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

The local farmers see the cranes as a considerable asset & manage their land to ensure the cranes’ survival.

A pair of red crowned cranes performing their courtship dance photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday Close up detail of one of the red crowned cranes of Hokkaido photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

After a late & hearty breakfast, we visited the Ito Tancho Crane Sanctuary where there were hundreds of the birds. We were able to capture them close up & displaying typical societal behaviour, including the ‘dancing’, an attempt to establish status in the crowd. Moving on from Tsurui, we paid a passing visit to the Akan International Crane Centre, which presented further opportunities to capture the cranes in a different environment, & to visit the interpretative centre.

A short drive further brought us to our next stop & another cultural assault on the senses. What an excellent hotel; the rooms are a cross between Western & Japanese traditional style, with all mod-cons but the beds lower to the ground. The food was a masterful display of Japanese catering at its best. The hotel lobby has fire pits for warmth & a full height/width window looking out on the adjacent river valley where wildlife abounds. A Blakiston’s Fish Owl visits each evening & other wildlife observed included fox, stoat, Eurasian Jay, Eurasian Nuthatch, Eurasian Blackcap, & Brown-eared Bulbul, all in about half an hour. Our photographic destination was Lake Kussharo to seek out the Whooper Swans.  They proved a little elusive but we did successfully track them down. We also paid a visit to the scenic Lake Mashu, a caldera lake high in the mountains.

Hokkado's whooper swans of Lake Kussharo, a caldera lake in a snowy landscape photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

Moving on, we headed for Rausu on the Northwest peninsular of Hokkaido, for what, for many, was the avian highlight of the trip. The sea eagles, both Stellers & White-Tailed.

Stretching for the pick up, one of the Steller's Sea Eagles over the waters of the Sea of Okhotsk photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

Our base was another Daiichi with a pleasing choice of indoor & outdoor onsen.

Silhouetted at sunrise, one of the Steller's Sea Eagles grabs a fish from the ciy waters of the Sea of Okhotsk photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

Early starts were again the order of the day to meet up with our wildlife cruise boat. This was preceded by a rapid trip to the convenience store for breakfast essentials, including (you’d better believe it) cans of hot coffee. Weird but very welcome, given the temperature of -11°C with a windchill down to -23°C! The boat, though, has a warm cabin to retreat to for respite.

Wings out stretched, one of the Steller's Sea Eagles soars over the icy waters of the Sea of Okhotsk photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

For the next three days, we were out in local waters for about 5 hours each morning. We were treated to fishing displays by the Steller’s Sea Eagle & White-tailed Sea Eagle at sea, at sunrise, on pancake ice in the harbour, & on drift ice further out to sea. The birds were so close to the boat that a medium length lens was sufficient. The portrait image of the Steller on the sea ice is uncropped!

Making off with a fish, one of the Steller's Sea Eagles flies above the pack ice of the Sea of Okhotsk photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday One of the Steller's Sea Eagles stood on the pack ice of the Sea of Okhotsk photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday One of the White tailed Sea Eagles grabs a fish from the icy waters of the Sea of Okhotsk photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday Perched on one of the pack ice icebergs, one of the Steller's Sea Eagles photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

An unexpected bonus was a small pod of orca transiting south in search of food. The boat crew go to great lengths to get their passengers close to the action.

An orca swimming off the coast of Rausu in the Sea of Okhotsk photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

Heading a little further south, we took in an area on the south-east of the island for a day to catch both types of eagle & Black-eared Kites as they scrabbled for the daily feed of frozen fish. The eagles command the frozen surface & jealously guard the fish. However, the kites are good scavengers & successfully get their share. The eagles stomp around the ice looking for food, providing an opportunity for unusual images. We also got lucky with visits from 4 foxes.

One of the Steller's Sea Eagles creeps in a comedic fashion over the surface of a frozen lake photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography HolidayA black eared kite soars above the eagle feeding site photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday Having stolen some of the eagle's fish, one of Hokkaido's red foxes beats a hasty retreat photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

Leaving Hokkaido, we flew to Tokyo for a night before the drive north-west to the Nagano area to photograph the Snow Monkeys at Yudanaka. The hotel is right at the start of the trail up to the monkeys, & is traditional. This meant tatami mats on the room floor & sleeping on a futon – an unusual concept, but I slept well. The host was attentive & provided still more sumptuous food at each meal. Visiting the monkeys in their thermal spa involves a half hour walk uphill. Not steep but ice spikes needed to maintain a sound footing,

Resting in a pool surrounded by snow, one of Japan's famous snow monkeys bathes in the thermal waters photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday Searching for food in the snow, one of Japan's famous snow monkeys photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

It’s possible to get very close to the monkeys, correctly known as the Japanese Macaque. But like many primates, they will take any opportunity to explore bags, especially if they can sense food! Portraits are the order of the day, with other opportunities to capture family behaviour & experiment with high key imagery.

That was it. Almost two weeks of excellent wildlife images, a new culture, excellent food & good company.

Did I enjoy it? Well, let’s say that I am really looking forward to going back in 2019.

Why not join us & experience for yourself the beauty of Japan’s culture & wildlife?

Photograph the Winter Wildlife of Japan for yourself

To photograph the charismatic winter wildlife of Japan for yourself, join David Miles & Ian Roberts, members of the NaturesLens guiding team, in Japan during February 2019 for a trip lasting 13 nights; this photography holiday will offer you the opportunity to capture images of the red-crowned crane, snow monkey, steller’s sea eagle, white tailed sea eagle, whooper swan, plus more; the NaturesLens Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday is offered on a half board, non-shared room basis, & costs typically £5249 per participant, but there are several early-bird places available priced at £4999.

All the details of the  Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday are available on the dedicated event page.

Part 2 of Peter’s graphical review of our Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

A White Tailed Sea Eagle flies over the frozen seas outside Rausu this image was captured on the Island of Hokkaido during the NaturesLens Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

Peter sent us so many fabulous images from the boat trips taken during our Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday that we had to dedicate an entire blog post to them.

A Steller's Sea Eagle flies away having successfully grabbed a fish from the Rausu seas - this image was captured on the Island of Hokkaido during the NaturesLens Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday Continue reading

Part 1 of Peter’s graphical review of our Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

A red crowned crane takes flight against a pristine blue sky this image was captured on the Island of Hokkaido during the NaturesLens Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

Peter sent us so many stunning images taken on our Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday that the only way we could do them justice was to publish two blog posts.

I especially love this image of a red fox with the slightly cocked head, exuding charm & curiosity all at the same time. The red foxes of Hokkaido are not particularly shy of people. In fact, they are curious & often stare at or even approach anything or anyone new in their surroundings.

A red fox of the Furen Penninsula this image was captured on the Island of Hokkaido during the NaturesLens Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday Continue reading

An’s graphical review of our Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

An exceptionally beautiful Stellers sea eagle poses on a outcrop of frozen pack ice located on the coast of Rausu captured NaturesLens during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

An & her husband Peter joined us on our Winter Wildlife of Japan photography holiday last year. Below are some of the images that she kindly sent to us to share…

One of the reasons for visiting Hokkaido is to witness the dance of the Red-Crowned Cranes. An was lucky enough to be able to isolate this pair of cranes as they performed their ritual dance. I love this image as it reminds me of a couple of prima ballerinas.

A pair of beautiful red crowned cranes performing their dance in the snow captured NaturesLens during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday Continue reading

Winter Wildlife in Japan – Whooper Swans & Foxes

A solitary whooper swan swims in a thawed area of one of the Caldera Lakes of Hokkaido photographed by Nicola Billows during the NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Photography Holiday

Whooper Swans – the graceful aspect of Winter Wildlife in Japan

The Whooper Swans of Lake Kussharo are always a revelation to our guests. When one thinks of winter wildlife in Japan, the first thought is inevitable, Snow Monkeys, followed closely by Steller’s Sea Eagles & Red-Crowned Cranes. But people rarely think “I want to go there to photograph whooper swans” & who would blame them?

Take a look at Nicola’s images below. Such beautiful, elegant birds with plenty of opportunities to photograph them in flight, walking in the snow & sat on the lake with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. The possibilities are endless.

A Whooper Swan comes in to land on the snowy landscape of Hokkaido photographed by Nicola Billows during the NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Photography Holiday A bevy of whooper swans wander across the snowy landscape of Hokkaido photographed by Nicola Billows during the NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Photography HolidayA pair of whooper swans wander across the snowy landscape of Hokkaido photographed by Nicola Billows during the NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Photography HolidayA solitary whooper swan isolated within the snowy landscape of Hokkaido photographed by Nicola Billows during the NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Photography Holiday Continue reading

Winter Wildlife in Japan – Red Crowned Cranes

High in the air, a duo of red crowned cranes perform their dance on the snowy landscape of Hokkaido photographed by Nicola Billows during the NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Photography Holiday

Red-Crowned Cranes – the most regal aspect of Winter Wildlife in Japan

In the first of our series of blog posts on Winter Wildlife in Japan, Nicola (Billows), one of our guests on our recent Japanese Winter Wildlife tour has very kindly sent us some of her favourite images to share with you.  This first blog post showcases the regal Red-Crowned Cranes.  These beautiful birds are among the largest of the crane family. They are so named because of a patch of bare, red skin on the crown, which gets brighter during the mating season.

The early morning sight at one of the red crowned crane roosting sites photographed by Nicola Billows during the NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Photography Holiday A pair of Red Crowned Cranes in the snowy Hokkaido landscape photographed by Nicola Billows during the NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Photography Holiday Continue reading

2017 – Japanese Winter Wildlife tour

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Winter Wildlife Photography Tour in Japan

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THIS EVENT IS NOW FULL – PLEASE VIEW THIS PAGE TO RESERVE A PLACE ON THE 2018 PHOTOGRAPHY HOLIDAY

Imagine travelling through a winter landscape in a country heavy with tradition, where you can encounter & photograph entrancing snow monkeys, beautiful dancing red-crowned cranes, dreamlike swans on a snow covered frozen lake plus both Steller’s & White Tailed Sea Eagles on drifting pack ice, this is exactly what the NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Tour offers. Our trip also accommodates chance encounters with Ural OwlsRed Foxes & more native wildlife. Commencing in Tokyo & meeting at Narita Airport, the NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Tour first travels to the Jigokudani Valley, to photograph the monkeys of “Hell’s Valley”, where steam & boiling water bubbles from small crevices in the frozen ground, surrounded by steep cliffs & formidably cold & hostile forests. Whilst we stay in the town of Yudanaka, our target is to photograph the Japanese Macaques (Macaca fuscata), more commonly referred to as Snow Monkeys, that descend from the steep cliffs & forest to sit in the warm waters of the onsen or hot springs. The monkeys return to the security of the forests in the evenings. We will spend two full days in the valley. You will have the opportunity to photograph the monkeys in the onsen, or at play in the valley below the main area where intimate mother & baby shots are easily achieved. It is without a doubt a harsh environment in the winter months with snow on the ground for a third of the year, but the hot springs make it a paradise for the several of hundred monkeys that live in the valley & the surrounding forests. Whilst at the onsen or the valley, the monkeys simply ignore the photographers & simply get on with whatever it is they want to be doing. Young Snow Monkey in snow photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour From Yudanaka, our Japanese winter wildlife tour returns briefly to Tokyo, then travels onwards to the island of Hokkaido. Hokkaido is the second largest, northernmost & least developed of Japan’s four main islands. Its weather is harsh in winter with lots of snowfall, below zero temperatures & frozen seas. Snow Monkey in snow photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour Our first main location is Akan National Park which is located in eastern Hokkaido. The park is well known for its three beautiful lakes: Lake Akan, Lake Mashu & Lake Kussharo. Akan National Park is composed of two separate parts. The smaller, western portion contains Lake Akan with the lakeside hot spring resort of Akankohan Onsen. The larger, eastern part contains Lake Mashu, Lake Kussharo, Iozan (Sulfur Mountain) & centrally located Kawayu Onsen. Japanese Cranes in snow photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour We stay in Akan for at least two full days of photography, at this location the  focus is on photography of the red-crowned cranes; Red-crowned Cranes are the only crane species that have white primary feathers. Adult forehead & crown are covered with bare red skin, & a large white band extends from behind the eyes & meets sharply with the black lower neck. The majority of the body is pure white with the exception of black secondary & tertiary feathers. Eyes are black & legs are slatey to grayish black. Males & females are virtually indistinguishable, although males tend to be slightly larger in size. Red-crowned cranes form flocks in winter but otherwise live in pairs. Once mated the pair will stay together for life. The crane has one of the most beautiful dances in the bird world; these dances help to strengthen the bond between the mated pair. Japanese Red Crowned Crane in snow photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour We will visit a number of crane sites at varying times of the day from sunrise through to sunset, with the intention of watching & photographing the cranes perform their intricate courtship dances; the birds bow to one another, then throw their heads over their backs, then bow again. The pair leaps into the air, at the same time raising their wings. The Red-crowned Cranes’ unison dance is a ritual the pair will perform together many times over the years, to strengthen their lifelong bond. Lake Kussharo is a caldera lake in Akan National Park, eastern Hokkaidō, Japan. As with many geographic names in Hokkaidō, the name derives from the Ainu language. It is the largest caldera lake in Japan in terms of surface area, & sixth largest lake in Japan. It is also the largest lake in Japan to freeze over completely in winter. The lake’s central island, Nakajima, is a composite volcano. Volcanic gases render the lake water acidic, & it supports few fish except in areas where inflowing streams dilute the water. The lake is on the migratory path of the whooper swan. Swan spreads its wings on Lake Kussharo photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour Swan in snow on Lake Kussharo photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour We spend two days at the various swan locations, undertaking photography of these beautiful birds at the various calderas around which they gather. In addition some amazing opportunities are presented for in flight, taking off & resting on ice shots, all within a dreamlike landscape. The area is rich with other wildlife, much of which we will spend time at leisure attempting to locate & photograph – this includes red squirrels, red fox & a particular favourite in the form of the roosting Ural Owls. Lake Kussharo Swan in snow photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour Swan on Lake Kussahro photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour From Lake Kussharo, the Japanese winter wildlife tour moves onto Rausu; Rausu is a small coastal fishing town, with a small population of approximately 6,500. Located on the Shiretoko Peninsula , it is the most northeasterly town in Japan. During the winter months the population of Steller’s Sea Eagles & White-tailed Sea Eagles hunt for fish on the pack ice, which drifts down from the Sea of Okhotsk in Russia. We will stay in Rausu for several nights, during which we will take advantage of the tour boats that operate from Rausu harbour. These boats are without a doubt the best manner in which to see these stunning birds. White Tailed Sea Eagle sitting on drifting pack ice on Japan photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour White Tailed Sea Eagle prparing to land on drifting pack ice photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour Steller's Sea Eagles on drifting pack ice in Japan photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour The Steller’s Sea Eagle is the heaviest eagle in the world. It breeds in northeastern Russia & winters further south, reaching Hokkaido where it spends its days hunting for fish around the pack ice. Packs or clusters of these immense birds gather in Rausu harbour & out on the pack ice waiting for the fish that the tour boats provide. The White-tailed Sea Eagle is another large eagle, closely related to the North American Bald Eagle. It is more widespread than Steller’s & breeds across northern Europe & Asia, & is a year round resident of Hokkaido. White Tailed Sea Eagle landing on drifting pack ice in Japan photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour Steller's Sea Eagle preparing to land on drifting pack ice in Japan photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour The NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Tour includes three days of photographing the impressive sea eagles, with a 5am & 9am cruises each day. The afternoon of each day is free for rest or photo advice & critique; however, one evening at least will be devoted to photographing the Blakiston’s Fish Owl from a local hide. The Blakiston’s Fish Owl is the largest living species of owl, it is in fact a large eagle owl, with a wingspan that can reach up to two metres long. Blakiston’s fish owl is found in Siberia, northeast China & the island of Hokkaido in Japan which is why the photographic opportunity afforded here is to be grasped, that said, the evening photography is harsh & adequate preparation is required. Additionally on the tour, we will include visits to a sea eagle feeding site on a frozen lake, this provides some amazing opportunities for shots of interaction between the sea eagles of both types, plus black-eared kites. The photographic opportunities afforded for bird in flights shots are equally excellent. White Tailed Sea Eagle soars in the sky above a frozen lake in Japan photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour Upon leaving Hokkaido, our tour to photograph Japan Snow Monkeys And Hokkaido’s wildlife will return to Narita airport, have a brief overnight stop in a local hotel near to the airport & from there depart homeward bound.

NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Tour Outline Itinerary

Available upon booking the tour & placing a deposit.

Single Supplement

No single supplement payable

Workshop Availability

THIS EVENT IS NOW FULL – PLEASE VIEW THIS PAGE TO RESERVE A PLACE ON THE 2018 PHOTOGRAPHY HOLIDAY

Recommended Equipment

Available upon booking the tour & placing a deposit.

Additional Notes

[su_disclaimer_tour participants=”3″] This Japanese Winter Wildlife Tour cost includes accommodation, breakfastentrance fees to parks, feeding stations & nature tour boat trips at Rausu, all transport to & from Japanese airports & within Japan – excluding flights. The NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Tour cost specifically excludes all flights, both international & domestic, alcohol & other items of a personal nature. A non-refundable deposit of £700 is required to secure a place on this trip with the balance being due 12 weeks prior to departure (mid-November 2016).

Booking Form

THIS EVENT IS NOW FULL – PLEASE CONTACT US TO RESERVE A PLACE ON OUR 2018 TRIP

One place left to join me in a Winter Wonderland

A blanket of white as far as the eye can see. Fat flakes lazily tumble down to create the illusion that you are actually sitting inside a snow globe. Across a land that lies heavy with tradition, an abundance of wildlife thrives. Snow monkeys bathing in the onsen, beautiful red crowned cranes seem to dance in the air, while Steller’s Sea Eagles & White Tailed Sea Eagles drift on pack ice. See it all with the NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Holiday.

One of the Steller's Sea Eagles photographed on the NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Photography Holiday

The headline features of the NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Holiday, are as follows:

  • To be conducted between the dates of February 11, 2017 – February 24, 2017.
  • Lead by David Miles.
  • Capture images of the Red Crowned Cranes, Snow Monkeys, Stellers Sea Eagles, White Tailed Sea Eagles & Whooper Swans! 
  • Three days of photographing the impressive Stellers & White-Tailed sea eagles, with a 5am & 9am cruises each day whilst on Hokkaido.
  • Photography at a sea eagle feeding site on a frozen lake, this provides some amazing opportunities for shots of interaction between the sea eagles of both types, plus black-eared kites
  • Like most of our tours – No single supplement!
  • Easy flights into & out of Tokyo.
  • All airport transfers, accommodation, meals on a half-board basis & activities whilst in Japan are included.
  • Tuition on an as-needed basis from David.

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Japanese Winter Wildlife tour

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Winter Wildlife Photography Tour in Japan

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Imagine travelling through a winter landscape in a country heavy with tradition, where you can encounter & photograph entrancing snow monkeys, beautiful dancing red-crowned cranes, dreamlike swans on a snow covered frozen lake plus both Steller’s & White Tailed Sea Eagles on drifting pack ice, this is exactly what the NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Tour offers. Our trip also accommodates chance encounters with Ural OwlsRed Foxes & more native wildlife. Commencing in Tokyo & meeting at Narita Airport, the NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Tour first travels to the Jigokudani Valley, to photograph the monkeys of “Hell’s Valley”, where steam & boiling water bubbles from small crevices in the frozen ground, surrounded by steep cliffs & formidably cold & hostile forests. Whilst we stay in the town of Yudanaka, our target is to photograph the Japanese Macaques (Macaca fuscata), more commonly referred to as Snow Monkeys, that descend from the steep cliffs & forest to sit in the warm waters of the onsen or hot springs. The monkeys return to the security of the forests in the evenings. We will spend two full days in the valley. You will have the opportunity to photograph the monkeys in the onsen, or at play in the valley below the main area where intimate mother & baby shots are easily achieved. It is without a doubt a harsh environment in the winter months with snow on the ground for a third of the year, but the hot springs make it a paradise for the several of hundred monkeys that live in the valley & the surrounding forests. Whilst at the onsen or the valley, the monkeys simply ignore the photographers & simply get on with whatever it is they want to be doing. Young Snow Monkey in snow photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour From Yudanaka, our Japanese winter wildlife tour returns briefly to Tokyo, then travels onwards to the island of Hokkaido. Hokkaido is the second largest, northernmost & least developed of Japan’s four main islands. Its weather is harsh in winter with lots of snowfall, below zero temperatures & frozen seas. Snow Monkey in snow photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour Our first main location is Akan National Park which is located in eastern Hokkaido. The park is well known for its three beautiful lakes: Lake Akan, Lake Mashu & Lake Kussharo. Akan National Park is composed of two separate parts. The smaller, western portion contains Lake Akan with the lakeside hot spring resort of Akankohan Onsen. The larger, eastern part contains Lake Mashu, Lake Kussharo, Iozan (Sulfur Mountain) & centrally located Kawayu Onsen. Japanese Cranes in snow photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour We stay in Akan for at least two full days of photography, at this location the  focus is on photography of the red-crowned cranes; Red-crowned Cranes are the only crane species that have white primary feathers. Adult forehead & crown are covered with bare red skin, & a large white band extends from behind the eyes & meets sharply with the black lower neck. The majority of the body is pure white with the exception of black secondary & tertiary feathers. Eyes are black & legs are slatey to grayish black. Males & females are virtually indistinguishable, although males tend to be slightly larger in size. Red-crowned cranes form flocks in winter but otherwise live in pairs. Once mated the pair will stay together for life. The crane has one of the most beautiful dances in the bird world; these dances help to strengthen the bond between the mated pair. Japanese Red Crowned Crane in snow photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour We will visit a number of crane sites at varying times of the day from sunrise through to sunset, with the intention of watching & photographing the cranes perform their intricate courtship dances; the birds bow to one another, then throw their heads over their backs, then bow again. The pair leaps into the air, at the same time raising their wings. The Red-crowned Cranes’ unison dance is a ritual the pair will perform together many times over the years, to strengthen their lifelong bond. Lake Kussharo is a caldera lake in Akan National Park, eastern Hokkaidō, Japan. As with many geographic names in Hokkaidō, the name derives from the Ainu language. It is the largest caldera lake in Japan in terms of surface area, & sixth largest lake in Japan. It is also the largest lake in Japan to freeze over completely in winter. The lake’s central island, Nakajima, is a composite volcano. Volcanic gases render the lake water acidic, & it supports few fish except in areas where inflowing streams dilute the water. The lake is on the migratory path of the whooper swan. Swan spreads its wings on Lake Kussharo photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour Swan in snow on Lake Kussharo photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour We spend two days at the various swan locations, undertaking photography of these beautiful birds at the various calderas around which they gather. In addition some amazing opportunities are presented for in flight, taking off & resting on ice shots, all within a dreamlike landscape. The area is rich with other wildlife, much of which we will spend time at leisure attempting to locate & photograph – this includes red squirrels, red fox & a particular favourite in the form of the roosting Ural Owls. Lake Kussharo Swan in snow photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour Swan on Lake Kussahro photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour From Lake Kussharo, the Japanese winter wildlife tour moves onto Rausu; Rausu is a small coastal fishing town, with a small population of approximately 6,500. Located on the Shiretoko Peninsula , it is the most northeasterly town in Japan. During the winter months the population of Steller’s Sea Eagles & White-tailed Sea Eagles hunt for fish on the pack ice, which drifts down from the Sea of Okhotsk in Russia. We will stay in Rausu for several nights, during which we will take advantage of the tour boats that operate from Rausu harbour. These boats are without a doubt the best manner in which to see these stunning birds. White Tailed Sea Eagle sitting on drifting pack ice on Japan photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour White Tailed Sea Eagle prparing to land on drifting pack ice photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour Steller's Sea Eagles on drifting pack ice in Japan photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour The Steller’s Sea Eagle is the heaviest eagle in the world. It breeds in northeastern Russia & winters further south, reaching Hokkaido where it spends its days hunting for fish around the pack ice. Packs or clusters of these immense birds gather in Rausu harbour & out on the pack ice waiting for the fish that the tour boats provide. The White-tailed Sea Eagle is another large eagle, closely related to the North American Bald Eagle. It is more widespread than Steller’s & breeds across northern Europe & Asia, & is a year round resident of Hokkaido. White Tailed Sea Eagle landing on drifting pack ice in Japan photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour Steller's Sea Eagle preparing to land on drifting pack ice in Japan photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour The NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Tour includes three days of photographing the impressive sea eagles, with a 5am & 9am cruises each day. The afternoon of each day is free for rest or photo advice & critique; however, one evening at least will be devoted to photographing the Blakiston’s Fish Owl from a local hide. The Blakiston’s Fish Owl is the largest living species of owl, it is in fact a large eagle owl, with a wingspan that can reach up to two metres long. Blakiston’s fish owl is found in Siberia, northeast China & the island of Hokkaido in Japan which is why the photographic opportunity afforded here is to be grasped, that said, the evening photography is harsh & adequate preparation is required. Additionally on the tour, we will include visits to a sea eagle feeding site on a frozen lake, this provides some amazing opportunities for shots of interaction between the sea eagles of both types, plus black-eared kites. The photographic opportunities afforded for bird in flights shots are equally excellent. White Tailed Sea Eagle soars in the sky above a frozen lake in Japan photographed on a Japanese Winter Wildlife tour Upon leaving Hokkaido, our tour to photograph Japan Snow Monkeys And Hokkaido’s wildlife will return to Narita airport, have a brief overnight stop in a local hotel near to the airport & from there depart homeward bound.

NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Tour Outline Itinerary

Available upon booking the tour & placing a deposit.

Workshop Availability

Bookings closed

Recommended Equipment

Available upon booking the tour & placing a deposit.

Additional Notes

[su_disclaimer_tour participants=”2″] Since many of the hotels that this Japanese Winter Wildlife Tour will be making use of are small, accommodation is on a twin room basis. This Japanese Winter Wildlife Tour cost includes accommodation, breakfastentrance fees to parks, feeding stations & nature tour boat trips at Rausu, all transport to & from Japanese airports & within Japan – excluding flights. The NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Tour cost specifically excludes all flights, both international & domestic, alcohol & other items of a personal nature. A non-refundable deposit of £700 is required to secure a place on this trip with the balance being due 12 weeks prior to departure (mid-November 2014).

Booking Form

If you are interested in joining us on this photographic holiday of a lifetime, please complete the form below, one of us will get in touch with you to discuss the trip in further detail, including the itinerary, the recommended camera equipment & the nuances of photography in the snow.

Bookings closed