Snow Monkeys

Snow Monkeys & Cranes of Japan with Mark Brazil

18 days
Activity level:
Activity Rating - Moderate
Trip code: 
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Wildlife Holidays
Group size:

Explore Japan and see the nation's famous birdlife & snow monkeys

Extraordinary wildlife awaits on this Japanese adventure. As we explore islands from Hokkaido to Kyushu, you will enjoy sprawling cities, bright blue lakes, and active volcanoes in some of Japan’s lesser-visited beauty spots. The main event is of course the cranes and snow monkeys that call this wonderful set of islands home.

Your guide, Dr. Mark Andrew Brazil is a conservationist, author, and journalist, particularly noted for his work on east Asian birds.


  • Witness nearly 14,000 hooded and white-naped cranes in Arasaki, Kyushu.
  • Visit the enchanting, snow-enveloped village of Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the tall, gable-roofed Gassho-Zukuri architecture, which literally means "hands folded in prayer," is unique in Japan.
  • Observe the celebrated spectacle of the snow monkeys that visit and soak in the thermal baths of Jigokudani, and enjoy the therapeutic properties of the hot springs at our lodge.
  • Watch magnificent Steller's eagles and graceful whooper swans at lakes along the coasts of east Hokkaido, and search for the world's largest owl—Blakiston's fish owl. 
  • Led by Expedition Leader & Orthinologist, Mark Brazil

Key information

  • 18 days travelling across Japan
  • Internal flights included
  • Maximum 14 guests

  • Countries visited: Japan, Asia

What's included

  • All breakfasts, lunches and dinners (including selected beverages with lunches and dinners)
  • All accommodation
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Domestic airfares within Japan
  • Specialist wildlife expedition leader 
  • Gratuities for tour leader, local guides, drivers and other contributions
  • Arrival and departure transfers on trip start/end dates (Arrival transfers from Tokyo Narita to hotel & all departure tranfers must be requested and pre-booked with Exodus before departure)

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (limited and available on request/not available on two nights of the tour)
  • Visas or vaccinations
  • Excess baggage charges
Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for private group trips:
020 8772 3936
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 


  • Day 1

    Arrive Tokyo

    Welcome to Tokyo! Today you will meet your English-speaking tour guide at the Haneda Excel Hotel Tokyo at 7pm for a welcome briefing, followed by a group welcome dinner, and the chance to get a good night's rest before our journey to Kyushu the next day.

    Haneda Excel Hotel Tokyu (Tokyo Haneda)

    Meals included: Dinner
  • Day 2

    Tokyo / Kagoshima / Kirishima

    A morning flight takes you to Kyushu Island. From Kagoshima, drive through wooded hills into the Kirishima-Yaku National Park. Visit the ancient Kirishima Shrine and walk through the beautiful mature laurel forests around Lake Miike to observe resident forest birds and wintering waterfowl. Dinner and overnight at a hot spring hotel in Kirishima. 

    Ryokojin Sanso (Kirishima, Kyushu)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 3

    Arasaki Crane Reserve

    The fallow rice paddies around the coastal village of Arasaki are the site of a spectacular winter gathering of Asian cranes. The sights and sounds of nearly 14,000 hooded and white-naped cranes make this one of the most powerful wildlife experiences one can hope for, and a photographer’s dream. Overnight at Hotel Sengokutei for the next two nights.

    Hotel Sengokutei (Izumi, Kyushu)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 4

    Arasaki Crane Reserve

    Rise early to visit the main concentration of cranes to witness their mass departure from the roost at dawn. After breakfast, explore the surrounding fields to photograph adults and juveniles and search for other wintering birds.

    Hotel Sengokutei (Izumi, Kyushu)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 5

    Arasaki Crane Reserve / Nagoya / Shirakawa-go / Takayama

    Leave Kyushu on an early morning flight for the snowy mountains of central Honshu. Visit the village of Shirakawa-go, located in an isolated, steep, mountainous area of the Sho River Valley. This World Heritage Site showcases the unique architectural style of houses that resemble hands folded in prayer. Overnight in Takayama.

    Hotel Associa Takayama Resort (Takayama, Honshu)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 6

    Takayama / Kambayashi Onsen

    This morning explore the historical town of Takayama, visiting saké breweries and miso stores, before continuing by road to Matsumotos to visit the historical castle, ending at Kambayashi Onsen. Here you have the extraordinary opportunity to watch and photograph snow monkeys. Your ryokan, or inn, for the next three nights features an attractive and artistic interior and a delightful garden. With its own onsen (natural thermal spring), you are able to emulate generations of Japanese people (and the monkeys!) and enjoy a relaxing and therapeutic soak in the mineral waters.

    Senjukaku Inn (Kambayashi Onsen, Honshu)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Days 7-8

    Kambayashi Onsen / Jigokudani

    Jigokudani is a steep-sided valley set amid forested mountains. After breakfast walk along the mile-long trail to the viewing area and spend the day observing and photographing the resident troop of Japanese macaques as they feed nearby and soak in their very own thermal pool. Also keep a lookout for the shy and elusive Japanese serow, and birds such as the brown dipper and alpine accentor.

    Senjukaku Inn (Kambayashi Onsen, Honshu)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 9

    Kambayashi Onsen / Tokyo / Kushiro

    Today drive across Honshu and then fly from Tokyo to Kushiro. Arriving in eastern Hokkaido, more wildlife spectacles await—huge numbers of red-crowned cranes, flocks of whooper swans, magnificent Steller’s eagles, and possibly Eurasian red squirrels, Japanese deer, and red foxes. Overnight at a family-run hot spring hotel in Tsurui-mura for the next three nights. 

    Minshuku Taito (Tsurui Mura, Hokkaido)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Days 10-11

    Kushiro Region

    In snowy east Hokkaido, visit several areas to view red-crowned cranes. You can expect to see large flocks of these magnificent birds at ranges down to 100 feet or less. Greeting ceremonies and courtship dances involve leaps and pirouettes, posturing, and trumpeting cries. Such behavior can be infectious, spreading through the flocks in waves, and oftentimes dozens of cranes leap and trumpet together in a thrilling display. 

    Minshuku Taito (Tsurui Mura, Hokkaido)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Days 12-13

    Akan-Mashu National Park

    Akan-Mashu National Park is geothermally rich and over two days you will explore a variety of visually stunning subjects—volcanic peaks, steaming sulphuroles, Hokkaido’s most scenic crater lake, and flocks of whooper swans. In the evening, retreat to your delightful lakeside pension for a gourmet meal.

    Please note: single supplements are not available at Pension Papilio and rooming is based on twin share (single supplement guests will be sharing with another group member of the same gender on these two nights).

    Pension Papilio (Kawayu, Akan, Hokkaido)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 14

    Rausu, Shiretoko Peninsula

    Today drive to the Shiretoko Peninsula, another of Japan’s World Heritage Sites. This rugged, mountainous finger of land attracts white-tailed and Steller’s eagles, truly immense birds, half again as big as the bald eagle. Weather permitting, visit the edge of the sea ice by boat and lure these impressive raptors with fish scraps. Tonight stay at a local inn overlooking the sea.

    Rausukur (Rausu, Hokkaido)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 15

    Shiretoko Peninsula / Yoroushi

    Depart early this morning for a second opportunity to watch the eagles at the ice edge. Following breakfast continue your exploration of eastern Hokkaido, first along the Shiretoko Peninsula for more views of winter wildfowl and raptors, and to watch for foxes, deer, and seals (sightings of Steller’s sea lion and harbor seal are possible), and keep a look out for sea-urchin harvesters. Then head south to your accommodations inland at Yoroushi where you will spend two nights.

    Yuyado Daiichi (Yoroushi, Hokkaido)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 16


    Today explore the scenery of the southeast coast of Hokkaido, where there are more chances to encounter deer and foxes, as well as wintering swans, ducks, and raptors. Time permitting, learn how mochi, a type of Japanese rice cake, is created. 

     Yuyado Daiichi (Yoroushi, Hokkaido)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 17

    Yoroushi / Kushiro / Tokyo

    After breakfast drive back to Kushiro for your flight south to Tokyo. Pause for your last glimpses of cranes and views of Kushiro marsh before saying farewell to Japan’s wildest island, Hokkaido. Overnight at the The Okura Tokyo, with a special farewell dinner.

    The Okura Tokyo (Tokyo, Honshu)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 18

    Depart Toyko

    Wave goodbye to the rest of the group and board your flight home.

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info



Most nationalities do not require a visa to visit Japan. South African passport holders do require a visa; but it is worth all nationalities verifying visa requirements directly at your embassy before travel.



There are no specific health risks.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts, lunches and dinners included. Selected beverages are included with lunch and dinner.

You will be able to sample a wide range of Japanese and east Asian food through the tour.

 The world-renowned Japanese cuisine is one of the many highlights of this trip. Meals will be “omakase” (chef’s choice), and while there will be great diversity and food is presented in generous quantities, it is difficult, if not impossible, away from the major cities, for our hosts to cater to individual food preferences. (Please note that neither vegan nor Kosher food is available.) If you have any severe food allergies, it is essential that we be notified at the time of your initial booking to see if these can be catered for.


Winter weather in Japan is variable. It will be cool in Kyushu, with temperatures ranging from the 40sºF to mid-50sºF (4°–13°C). The mountains of central Honshu, where there is a chance of snow, will be colder. Hokkaido, the northernmost large island, typically has a dry, crisp, and cold winter with powder snow. The coldest temperatures we have experienced during our winter journeys in Hokkaido have been as low as -10ºF (-23.5°C). The overnight temperatures regularly fall to 3ºF (-16°C) or below.

Is this trip for you?

This is a wildlife watching tour that involves being out in the field from dawn until dusk on several days to maximize opportunities for wildlife sightings. It has been designed for those who already have an appreciation of wildlife, or those who would like to learn more. For most activities, a moderate level of exertion is required. Participants should be in general good health, able to hike one to two miles over uneven and rough terrain, in the snow and ice, and stand during excursions. Binoculars will be essential equipment for all your wildlife observations during this program.

Several of our overnight stops will require sleeping on futons, and at some accommodation en suite bathrooms are a dream of the future. At the end of the day, sleeping on futons and wrestling with chopsticks are all part of the Japanese experience and will be great fun if you are willing to embrace cultural differences.

Following a review of all our trips we have categorised this trip as generally not suitable for persons of reduced mobility. However if you are a regular traveller on such trips, please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for private group trips:
020 8772 3936
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.


Hotels & Traditional Accommodation

Haneda Excel Hotel Tokyu
Haneda Excel Hotel Tokyu

Accommodation is primarily high standard in major cities, while in some of the rural areas our accommodation is more rustic. Some of our overnight stays will involve sleeping in tatami mat rooms on traditional, Japanese futon—mattresses stored during the day and brought out at night for sleeping. Inns that use this style of bedding are traditional, often incorporating appealing elements of elegant architecture and fine Japanese cuisine.

Traditional accommodation (ryokans/minshukus/inns), whilst comfortable and full of local character, do not run along the same lines as western hotels and do all have their own unique style; some are more like Japanese B&B's (minshukus) with a homestay/guesthouse feel and guests make their own Japanese style beds up, whilst others are managed more like a standard hotel (typical ryokans) with bedding made up for guests. In addition, most accomodation throughout this itinerary will have en suite toilets and hand basins, but use traditional hot spring baths instead of en suite showers. Please be advised, whilst females and males will be have access to separate gender specific bathrooms, inside showering and bathing facilities can lack the level of privacy you would be used to in a western style shared bathroom.

Wi-Fi is available at most of our accommodation, though often only in public spaces.

Please note, in Japan, western hotel room sizes in standard hotels are normally smaller in size and if requesting a double bed, please be advised that these can be smaller in size than western double bed sizes so couples may prefer twin beds.

Please be advised that the accommodation listed in the day to day itinerary are the standard accommodations used. In the unlikely event of other accommodation needing to be arranged, Exodus will secure alternative accommodation of suitable and similar standard.

Single supplements

Please be advised single supplements are limited and is payable at the time of booking and subject to availability. In Japan, often single supplements can be accommodated in either an actual single and/or double for sole use room in hotels. 

For 2 nights of the trip (day 12-13) in Kawayu, Hokkaido, single supplements are not available at Pension Papilio and rooming is based on twin share (single supplement guests will be sharing with another group member of the same gender on these two nights).


Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for private group trips:
020 8772 3936
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

Have you been on this adventure? Tell others what it’s like by writing a review.

Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.


What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.


2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.


3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.


 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 


Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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