Experience the hidden local culture of northern Japan

Eastern Hokkaido self-guided 8 Days

Starting from USD2505 / 8 days

Eastern Hokkaido self-guided 8 Days

Experience the hidden local culture of northern Japan



  • Bathe in some of Japan's best hot-spring Onsen on every evening
  • Enjoy the varied and delicious cuisine unique to the island
  • Learn about Hokkaio's native Ainu culture through local cultural experiences
  • Experience the picturesque UNESCO-certified Shiretoko, nature-rich Lake Akan area and iconic Io sulphur rocks at Kawayu Onsen
  • Undertake optional canoeing, cycling and walking to see local Hokkaido from a different angle

Hokkaido 北海道, traditionally known as Ezo, is the largest and northernmost Japanese prefecture. Japan's second-largest island retains a wonderfully remote wilderness, quite distinct from mainland Japan, featuring distinct wildlife, lush and varied nature, delicious local cuisine and some of the finest Onsen spa bathing in the whole of Japan. Visiting the remote towns and villages of Eastern Hokkaido, our self-guided cultural tour also offers an insight into the indigenous Ainu people and their culture, a race who travelled to this northern territory from Siberia over 2,000 years ago.

Begin from Kushiro to the south-east of Hokkaido and first head to Akan Onsen; a great base location to undertake local activities including canoeing and to learn about the Ainu culture through traditional experiences. Head on to another geothermal region in Kawayu Onsen, famous for its iconic yellow Io sulhpur rocks. Arrive at Shiretoko Peninsula nearing very northernmost Japan, with yet more excellent Onsen bathing opportunities culminating in some of the most picturesque scenary along the Sea of Okhotsk. Finish in Abashiri nearby, with optional cycling opportunities, and the location of a fascinating museum dedicated to northern cultures and tribes in Japan and beyond, featuring traditional items such as tools and garbs of native Ainu and other northern cultures.

The unique seasonality of Hokkaido, from gorgeous summer flowers to postcard perfect white winters makes this experience enjoyable throughout the year. With all activities being optional and flexible, the adventure is perfect for couples looking for a unique get-away, families, budding photographers and those looking for an active and varied multi-sport trip.

What's Included

  • 7 nights at Japanese Onsen accommodations
  • 7 breakfasts and 7 dinners
  • Pre-bookable transfers and train tickets where required
  • Tickets to an Ainu traditional dance performance (available much of the year)
  • Canoeing with a fully-trained local instructor
  • Pre-booked tickets for a unique boat ride to areas of the Shiretoko UNESCO area inaccessible overland
  • Detailed day-by-day itinerary and local support by telephone

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Airport transfer on Day 1 (paid for on the bus)
  • Pay locally for drinks with meals and for lunches
  • Pay locally for optional rental bicycles and museum entry


Itinerary Map
Day 1 - Arrive in Akan Onsen

Arrive into Kushiro Airport and travel to Akan Onsen by transfer shuttle for your first evening on Hokkaido island.

Depending on your arrival time, there may be opportunity to explore the local village shops in Akan before dinner at your accommodation.

Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn) or Hotel in Akan Onsen
Meals: Dinner

Day 2 - A day of exploration at Lake Akan

This morning visit the Akanko Ainu Kotan Village to learn about the history and culture of Hokkaido's indigenous inhabitants, the Ainu. Watch a traditional dance performance, officially recognised as an important feature of Japan’s cultural heritage.

Later in the day, see a different side of Lake Akan by boat, with a local canoeing experience.

Return to your Onsen accommodation for a second night.

Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn) or Hotel in Akan Onsen
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 3 - Travel to Kawayu Onsen and visit Mount Io

Head onwards from Akan Onsen towards Kawayu Onsen, where you will spend the evening, by pre-arranged transfer and train. Enroute, take in the iconic yellow Io sulphur rocks at Mount Io; an active volcano with plumes of sulphur emanating from over 1,500 fumaroles covering its slopes.

Known as ‘Seseki-petsu’ in the traditional Ainu language, which translates as ‘hot river flowing through the village’, Kawayu Onsen features some of the most famous geothermal waters of Hokkaido and wider Japan.

Overnight at a traditional Onsen Ryokan in this small town.

Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn) in Kawayu Onsen
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 4 - Travel to Utoro Onsen and the UNESCO-certified Shiretoko Peninsula

Travel by train and bus to the hot-spring town of Utoro Onsen to the north east of Hokkaido, which is the entrance to the Shiretoko Peninsula in the north. Using a local accommodation with fantastic Onsen baths and delicious regional cuisine, this is a perfect location to explore the wider region.

In favourable weather, later in the day take a unique boat ride on the Sea of Okhotsk to areas of the Shiretoko UNESCO area inaccessible overland (if the cruise is not possible today, there is ample time in the region to do this later).

Accommodation: Onsen (Hot-spring) inn in Utoro Onsen
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 5 - Hike along the Shiretoko Five Lake trail

Undertake an optional walk along the Shiretoko Five Lake trails - a scenic, varied 3.3km flat hike around the lakes, ending with spectacluar coastal views out over the Sea of Okhotsk.

Overnight nearby at an Onsen inn netled in the Shiretoko mountains.

Accommodation: Onsen (Hot-spring) inn in Shiretoko
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6 - Travel west to Abashiri

Head onwards to Abashiri by bus and train.

There is further opportunity to explore Shiretoko, or if you head straight on to Abashiri, there is also the chance to rent bicycles here to explore the wider region.

If weather has precluded your boat ride on the previous day, today is another opportunity to see the dramatic, stunning rock formations along the coastline of Shiretoko in the morning before heading on.

Accommodation: Onsen (Hot-spring) inn or Hotel in Abashiri
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 7 - One final day of sightseeing in Abashiri

On your last full day in Eastern Hokkaido, take time to explore the town of Abashiri. Visit the Museum of Northern People to learn about the Ainu and other tribes inhabiting the northern territories. With a history stretching back over 2,000 years to the time of their arrival in Hokkaido from Siberia, the Ainu are an indigenous people of Japan and Russia.

In warmer seasons, it is possible to rent bicycles and cycle the coastline to Cape Notoro, a dramatic viewing spot beside one of Japan's northernmost lighthouses; a scene which has set the stage for countless film and television productions.

Spend one final night at your Onsen inn before flying out of Memanbetsu Airport tomorrow morning.

Accommodation: Onsen (Hot-spring) inn or Hotel in Abashiri
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Tour 8 - Tour ends at Memanbetsu

After breakfast, head onwards by pre-arranged transfer and bus to Memanbetsu airport where the tour ends.

Meals: Breakast


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