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Once the frontier of Japan, the spirit of pioneering still remains in Hokkaido and its people. The island offers a more rustic journey than the bustling metropolises on Honshu. Considered by some to be the most beautiful place in Asia, this itinerary allows you to see this beauty for yourself.
Enjoy independent travel but not the hassle of planning? One of our Independent Tours could be just the ticket. Carefully put together by our team of specialists, our excellent collection of sample itineraries are designed to inform and inspire your next Japan adventure. Every one of our Independent Tours is fully tailor made for you, ensuring your trip is everything you want it to be.
It’s quite straight forward to travel independently in Japan. We will provide just the right amount of support and logistical planning to make you feel comfortable in a very foreign land. These itineraries are available for any departure date (with a few exclusions which coincide with Japanese National Holidays and some weekends). We’ll do all the work for you and provide you with an information pack to make your trip run smoothly. You can also add guided tours as indicated and if you do want your own personal guide we can arrange this too.
Day 1: Arrive in Japan
Welcome to Japan. Our friendly Meet & Greet service representative will be waiting in the Arrivals lobby in Narita Airport (Tokyo) and will direct you to the Narita Express train or limousine bus bound for Tokyo. Check into your clean and comfortable hotel in Tokyo for 2 nights on a bed & breakfast basis.
Day 2: Tokyo
Your options are unlimited in this incredible city. Explore Tokyo’s past in the bustling, traditional Asakusa district, visit the world’s largest fish market at Tsukiji, shop in the fashionable districts of Shibuya and Harajuku and dine on Japan’s finest cuisine. Tokyo is relatively straightforward to navigate, and our Information Pack will make travelling around the city a breeze.
Optional guided excursion
Enjoy a full day of sightseeing by coach in Tokyo, with lunch included. Your guide will show you the highlights of this vast metropolis, from the Imperial Palace and serene Meiji Shrine to the ‘Electric City’ of Akihabara.
Day 3: Tokyo to Hakodate
Fly from Tokyo to Hakodate (flights to be arranged by you). Our friendly Meet and Greet service representative will be waiting in the arrivals lobby at Hakodate Airport, and will direct you to the Limousine Bus service that takes you to your hotel. You will stay in a superbly furnished hotel for 3 nights.
Day 4: Hakodate
Take in all that lovely Hakodate has to offer. Start your day with a visit to the lively seafood market. Then travel to the Goryokaku Star Fort, and be sure to see the view from the top of Goryokaku Tower. Enjoy a delicious burger or curry in one of the many Lucky Pierrot restaurants (a Hakodate exclusive) for lunch. In the afternoon, explore the streets of Motomachi District. Being the first Japanese city to open to trade from overseas, fine architecture from across the globe can be found here, a particularly prominent spectacle is the Russian Orthodox Church. As the sun sets, enjoy a cable car ride up to the top of Mount Hakodate (can also be hiked), and take in the spectacular night view of the city.
Day 5: Trip to Onuma National Park.
Take a 30 minute train ride from Hakodate to Onuma National Park. When you first arrive, you will be greeted with the majestic sight of Mount Komagatake. You may wish to rent a bicycle and enjoy the various lakes that dot the area.
Day 6: Travel from Hakodate to Lake Toya
Start using your JR Hokkaido 4 day Flexi Pass
(This does not have to be used on consecutive days)
Visit the red buildings of the harbour district, then in late afternoon, travel by train to Lake Toya, where you will stay for 3 nights.
Day 7: Lake Toya
Spend the day exploring the area around Lake Toya. In the morning, enjoy a boat ride to Nakajima Island at the lake’s centre. Later on, take the ropeway up Mount Usu, an active volcano which last erupted in 2000. Pay a visit to Showa Shinzen, one of the youngest volcanoes in the world.
Day 8: Whale watching in Muroran – Whale watching season runs from June to August
Enjoy a short journey from Toya Station to Muroran, and spend the day watching whales and dolphins, in recent years, large groups of orcas have also been spotted and are a sight to behold.
Day 9: Lake Toya to Sapporo
Enjoy one last morning in Lake Toya, and take the train to Sapporo in the afternoon. Enjoy a beer at the Sapporo Beer Festival, and marvel at the view from Sapporo Station’s JR Tower. Check in to your centrally located hotel for 4 nights.
Day 10: Sapporo – The Sapporo Beer Festival is held throughout August
Spend the day exploring Sapporo. Enjoy a morning hike up Mount Moiwa, and enjoy an excellent view of the city. Travel to the Historical Village of Hokkaido, an open air museum that depicts life during the frontier settlement of the prefecture. Visit the Sapporo Beer Factory, and experience for yourself the making of what is considered by some to be the best beer in Japan. Eat your fill of soup curry, a native Hokkaido dish, at one of the city’s fine restaurants.
Day 11: Day trip to Otaru
Take an express train and spend the day in Otaru, a small coastal town 1 hour northwest of Sapporo. Stroll along the town’s canal area, and explore Sakaimachi Streets; with shops that sell all sorts of local souvenirs and cuisine.
Day 12: Day trip to Furano and Biei – The Furano Lavender flowering season is from June to August
Enjoy a day trip to the scenic areas of Furano and Biei. Take in wonderful display and aroma of the purple lavender at Farm Tomita. See the majesty of “Aoiike” or the “Blue Pond”. You could also visit the Furano Winery (a working winery) as well as the Furano Cheese Factory where you can observe its production process and join hands-on workshops. Upon your return to Sapporo, you may want to enjoy an evening meal of “Genghis Khan” (pronounced jingisukan), another Hokkaido delicacy consisting of barbequed lamb, at the Sapporo Bier Garten restaurant.
Day 13: Sapporo to Rishri Island
Journey from Sapporo by train and ferry to lovely Rishiri Island. You will stay in a well situated hotel on Rishiri Island for 2 nights.
Day 14: Rishiri Island
Spend the day hiking the wonderful island of Rishiri, a true testament to the beauty of Hokkaido’s nature. The island’s government suggest many fantastic hiking routes that would could try.
Day 15: Rishiri Island to Rebun Island
Take the morning ferry to nearby Rebun Island, and enjoy an afternoon jaunt around the island. You will stay in a lovely hotel here for 1 night.
Day 16: Rebun Island to Wakkanai, Wakkanai to Tokyo
Sayonara, Hokkaido! Take the morning ferry to Wakkanai, and return to Tokyo by plane from Wakkanai.
Day 17: Tokyo
Transfer from your hotel to Narita International Airport (Tokyo). Return to the UK (arrive same day).
JR Hokkaido Pass
The JR Hokkaido Pass allows you almost unlimited travel for 4 non consecutive days on all Japan Rail lines throughout Hokkaido.
Home to over 12 million people, the vast metropolis of Japan’s capital must be seen to be believed. Tokyo embraces the modern and ancient like no other city on earth and offers something for everyone who wants to delve into the Japanese phenomenon: the towering skyscrapers and frenzied neon of Shinjuku, the pop culture and gadget paradise of Akihabara, the sophisticated chic of Ginza, the biggest and liveliest fish market in the world, the old downtown area of Asakusa, and the tranquil, understated beauty of Meiji Shrine. Not to mention superb restaurants and great bars as well as fabulous shopping and museums befitting the capital of the world’s third-largest economy.
The third largest city after Sapporo and Asahikawa, Hakodate was the first Japanese city to be opened to foreign trade in 1854. This long standing overseas presence is most evident in the Motomachi district, which includes an elaborate Russian Orthodox Church, as well as the ornate British Consulate building, and the old Public Hall. The city is also home to “Goryokaku”, a western style fort, which Samurai rebels took control of, forming the short lived Ezo Republic in 1869. Hakodate’s focal point is its mountain, and the night-time view of the city from the summit is an absolute must for any visitor. Lucky Pierrot restaurants dot the city, and are a Hakodate exclusive to boot, with each one having its own unique theme. Any foodie worth their salt should try their luck at finishing the gigantic “futucho” burger.
The site of the 2008 G8 Summit, the Lake Toya area offers wonderful hikes on Mount Usu, an active volcano with its last eruption in 2000. The craters that formed from this recent eruption are a sight to behold. Mount Usu has a younger sibling, “Showa Shinzan”. Named for the Showa Emperor, it is a real baby in mountain terms, having only formed properly as a result of a series of earthquakes between 1943-1945. The peaceful Toyako onsen offers hikers opportunity for a well-earned spot of rest and relaxation.
Japan’s fifth largest city and capital of Hokkaido Prefecture, Sapporo has an attitude which befits a city of this status. In June, the city’s central area, Odori Park, hosts the Yosakoi Dancing Festival. Attracting no less than 30,000 participants, including amateurs as well as professionals from as far afield as Taiwan, Yosakoi is a true spectacle with vibrant costumes and unbelievable precision. Throughout the summer, Odori Park is the location of the Sapporo Beer Festival, and a Sapporo Beer is a perfect way to enjoy a pleasant evening. Experience a lovely nightview from the city station’s JR Tower, and learn of frontier Hokkaido at the Hokkaido open air museum.
The Aoii Ike or “Blue Pond” of Biei and Lavender Farm Tomita of Furano are definitive testaments to the timeless beauty of the island of Hokkaido. The former is a tranquil piece of scenery with the water being a majestic blue, whilst the sights and smells of Farm Tomita’s lavender is a deeply profound experience.
The islands of Rishiri and Rebun are located off the north of Hokkaido and together form the Rishiri Rebun Sarobetsu National Park. They offer serene and hiking experiences, and exquisite ocean views. Many of the islands’ flowers cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Commanding superb city views, set by the imperial palace, this hotel is among the best in the country. A stay here entails luxurious comfort and sophisticated facilities, and of course immaculate service.
Rooms are very spacious, starting at 54 square meters. They are stylishly decorated in a simple, modern style, with judicious use of natural materials giving a bright, natural feel to every one. They have the latest in luxury facilities and amenities, including among others, high speed wireless internet, a compact multifunction control panel and tea and coffee making facilities.
The Peninsula has numerous world class dining options, from the sophisticated Cantonese cuisine of Hei Fung Terrace to the luxury grilled fare of Peter high on the 24th floor. Peter: The Bar (adjacent to the restaurant) serves cocktails of the highest quality and has an exemplary range of international wines, whiskies and other beverages.
Located in the upper class Roppongi district of Tokyo, this spectacular hotel is the apex of class and luxury. The 45th floor boats an impressive observation deck that offer awe inspiring 360 degree panorama views of Tokyo, including Mount Fuji and the Tokyo Tower. As well as this, a tranquil spa facility is also available, creating the perfect environment for rest and relaxation. In addition, Wellendorf, a fashionable German jeweller, has a boutique on the ground floor.
Rooms in the Ritz Carlton are impeccably furnished with a décor that espouses elegance. All rooms offer wonderful views of Tokyo, so you can always view the majesty of the world’s largest metropolis.
The hotel is home to a truly impressive selection of dining options. From Michelin starred French restaurants to the Lobby Lounge offering live piano and jazz music throughout the day.
Centrally located in Tokyo’s Shibuya District, this hotel provides excellent access for exploring the vast Tokyo metropolis. Being in such a central area, a fantastic view of the skyline can be observed both day and night, in essence a choice ambience created by Tokyo’s beautiful nightscape and botanical charms
Rooms in the hotel offer fantastic space. Created under the concept of “simple & modern”, the guest rooms are sophisticated in design without being ostentatious, providing a relaxing atmosphere to bring calm in heart and mind.Many room variations are available, including the popular “view bath-type ” with a spacious bathroom featuring a wide window for an excellent city view.
Restaurants in this hotel offer truly delectable cuisine and a wide range of choice from Japan, Asia and the West. Dishes are made with chef-selected ingredients that culminate in what some consider perfect dining.
Hotel Century is excellently located in the central district of Shinjuku, and therefore a good spot for exploring Tokyo itself.
Rooms in this hotel are very spacious and offer an excellent level of comfort. Being in the Shinjuku district, rooms offer a fantastic view of the area’s skyline, especially at night.
The hotel is home to an impressive array of restaurants, offering a variety of dishes from Japan, China as well as the West.
One of Tokyo’s premier hotels for events, this impressive 40+ storey tower rises above Tokyo Dome baseball stadium and the elegant Koishikawa Korakuen gardens. Most striking are the nearby ferris wheel and roller coaster of the Dome City amusement park, which when lit up at night make for great views that are evocative of Tokyo’s urban glamour.
The rooms here are very spacious for their grade and centrality, with a modern and stylish décor. Of course, all rooms are replete with good quality amenities and wireless internet as standard.
With 11 restaurants, lounges and cafes, there is no shortage of variation when it comes to nourishment and relaxation. On offer are various Western options, including Italian, French and American, as well as multiple Japanese choices such as sushi, tempura, kaiseki ryori and yakiniku BBQ. The top floor bar is really worth a visit, where the night views of the stadium and amusement park from 40 storeys make for a great compliment to a cocktail.
This centrally located hotel is in close proximity to the Ueno Park which is home to Japan’s finest museums, including the Tokyo National Museum, the National Science Museum, the Metropolitan Art Musuem, as well as the Ueno Zoo, one of the largest in the country. The central hub stations of Tokyo, Shinjuku and Asakusa are also nearby, allowing you to explore the Tokyo metropolis with ease.
Rooms in this hotel are comfortable and well furnished, with a sleek and modern décor. High speed wifi is available throughout the hotel, and an in room massage service is also on offer.
The hotel’s restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, and offers excellent dishes from both Japan and the West, so there’s a wide variety of choice to tantalise your taste buds.
Located just a 5 minute walk from Ikebukuro station (on the Yamanote Line). The hotel is close to several shops, restaurants and only a short walk from Sunshine City.
This business class hotel features compact well equipped rooms with flat screen TVs, refrigerators and bathroom amenities. All rooms have free wi-fi. Computer terminals are available in the lobby along with 24 hour coin laundry.
Breakfast is a light Japanese breakfast consisting of rice balls, miso soup, some salad items and also a little bread.
The name “Danshaku” is derived from “Baron Ryokichi Kawada”. Baron Kawada studied shipbuilding in Scotland. Returning home, he brought British culture, modern shipbuilding technology and, modern agricultural technology into Hakodate.
He succeeded in cultivating a British potato suitable for the Japanese climate, which would go on to alleviate food shortages. The potato was named “Danshaku” meaning “Baron”. Nowadays, the Danshaku-imo is well-known to Japanese people and has become a staple food of Hokkaido.
The décor and furnishings of the hotel’s room create an atmosphere that is elegant, yet simple, with ample space and a very comfortable Simmons Bed.
The restaurant at Hotel Dansaku offers delicious dishes from Japan and the West, so you’ll never be short of choice for an excellent meal
This hotel is ideal for sightseeing and exploring Hakodate, and there is free Wi-Fi connection in all guest rooms and the lobby. There is also a sports plaza where you can enjoy a top floor restaurant with a view of the sea, a golf course end even a table tennis area.
The rooms in the hotel allow you to enjoy a comfortable sleep with all rooms having a great amount of space and modern décor.
Traditional Hakodate cuisine is offered at the hotel’s restaurants. At the top floor restaurant with scenic views you can enjoy the unique flavours of Hakodate styled seafood such as raw squid sashimi, homemade tofu, and more.
This hotel boats an impressive array of facilities that befits a piece of Japanese culture such as this. Excellently located near Mount Usu, it is ideal for exploring the wonderful nature of the Lake Toya area. In addition, an onsen is available for you to relax in and enjoy.
Rooms in this hotel offer both simplicity with a great amount of space. You will be able to comfortably enjoy the majesty of the surrounding scenery.
The hotel offers excellent Hokkaido seafood, the selection you can choose from is fantastic, and will certainly provide an excellent meal after a long day of adventure.
Location wise, JR Tower Hotel Nikko Sapporo is about as good as it gets. This tall and elegant tower rises above Sapporo station, offering fantastic opportunities to explore the city and rest of the island of Hokkaido – named Lonely Planet’s top travel destination in Asia, 2016.
With spacious rooms for a city centre hotel, the stylishly furnished rooms offer excellent views over the city and in some cases the nearby mountains. All have large windows with a sense of brightness and elegance.
Hokkaido is the breadbasket of Japan, and you will not find many places that are better to discover Japan’s cuisine than here. Aside from the hotel’s four excellent restaurants, there are countless eating establishments nearby, including gourmet options to rival Japan’s best.
The hotel spa, 100 metres above ground at the very top of the hotel is blessed with beautiful natural light and lovely baths filled with natural hot water pumped up from over 1000 metres below. Of course, a broad range of beauty and health treatments are available too, making this an exceptional place to relax and unwind.
The Sapporo Grand lies right at the heart of Hokkaido’s biggest and most exciting city, making it a fantastic base to explore from.
The rooms are spacious and have a classic finish, helping you feel right at home on Japan’s northern frontier. A full set of complementary amenities are provided, including free Wi-Fi and different coloured towels for each guest.
There is a varied array of eating options here, with Western and Eastern choices available – where Hokkaido really shines though is in its fresh produce, and this is well reflected in the cuisine here. For a true Hokkaido experience, visit the hotel bar Hokkaido Dining Big Jug, which aside from the famous local Sapporo Beer, serves fresh local sea food and freshly grilled meats and vegetables, very much in keeping with the island spirit.
Set in a striking hi-rise cylindrical tower, this upscale hotel is a 3-minute walk from Chuo-Kuyakusho-Mae train station and a 12-minute walk from the iconic Odori Park.
Every room is bright and elegant, with free Wi-Fi, a TV, mini-fridge, and tea and coffee-making facility.
You will find 4 different restaurants: French, Chinese, a buffet restaurant, and a teppanyaki eatery, along with a trendy top-floor bar and a coffee shop. The hotel also has a coin-operated laundry, and a communal bathhouse. Bike and ski hire are available.
This business class hotel features compact well-equipped rooms with flat screen TVs, refrigerators and bathroom amenities. All rooms have free wi-fi. Computer terminals are available in the lobby along with 24-hour coin laundry.
Breakfast is a light Japanese breakfast consisting of rice balls, miso soup, some salad items and also a little bread.
Being right by Sapporo’s central transport links, you will have excellent opportunities not just to explore the city, but the surrounding countryside as well. It is a little quieter than Sapporo’s central broadway, but there is plenty to eat, see and do within easy reach due to the proximity of the station.
Being right near the island’s main port, this quaint hotel is well connected to Wakkanai on the mainland, and to nearby Rebun island. It is also well situated to access the trailhead for the hike up to the top of Rishiri, a challenging hike that requires an early rise, but is rewarded with spectacularly gorgeous views which encapsulate the drama of this remote, northern location.
The rooms are large, and plainly but elegantly furnished, with a full set of amenities befitting a superior grade property. There are also Japanese style tatami rooms that carry the same vibe of simplicity and comfort.
There are hot spring baths at the hotel (amazing for a good soak after hiking the mountain!) and a restaurant which serves fresh local seafood. Fresh local seafood is a recurring theme in Japan, but in this remote corner of northern Hokkaido it really takes on a superlative dimension.
Island Inn Rishiri is a simple but more than functional hotel in Rishiri’s main port, giving it superb access to the mainland, to the nearby island of Rebun, and the trailhead for the hike up the mountain – a challenging one that requires an early rise, but is rewarded with spectacularly gorgeous views which encapsulate the drama of this remote, northern location.
You will enjoy clean and comfortable rooms furnished in a simple style, replete with the standard amenities.
The food (as ever in northern Hokkaido) is exceptional here, with a very good Japanese and Western breakfast buffet, and delicious dinner options featuring fresh local seafood of exceptional calibre. There are also indoor and outdoor shared hot spring baths, the latter of which has a pleasant ocean view.
Not included in Price
The price for this Highlights of Hokkaido independent itinerary as detailed above is as follows:
3* Hotels/ryokan: from £2,125 per person based on twin/double room occupancy.
4* Hotels/ryokan: from £2,595 per person based on twin/double room occupancy.
5* Hotels/ryokan: on request
3* single room supplement: from £199
4* single room supplement: from £260
5* single room supplement on request
Tokyo: £101 per person
All price estimates are based on current rates of exchange and are subject to availability. All prices are good for travel before the end of 2017 but exclude blackout periods which coincide with Japanese National Holidays and some weekends.
To make a booking, a deposit of £200 per person is required.
The balance of the price of the trip must be made 12 weeks prior to departure.
All price estimates are based on current rates of exchange and are subject to availability.
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