Japan Snow Monkeys and Hokkaido Tour & Workshop 2023

Spectacular Winter Wildlife in JapanTour #1 Jan 29 – Feb 10, & Tour #2 Feb¥ 15 – 27, 2023A Culturally Rich TourRelax in Hot Spring baths at most hotelsSee subjects only accessible by trusted guidesAnd keep them to yourself to protect the wildlifeRevel in the Winter WonderlandYou may catch Martin dancing too when this stuff happensDon’t sit around sucking a digitBook now to avoid disappointment

Winter Wonderland Photography Tour & Workshop


Tour #1 – Jan 29 (Sun) – Feb 10 (Fri) & Tour #2 – Feb 15 (Wed) – 27 (Mon), 2023


This photography adventure takes us to the best Japanese winter wildlife locations in Japan, at exactly the right time to capture the images of a lifetime. We’ll visit the adorable Snow Monkeys in Nagano for the first three days of each tour. For the latter nine days, we travel to Hokkaido to photograph the majestic Red-Crowned Cranes, Whooper Swans, Seller’s Sea Eagles, White-Tailed Eagles, Ezo Deer, and possibly foxes. There are also some Landscape photography opportunities during the tour, but if you want to photograph the incredible landscape in Hokkaido, also consider our Hokkaido Photography Landscape Adventure.

We stay in four of the six hotels for two or three nights running, meaning you don’t have to uproot every morning. This also gives us the opportunity for structured workshop sessions as time allows.

Setsuri River with Red-Crowned Cranes
Setsuri River with Red-Crowned Cranes

Details of Your Photography Adventure

Arrival – Tour #1 Jan 29 (Sun), Tour #2 Feb 15 (Wed)

The majority of our guests travel in from overseas, so we include the first night before the tour starts in your package to ensure we’re all in town ready to start bright and early the following morning. For those that arrive in time there is an optional meet-and-greet dinner on the first evening of the tour.

Snow Monkeys (days 1, 2, 3)

On the first morning, we start the tour by heading out to Nagano, north-west of Tokyo, for three days photographing the adorable Japanese Macaque, affectionately known as the Snow Monkeys. These amazing primates are one of the Japanese mainland’s biggest attractions for the winter wildlife photographer. By the evening of day three, we make our way to Tokyo Haneda airport where we spend one night, and then fly to Hokkaido early on the morning of day four. This marks the start of nine days in eastern Hokkaido photographing some of the most breathtaking winter wildlife in the world.

Red-Crowned Cranes (days 4, 5)

In Hokkaido, we spend two full days photographing the Red-Crowned Cranes, in a number of locations around Kushiro and Akan. We’ll also visit the Otowa “Sound of Wings” Bridge at dawn on two mornings, with fingers crossed for low temperatures and no wind, in the hope that we’ll get river mist and frosty trees on at least one of the two days.

Whooper Swans (days 6, 7)

We spend two days photographing the Whooper Swans at Kussharo Lake, as they warm themselves in the hot spring waters that flow into the lake. We’ll also aim to capture the swans taking off and landing, working on panning techniques, as well as environmental shots of the swans in their beautiful setting.

Mashuu Lake and Iouzan (Sulphur Mountain) (days 6, 7)

While at the location where we’ll shoot the Whooper Swans, and go to see if we can catch the swans flying over the lake in the beautiful soft morning light. We also have a short shoot at Iouzan (Sulphur Mountain!) for some surreal landscape opportunities.

Sea Eagles (days 8, 9, 10)

We head over to the Shiretoko Peninsula and the port town of Rausu, where we spend three days going out on a boat at dawn to photograph the awesome Seller’s Sea Eagles and White Tailed Eagles on the sea ice. Very occassionally, we are treated to a visit by a pod of Orcas.

Notsuke Peninsula & Shinto Shrine Visit (days 8, 9, 10)

While we are staying in Rausu for the Sea Eagles, we’ll make time at least once to drive out to the Notsuke Peninsula to photograph the Ezo Deer and Hokkaido Fox that we often find there. We also pay an optional visit to the local Shinto Shrine in Rausu, where we receive a traditional Shinto blessing, and have the chance to take photos and ask questions about the shrine and the Shinto religion.

Shiretoko National Park (days 11, 12)

Then on the way around to the Utoro side of the Shiretoko Peninsula, we will make stops along the way to photograph the landscape and birch tree groves. Just outside of Utoro we’ll make a stop at the Oshinkoshin Falls, and possibly make our way into the Shiretoko National Park for a walk out through the woods in the hope of spotting some Ezo Deer or perhaps even a woodpecker.

Return to Tokyo – Feb 10 (Fri)

After a steady short morning shoot on Day 12, we head over to Memanbetsu airport and fly back to Tokyo at in the afternoon, usually by around 5pm.

Workshop Sessions

Depending on weather and the group’s energy levels, at a number of locations, we set time aside for a workshop session and group discussions for those interested in participating.

NOTE: You will receive a detailed itinerary and information to help you prepare for your tour shortly after making your reservation.

Your Host – Martin Bailey

Your host and tour leader, Martin Bailey, is British born though now a Japanese citizen, having lived in Japan for over twenty-eight years. A professional wildlife and nature photographer, Martin is also fluent in Japanese both written and spoken, and his knowledge of the locations we visit and subjects we photograph is unrivaled, making us the perfect choice for your Japanese photography adventure.

Martin has been visiting Hokkaido every year since 2003, and the 2023 tours take us into our seventeenth year of amazing workshops. We continuously refine the Itinerary and locations visited based on previous experience and feedback. These tours just get better and better.

Additional Information

Accommodation & Meals

We stay in a mix of traditional Japanese hotels and western-style hotels, with great food, sometimes buffet style, though often meals prepared specifically for our group. We’ll note if you have any food preferences (allergies, vegetarian etc.) and make changes as possible to suit your needs. Many of the hotels have relaxing hot springs baths to relax after a day out shooting.


For the entire tour, we use a large bus with a professional driver that stays with us the entire time. The bus provides ample luggage space and every participant has a double seat, which means you can put your camera bag right next to you on the seat, for easy access to your gear when a photo opportunity arises. On occasion, we shoot from the bus windows, and the bus size provides everyone with an open window on either side as well.

Full-Time Tour Conductor

To ensure that all of the tour logistics run like clockwork we travel with a full-time conductor on hand throughout the tour. This means we never have to wait for our keys at hotels, and all meals are ready for us when we arrive. We are also able to negotiate much better meals for western tastes that most Japan tours are able to provide. The tour conductor works closely with Martin which frees him to concentrate on working with the group and gives you more time to concentrate on your photography and enjoying your Japan experience.

Who is this Workshop for?

  • Anyone with a love for wildlife, nature and landscape photography, and that can handle a bit of cold weather
  • Anyone that wants to improve their photography while shooting the photographs of a lifetime
  • In general, tuition assumes at least a basic understanding of photography and your equipment, but photographers of all levels are very welcome, from complete beginner to professional photographers
  • You’ll need an SLR camera or recent mirrorless camera, and lenses up around 400mm (or 35mm equivalent) though ideally, you’ll have two camera bodies, so that you don’t have to change lenses during fast-paced shooting, like when photographing birds in flight. You’ll receive advice on all gear necessary after signing up and Martin is always there to answer any other questions you might have

What is included in the Package?

  • Accommodation on Sunday night before we kick off the tour
  • All accommodation and meals during your tour
  • Flights from Tokyo Haneda airport to Hokkaido and back
  • A chartered bus with driver (and lots of luggage space) to transport us safely and comfortably around Japan for the entire trip
  • A representative from our Tour Operator partner travels with us throughout to ensure all the logistics run smoothly, which also frees up Martin to give full attention to the group
  • Admission fees to planned facilities and excursions, such as the crane center and chartered boat to photograph the Eagles

What is NOT included in the Package?

  • Your flight or travel costs to the meeting points in Tokyo or back home after the tours
  • Hotels while traveling prior to or following the tour/workshops (although we can help with booking your Tokyo hotels for one or two nights before and/or after the tour as necessary)
  • Evening meal on Sunday evening before the tour starts
  • Beverages or additional items ordered during meals
  • The cost of the optional Shinto blessing in Rausu

A Word on Insurance

Our Tour Operator carries standard insurance necessary by Japanese law but you are strongly advised to arrange the following insurance:

  • Travel Insurance — If you fall sick or have an accident during the course of the trip, you will miss part of your tour, and possibly incur hospital fees and other expenses that can mount up. We strongly advise you to take out travel insurance for yourself for the entire length of the trip in advance of departure
  • Cancellation Insurance — This is often included in your Travel Insurance, but if for any reason you have to cancel your tour, cancellation insurance can help you recuperate your costs
  • Note that travel and cancellation insurance usually has to be bought within 10 days of booking the tour or less. Please check on this as soon as you book.
  • Camera Equipment Insurance — We also suggest that you insure your photography equipment and belongings if not included in your home or travel insurance. If you already have your gear insured, double check that you are covered for international travel too, if you are visiting Japan from another country

Influenza Vaccinations

You do not need any special vaccinations for Japan, but you are strongly advised to ensure that you’ve had an influenza shot for that season by no later than two weeks prior to coming to Japan. These tours coincide with the flu season here in Japan, and we would not like you to lose valuable photography days in bed or risk infecting the rest of the group if we can help it. Vaccinations are not 100% though. It’s good practice to wash your hands and gargle with water when you get to your hotel, especially after traveling on public transport.

Guidebook PDF

After you sign up, you will receive a PDF document to help you with your preparations. This will contain details on recommended camera gear, cold weather clothing, and advice on Japanese etiquette to help make your stay in Japan as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. There is also a detailed itinerary, maps and hotel phone numbers etc. to leave with your loved ones while you’re away.

Cost & Reservation

The cost for a single traveller is ¥815,000 (approx. US$5,869) which includes a single supplement of ¥80,000 (approx. US$576) payable with your balance. Note that the balance payments are for the amount remaining to pay the total amount required for your tour. The deposit that you pay is already deducted.

Double rooms, for couples or room-mates that will share a room for the duration of the tour, your tour fee will be discounted to ¥735,000 (approx. US$5,293) per person.

To book your place, please pay a reservation fee of ¥135,000 (approx. US$972) by credit card, Paypal or bank transfer, using the button below. The tour fee balance is payable 90 days before the start of the tour. (Current rate used: 1 USD = 138.8674 JPY)

Note that the US dollar amounts displayed here are updated dynamically every hour, for your reference, but may vary slightly from what you pay due to varying rates used by credit cards and PayPal during the conversion from Japanese Yen to your local currency.


  • The dollar amounts stated on this page are for reference only – fees are payable in Japanese Yen (¥) which is handled by our shopping cart and automatically calculated to your local currency by your credit card company or bank
  • You can select to pay by bank transfer when you check out, and you will be sent our business account details
  • Please ensure that you send the balance in Japanese Yen for this tour. If sending in Yen is not possible, ask your bank to calculate the price based on their current rates before sending
  • If you want to book for more than one person you can change the number of participants in the shopping cart before checking out
  • Tours require a minimum of ten (10) participants to go ahead. We’ll let you know, but please ensure that the tour has reached the minimum number of participants before you purchase any flights that require large cancellations fees, or ensure that you purchase travel/cancellation insurance to protect your investment
  • There is a maximum of 12 to 14 people per tour depending on how many couples join us

Cancellation Policy/Fees

Reservation Fee / Deposit – If you cancel up to one year before the start date of your tour, your deposit will be refunded. If you decide to cancel less than one year before the start of the tour, your reservation fee will be refunded only if we are able to back-fill your place (see notes below)

Tour Fees / Balance – If you cancel your reservation the following charges will be payable (see notes below)

  • If you cancel more than 61 days before the start of your tour fee (balance) will be refunded in full
  • From 60 to 31 days before the start of the trip, cancellation fees are 25% of your tour fee (balance)
  • From 30 to 8 days before the start of the trip, cancellation fees are 50% of your tour fee (balance)
  • From 7 days to 72 hours before the start of the trip, cancellation fees are 75% of your tour fee (balance)
  • If you cancel less than 72 hours before the start of the trip, we cannot refund your tour fee (balance)

Notes on Cancellation Fees and Notification Timing

  • Any transfer charges and transaction fees incurred on accepting and/or refunding any payments will be deducted from any refund amounts due, including accidental overpayments.
  • The number of days to tour start is calculated from 9 am Japan Standard Time (UTC + 9 hours). Email received after 6 pm JST on the previous day will be calculated from 9 am JST the following day.

Booking and Balance Payment

Please process your payments in Japanese Yen (¥). If Yen is not already selected select Japanese Yen in the pull-down below before proceeding. Any credit card payments will automatically be converted to your local currency by your credit card company. If you have any questions or problems with payment, please let us know.

Reservation Payment

This is required to secure your place on the tour. When booking for more than one person, select the required number when the shopping cart is displayed.

This tour is now full.
Please consider Tour #2 or contact us to be
added to the cancellation list.

There are currently 2 places available.

Balance Payment

This is payable 3 months before the start of the tour. We’ll send you a reminder a few weeks before this is due. Note that tour fees are the sum of the reservation and balance payments added together.

Any Questions?

If you are interested in coming along but want more information, please do not hesitate to contact us. We look forward to seeing you in Japan, for the photography tour and workshop of a lifetime!

— Martin Bailey.

Related Blog Posts and Podcasts

If you are interested, you might want to check out the following blog posts and podcasts…

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Note that these Podcasts and many others are also available in iTunes.

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