Adventures / Sub Zero

Winter Hiking in Japan

Trek the remote peaks of the Yatsugatake Mountains, see the snow monkeys and explore the backstreets of Tokyo

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Trip Ref #10411

Adventures / Sub Zero

Winter Hiking in Japan

Trek the remote peaks of the Yatsugatake Mountains, see the snow monkeys and explore the backstreets of Tokyo

DURATION

8 nights

LOCATION

Japan

ANNUAL LEAVE

6 days off work

SEASON

Jan-Mar

GROUP SIZE

Up to 14 people

MEETING POINT

Tokyo Airport (Haneda or Narita)

ACCOMMODATION

Hotel · Mountain hut · Ryokan

DIFFICULTY

Moderate

No previous winter hiking experience needed, just a general level of fitness and a readiness to embrace sub-zero conditions

Don your crampons and trek the ridgeline to the top of Mt Neishi (2603m) with 360° views of Yatsugatake National Park

Snowshoe the winter wonderland of Norikura to the 20m-high ice pillars and icicles of the Zengoro Falls

See Japanese macaques bathing in hot springs and follow suit with a soak in a snow-flanked outdoor ‘onsen'

This trip is brand new

We’re still waiting to collect any reviews from other travellers on this trip. However, all our hosts go through an extensive vetting process to ensure that your adventure is awesome.

Included

Guides

Expert, English-speaking local mountain guides

Accommodation

5 nights in a hotel, 2 in a mountain hut and 1 in a traditional 'ryokan'

Meals

All breakfasts, 3 lunches and 7 dinners

Transfers

Airport transfers and train/bus to and from the Alps

Equipment

Snowshoes, crampons and trekking poles

Permits

National park permits and fees

Not Included

Flights to and from the meeting point

Travel insurance

Personal expenses

Some meals as described

The Area

map

Logistics

Starts

Tokyo Airport (Haneda or Narita)

Arrive anytime on Day 1

Ends

Tokyo Airport (Haneda or Narita)

Depart anytime on Day 9

Transfers

A shared-shuttle airport transfer is provided for any day you choose to arrive and depart in Tokyo (if staying at the group hotel). A driver will meet you at either Haneda or Narita Airport.

Travel options

There are daily flights to Tokyo from major airports across the UK, Europe and N.America.

Day 1

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 2 – Day 3

Mountain hut · Mixed dorm

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 4

Ryokan · Twin or triple share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 5

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 6

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 7

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 8

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 9

Departure day

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

What is the food like?

Japan is home to deliciously fresh and varied cuisine and a bowl of steamed rice is included in most typical Japanese meals. Side dishes are called 'okazu' and are served with miso soup. Meals tend to be fish-heavy and are often served with saké to wash it all down. 'Izakayas' are small bars that serve a selection of dishes intended to share with your fellow diners - these are a great way to sample lots of local food while hopping between different venues.

Vegetarians and vegans can largely be catered for as tofu is a key staple in many meals. It can however be difficult to accommodate a strict vegetarian or vegan diet due to the prevalence of fish sauce used in many dishes - it can usually be requested to be prepared without however meals served in the mountain hut are limited so there is no option here to request that it isn't used. For all other dietary requirements, just request these on your passenger information form.

What is the accommodation like?

Tokyo

In Tokyo you'll stay in the popular Shinjuku district in a 3-star clean, modern and functional hotel, such as the Ibis Shinjuku or similar. Rooms are twin-share by default with a private bathroom and breakfast is served in the on-site cafe. If you are travelling as a couple and would like a double bed, please request this with your host.

Mountain Hut

You'll spend 2 nights at the Natsuzawa Kosen mountain hut. You will sleep in dorm rooms of varying sizes (usually 2-3 per room) and all bedding is provided. The hut is one of few in the Japanese Alps to have its own hot spring, a dream after a day out in the snow. There are also separate showers, a restaurant, and places to charge your bits and pieces. The owners of the hut pride themselves on offering mostly homegrown produce in the restaurant, the wild-boar hot pot is their speciality along with roasted green tea served post 'onsen'.

Yudanaka

You'll spend 1 night at the Biyuno Yado Ryokan (traditional inn) in Yudanaka. Staying in a ryokan is a quintessential Japanese experience; you will sleep on futons on tatami mats on the floor and the rooms are mostly separated by sliding doors. Most ryokans provide robes and slippers which are worn to dinner and will also have an 'onsen' on site instead of individual showers and bathrooms for the rooms. 'Onsens' at the ryokan are usually shared hot spring baths that are fed from a natural source or simply heated up. There are separate male and female times for the baths and there is strictly no mixing - you will need to wash before you get in and clothing or swimwear is not allowed. Your guide will assist with the full etiquette when you are there.

Upgrades

For solo travellers looking for their own space, an optional private room can be booked for an extra charge for 6 nights only (in Tokyo, Yudanaka and Norikura), see Optional Extras for the price. This is subject to availability, please request this at the time of booking.

Norikura

In Norikura, you'll stay in the popular 3-star clean and modern Hotel Kyukamura, or a similar hotel of the same standard. Rooms are twin-share by default with a private bathroom and breakfast and dinner is served in the on-site restuarant. If you are travelling as a couple and would like a double bed, please request this with your host.

Day 1

Touch down in Tokyo

Arrive in Tokyo, one of the biggest and most exciting cities in the world. You’ll meet up with the group at the hotel in Shinjuku before heading out for dinner with your fellow adventurers. For those keen on a nightcap or two, the Robot Bar is a punchy introduction to popular Japanese culture.

Day 2

Journey to the Alps

Snowshoeing

2-3hrs · 8km · 200m up · 200m down

Time to head out of the city today and into the wilds of the Alps. You’ll board a high-speed train for 2.5 hours, followed by a short transfer to the Sakuradaira Gate where the fun begins. Your destination is the mountain hut in Natsuzawa-Kosen (2060m), nestled deep in the Yastugatake Mountains and so remote that you may have to use a snow truck to get there. Once at the hut, you’ll get set up with your snowshoes and head out for a circular walk following the Natsuzawa Pass, checking out some of Japan's highest peaks above a sea of clouds as you go. Stomp back down in time for dinner, local wild boar hot pot and miso soup is the hut speciality.

Day 3

Peak bagging

Hiking

5-6hrs · 11km · 550m up · 550m down

Up bright and early to catch sunrise over the Alps with a cup of coffee and breakfast before strapping on your crampons and hitting the trail. Mt Neishi (2603m) is located in the centre of the Yatsugatake mountain range and the summit walk is non-technical making it an ideal introduction to winter trekking. The trail first takes you to Mt Mikaburi (2590m), then beyond the tree line to a likely windy and icy wide ridge and finally to the summit of Mt Neishi (2603m). On a clear day temperatures can be as low as -20°C but the 360° panorama from the top (and the promise of a steamy soak on return to the hut) make it all worthwhile.

Day 4

Steamy onsen soaking

Bidding your mountain hut goodbye, it’s time to head to Yudanaka, a town with a long 'onsen' history. A scenic hour-long drive followed by 3 hours on a train will see you arrive for lunchtime. You'll have the afternoon free to indulge in the many opportunities for a soak. The more traditional town of Shibu Onsen is a short walk away with no less than 9 public baths - legend has it that you'll receive eternal good luck if you manage a soak in them all, challenge on! Next, it's onto the 'ryokan', your overnight spot and your chance to sample a Kaiseki dinner, a traditional multi-course meal usually appreciated while donning your 'yukata '/ traditional robe and sipping a thimble of saké.

Day 5

Snow monkeys and castles

Driving

4hrs

Hiking

3hrs

Up bright and early this morning to visit the Japanese macaques aka the ‘snow monkeys’, the only troop of monkeys in the world known to bathe in hot springs. You’ll hit the forest trail into Jigokudani, translated as ‘Hell’s Valley’, due to the hot steam vents and volcanic activity bubbling underground. The monkeys tend to spend all day soaking in the hot pools to keep warm, and you'll have a couple of hours to hang out with them. Next up, a transfer to Norikura, stopping for a leg stretch and wander around the ancient town of Matsumoto. The 5-story castle dominates the skyline here, built in the 16th Century, its the oldest surviving castle in all of Japan and filled with gruesome tales of bygone warfare and strife. Back on a local bus towards Norikura, your wilderness base for the next few days, sitting deep within the Hida Mountains.

Day 6

Winter wonderland

Snowshoeing

5-6hrs · 7km

Having mastered how to hike in snowshoes earlier in the week, it’s time to make the most of them in the magical winter wonderland of Norikura. You’ll crunch through fresh powder, along deep canyons, weaving your way through primeval forest weighed down by the snow - these snow-covered trees are known affectionately by the locals as 'snow monsters'. You'll hike to the Sampon waterfall, a convergence of three rivers frozen in time, and onto the Zengoro falls - with its dramatic 20m-high ice pillars and icicles.

Day 7

Kamikochi National Park

Snowshoeing

4-5hrs · 8km · 200m up · 200m down

Last day in the wild today as you head to Kamikochi, one of Japan’s most famous national parks, sitting at the foot of the Alps. Officially closed in winter, with no facilities open, hiking through is the only option and it’s likely you’ll have the whole park to yourselves. This is a great chance to learn about the age-old tradition of 'Shinrin-Yoku', translated as 'forest bathing’, the meditative act of being calm and quiet in nature. To see the mountains and the turquoise Azusa River, you’ll hike with a head-torch uphill through the out of action Kama Tunnel to the Karamatsu Bridge. You’ll then head along the river bank to Taisho pond for incredible views of the Northern Japanese Alps.

Day 8

Back to the bright lights

A relaxed morning before jumping on a local bus and express train back to the city. The journey will take approximately 6 hours in total and is a great chance to reflect on your week in the wild while waving goodbye to the Alps out the window. This is your last night in Tokyo, Izakaya hunting and sampling street food in the never-ending maze of backstreets and alleys.

Day 9

Goodbye Japan

Back to the airport today, waving goodbye to one of the most unique countries in the world.

15% Off Outdoor Gear

In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 15% discount on us to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.

What's included?

Snowshoes
Crampons
Walking poles

What do I need to bring?

BAGS
Soft overnight duffel bag or rucksack (will be transported for you)
Daypack (20+ litres)
Waterproof liner or dry bag for daypack

CLOTHES
Down jacket/ski jacket
Waterproof jacket
Waterproof trousers
Breathable wicking layers
Fleece jacket or similar
Warm hat
Warm insulate mitts or gloves
Glove liners
Buff or neck scarf
T-shirts
Underwear & thick socks
Sunglasses or ski goggles (both if you have)
Something to sleep in
Warm winter 4-season waterproof hiking boot with sturdy ankle support - neccessary for micro-crampons to fit

SLEEPING (optional - all sleeping gear provided) Cotton or silk sleeping bag liner
Travel pillow or pillowcase

OTHER
Universal travel plug adapter
Passports (and visas)
Travel Insurance documents
Earplugs
Suncream
Personal first-aid kit (inc. blister treatment)
Personal items (biodegradable toiletries, sanitary wear etc)
Quick-dry towel
Alcohol hand-gel
Headtorch or torch
Reusable water bottle (x1 litre)
Energy bars and snacks

Optional Private Room Upgrade

Payable Before Departure

Optional Private Room Upgrade

Single Room in Tokyo

Payable Before Departure

Single Room in Tokyo

Double/Twin Room in Tokyo

Payable Before Departure

Double/Twin Room in Tokyo

We've crunched the numbers to work out the total carbon footprint of this trip, and plant enough trees to suck 2x as much back out the atmosphere.

What's the number?
It works out on average at 488kg of CO2 emissions per person, including all local transport, accommodation, food, activities, guides, staff and office operations.

The only thing it doesn’t include right now is flights and travel to the destination. We do make an overall estimate across all our customers separately, but as we don’t book flights, have customers from all corners of the world, and no way of reliably knowing their travel plans, we simply can’t include an individual number in the figure on display here. We’ve got a goal for 2022 to fix that, so that when you book, there is a way to measure and mitigate the carbon emitted by your flight too.

But what does the number mean?
Yep, hard to picture eh? To give you an idea:

  • Driving 1000miles/1609km would be approx. 281kg of CO2 in an average car (or 140.5kg per person if there was 2 of you in it).
  • A return economy class flight London - New York would be approx. 1,619kg (1.66 tonnes) per person.
  • 10 trees in a temperate forest are estimated to remove approx. 250kg of CO2 from the air in a period of 5-10 years.

What are we doing about it?
Our trips are relatively low-carbon by design, and we're working with all our hosts to develop long term carbon reduction plans. For every person booked with us since 2016 we’re planting enough trees to suck at least 2x more carbon out the atmosphere than is emitted by their trips. All native trees, as part of amazing projects that are re-foresting degraded land, tackling the biodiversity crisis and supporting local communities at the same time. We go further than that too, also funding re-wilding projects worldwide to help protect important keystone species from extinction. See the reforestation and re-wilding schemes we support. See our carbon action plan.

Want to know more?
Amazingly, no international travel company has ever publicly published their carbon measurements before, as far as we know. We believe that must change, quickly. So we’re openly sharing the method we used in the hope that other companies will be able to more easily follow suit and build on what we've done so far. You'll find it all here.

There is no previous winter hiking experience needed for this trip. Your guide will give you instruction on using the snowshoes and the crampons so you will only need an average level of fitness. You should feel comfortable out in the elements for a few hours at a time, this trip is planned for deepest winter in Japan so will be very cold at some points - nothing that the correct clothes can't sort.

Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

You will only need to carry a day pack on each of the activity days and your main luggage will be transported for you each day.

While trekking fresh water will be provided so you will carry what you need for that day. Bring a reusable bottle, it will be well used.

On average, winter temperatures in Tokyo are 10°C in the daytime and 2-4°C in the morning and evening in January and February. In winter, Tokyo has many sunny days and little rain or snow, so the air is often dry. In the Alps the temperature drops by 0.6°C for every 100 metres of elevation gain, so each region will have different clothing provisions. Yatsugatake, Kamikochi, and Norikura are located approx. 1500m-2600m above sea level, the temperature can often drop to below -20°C. The cities at the foot of the mountain such as Matsumoto, and Yudanaka will be warmer, usually about 10°C more than in the mountains but it is often still below freezing. The weather in the mountains is changeable and it can snow suddenly, but the percentage of sunny days tends to be higher in March than in January and February.

You can request to store any extra bags in Tokyo if you need to - either at the hotel or at a left luggage facility in the city. Your guide can assist with arranging this if needed.

Tipping isn't customary in Japan and is not expected – in fact, it will sometimes be considered impolite. As a general rule, you should not leave a tip in Japan, with a few notable exceptions - one being tour guides. If you feel that your tour leader has provided excellent service over the course of your trip, you may want to show your appreciation of their services. Your host suggests 500-1000JPY per person per day as a guideline.

We recommend checking out the country specific information here and also talking to a travel nurse.

Known for their red faces and hot spring antics, the snow monkeys attract visitors and photographers from all over the world. Though the park is looked after by naturalists, Jigokudani is not a zoo or anything resembling it. When you hear a name like 'snow monkey park', it's easy to assume that this isn’t a responsible animal encounter however the snow monkeys are free to come and go as they please, and human visitors are strongly advised to give them space and of course not touch them. While other Japanese animal attractions (Tokyo’s cat and, these days, owl cafes) have drawn criticism for the small spaces in which they confine animals, the snow monkey onsen at Hell Valley is about as wild as you can get.

Another important thing to remember about Jigokudani is that food is strictly prohibited, even if you don’t plan to feed it to the monkeys. Introducing these wild animals to human food (or, worse, to the plastic in which it’s packaged) could have devastating consequences. It is also thought that the monkeys starting bathing in the hot springs after witnessing the local villagers do the same - mimicry is a natural behaviour of the monkeys. As human prosperity has grown, macaques have lost their fear of humans and have increased their presence in both rural and urban areas so seeing monkeys in Japan isn't any longer an occurrence only in the wild.

Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our adventures. Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure.

Your insurance policy should also include specific Covid-19 cover, including cancellation and curtailment cover if you, your travel companion or a close relative are diagnosed with Covid-19.

We fully endorse Campbell Irvine as their insurance offers all of the above, so get in touch with them or call on 020 7938 1734 to get your insurance sorted. We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.

If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.

All of our group adventures are specially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded. Children can be accommodated on some private departures.

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