Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office! Read more about our Pre-flight Service here!
DAY 1. Wednesday 3rd December 2025
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we take an overnight flight from London to Tokyo.
DAY 2. Thursday 4th December 2025: Arrival in Japan
Transfer to our comfortable hotel in Haneda Airport. Overnight at Haneda Excel Tokyu Hotel or similar for two nights.
DAY 3. Friday 5th December 2025: Tokyo
A full-day birding and sightseeing in Tokyo. A great introduction to the history, culture and modern life of Japan as well as a chance to see some common species including Varied Tit, Daurian Redstart, Asian Azure-winged Magpie, Brown-eared Bulbul, Oriental Turtle Dove and Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker. We aim to visit some city parks, visit some Shinto shrines, get the incredible view from the top of the iconic Tokyo Tower, and scan the tidal mudflats along the coast whilst enjoying the traditional, wooden buildings and tranquility of ancient culture and the hustle, bustle and neon lights of one of the world’s most lively cities!
DAY 4. Saturday 6th December 2025: Flight South
In the morning we will fly to Kagoshima on the island of Kyushu, the southernmost of the four main islands of Japan. By the afternoon we will be in search of buntings, pipits and thrushes in the Takae fields, just southeast of the mouth of the River Sendaigawa. Meadow, Rustic, Chestnut-eared and Masked Bunting; Buff-bellied and Red-throated Pipit; Daurian Jackdaw; Dusky, Pale and White’s Thrush can be expected here. We will also look for raptors such as Japanese Buzzard, Eastern Marsh and Hen Harrier. Overnight stay in the Hotel Wing International, Izumi or similar for two nights.
DAY 5. Sunday 7th December 2025: Cranes!
Before breakfast and in the afternoon we will visit the Arasaki Crane Reserve, where over 12,000 cranes gather each winter. The most common species here are Hooded and White-naped Crane. Amongst them, we may find small numbers of Common and Sandhill Crane. There is even a slim possibility of rarities such as Demoiselle and Siberian Crane. The rest of the day will be spent exploring the local farmland and waterbodies, where we will look for Crested Kingfisher, White-bellied Green Pigeon, Chinese Penduline Tit, Japanese Green Pheasant, Japanese Quail, Ruddy Crake, Bull-headed Shrike, Meadow and Elegant Buntings, Japanese Bush Warbler, Russet Sparrow, White-cheeked Starling, Large-billed Crow, and Eastern Rook.
DAY 6. Monday 8th December: River Mouths and Ramsar Sites
After a final morning enjoying the crane spectacular, we will drive northwards for a couple of hours to the Kumagawa, checking out the river mouth, and various designated sites on the north shore of the Ariake Sea. Targets in this region are the rare Saunders’s and other gulls such as Vega, Pallas’, Heuglin’s and Black-tailed, and plenty of wintering shorebirds, including the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill and vulnerable Far Eastern Curlew. Overnight at the Hotel Route-Inn, Saga or similar.
DAY 7. Tuesday 9th December 2025: Flight North
Morning birding at the wetlands south of the city for a last look at the waders, gulls and passerines of Kyushu before transferring to Fukuoka Airport for an internal flight to Komatsu on the west coast of Honshu. On arrival, we will drive to some local areas to look for waterfowl (including Baikal Teal and Greater White-fronted and Bean Geese) and other overwintering species. Overnight in Komatsu Green Hotel or similar.
DAY 8. Wednesday 10th December 2025: Drive East
Early morning birding in the Komatsu area for winter birds, geese and ducks, then a four-hour drive across country, witnessing many aspects of rural Japan – from the densely-wooded mountains to the traditional wooden houses surrounding ricefields - to Kambayashi Onsen. Overnight in the Hotel Senjukaku or similar.
DAY 9. Thursday 11th December 2025: Snow Monkeys!
After breakfast, we walk to the world-famous Jigokudani Monkey Park to see the Japanese Macaques relaxing in some geothermally heated hot springs (onsens). At close range they appear to pose for our photographs and endlessly entertain us with their antics; the reality is that they are merely going about their daily business, while we enjoy watching and photographing them! The steep-sided valley is flanked with trees and amongst these forests we have a chance of sighting two of Japan’s endemic mammals - the Japanese Serow and the Japanese Squirrel, while overhead we may find Golden Eagle and Eurasian Goshawk. After monkeying about, we drive cross-country stopping at inland lakes to seek the scarce Baikal Teal, Falcated Duck, and Smew, and at stony rivers to look for the scarce (and camouflaged) Long-billed Plover, endemic Japanese Wagtail, and the always-impressive Crested Kingfisher before arriving in the winter birding hotspot of Karuizawa in the foothills of the Japanese Alps. Overnight in the Hotel Marroad or similar for two nights.
DAY 10. Friday 12th December 2025: Karuizawa
Karuizawa supports some superb possibilities among Japanese and Asian speciality birds. We will be on the quest this morning for such specialties as Japanese Pygmy and Japanese Woodpeckers, Japanese Grosbeak, Hawfinch, Brown Dipper, Red-flanked Bluetail, Oriental Greenfinch, Asian Azure-winged Magpie and the gorgeous Copper Pheasant. Though uncommon in December, Pallas’s and Long-tailed Rosefinch are possible as well.
DAY 11. Saturday 13th December 2025: Back To The Big City
We may have time for some final birding in the winter forests around Karuizawa before we return to Tokyo, driving through the heavily populated Kanto Region. On the way, we may drop in at Ura-Myogi, which is famous for its outstandingly beautiful mountain and forest scenery. Here we will be on the lookout for Brown Dipper and the endemic Japanese Accentor. With luck, we may encounter the mighty Japanese Hawk Eagle. Overnight at Haneda Excel Tokyu Hotel or similar.
DAY 12. Sunday 14th December 2025: Hokkaido
We take a morning flight to Kushiro Airport, in the east of Hokkaido – the northernmost of Japan’s main four islands. The temperature is likely to drop, and the landscape changes, and we will spend the rest of the day in the company of the classic dancing Red-crowned Cranes, Sika Deer, and have the possibility of seeing Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, the white-headed Northern race of Long-tailed Tit, Ural Owl, Asian Rosy Finch, or Whooper Swan before heading to our hotel. Overnight in the Hotel Taito, Tsurui.
DAY 13. Monday 15th December 2025: Steller’s & Blakiston’s
We shall enjoy more Red-crowned Cranes and their hauntingly-beautiful calls before breakfast, then drive to Cape Kiritappu for coastal birding and to look for Sea Otters. The Kiritappu Peninsula is a favoured locality for birds of prey in winter, including both Steller’s and White-tailed Sea Eagle along with Black-eared Kite, Japanese Buzzard and occasionally Rough-legged Buzzard, Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl. We will also look for Pelagic and Red-faced Cormorants, and hope to see some northern gulls, including Glaucous, Glaucous-winged and Slaty-backed as well as flocks of Asian Rosy Finches stumbling about in the windy grassland. We then spend two nights at Yuyado Daiichi, from where we mount a night-time vigil for the globally rare Blakiston’s Fish Owl. No more than thirty breeding pairs of this gigantic owl survive on Hokkaido, but with a bit of good fortune, we will see this rare denizen of the northern forests.
DAY 14. Tuesday 16th December 2025: Volcanic Scenery
This day depends on the weather, and may see us head to another part of the coast, but the plan is to visit several volcanic lakes and sulphur springs and the surroundings forests, where there is a range of woodpeckers, Northern Raven, Northern Nutcracker, Brandt’s Jay, as well as more eagles and Whooper Swans in steaming pools. In the evening, we will look for Blakiston’s Fish Owl again.
DAY 15. Wednesday 17th December 2025: The Wild North
Today we head to the very north east of the entire country, and will enjoy spectacular views of numerous Steller’s and White-tailed Sea Eagles at the Notsuke Peninsula, Lake Furen, and in various harbours. We could encounter almost anything today. Gorgeously patterned Harlequin Duck are common along the coastline, and are joined by Black and White-winged Scoter and Long-tailed Duck further offshore. Gulls are abundant too, and there is a good variety of sea birds are possible, such as Spectacled Guillemot, Ancient Murrelet, and other auks and cormorants and as well as grebes and divers, including Pacific Diver. As we travel, we will constantly be looking for herds of Sika Deer and patrolling Red Foxes. Overnight in the Nemuro Grand Hotel or similar.
DAY 16. Thursday 18th December 2025: Sayonara
After breakfast, we spend a little time watching eagles on the iced-over lakes and general birding in the far north before driving back to Kushiro Airport where we transfer to Haneda before transferring onto our overnight flight back to London.
DAY 17. Friday 19th December 2025: Back Home
Arrive in London.
Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather)