Japan’s Winter Wildlife

Snow monkeys, Japanese cranes, whooper swans, and Stellar sea eagles in the land of the rising sun.


The Japanese archipelago with its jagged and broken coastline and high mountain peaks possesses some of the most striking scenery in eastern Asia. Nowhere in Japan is far from the sea, which has a profound influence on both the landscape and wildlife.

In central Honshu, surrounded by the Japanese “Alps”, in deep snow and taking refuge in a the crystal clear water of a hot spring, are the extraordinary, highly approachable and extremely photogenic Japanese macaques.

Further north, on the island of Hokkaido, hundreds of the stunningly beautiful, but rare, Japanese cranes dance and display at their riverine roosts and at their feeding grounds. At ice-coated and mist-fringed Lake Kussharo, we’ll be within arm’s reach of hundreds of delightful whooper swans. Herds of sika deer and red fox, flocks of sea ducks, several species of gulls and some inspiring scenic opportunities all add to the charm of Hokkaido.

And for our grande finale, experience a specialized boat cruise among the shimmering pack ice to photograph one of the world’s largest and most dramatic raptors—the Steller’s sea eagle.


  • Beautiful wildlife and stunning scenery
  • Rare and endangered species
  • Highly experienced tour team
  • Perfectly planned itinerary to maximise photography
  • Private coach for all transfers
  • Experience Japanese culture
  • English-speaking guide
  • Learn cutting-edge skills of wildlife photography
  • Per-centage of profits donated to Animals on the Edge


Day 1: Tokyo

On arrival into Tokyo, we will meet you at the airport and transfer to our hotel. In the evening, we’ll enjoy a welcome dinner.

Days 2: Jigokudani Yaen-Koen

After breakfast, we board our private coach for the transfer to Jigokudani Monkey Park. After checking in to our hotel, we’ll head into the Park for your first experience of these charismatic primates, bathing in hot springs and feeding in the snow covered landscape. (B)

Days 3: Jigokudani Monkey Park

Today we have a full day of photography at the monkey park, with more time to explore the whole area of the park and to interact with the macaques. (B)

Day 4: Tokyo - Hokkaido

After breakfast, we return to Tokyo and catch our flight to the northern-most island of Hokkaido. On arrival, we board our private coach for the trtansfer to Lake Kussharo. (B)

Day 5: Lake Kussharo

Arriving early to catch the morning mist rising over the lake, we have all morning to photograph the graceful swans. In the afternoon, we move to a new location to get the best of the afternoon light. (B)

Day 6: Lake Kussharo - Kushiro

First thing, we have time to revisit Lake Kussharo for another chance to photograph whooper swans. Late morning we then transfer to Kushiro. After checking in to the hotel, we’ll head for one of three private crane feeding grounds to photograph the beautiful Japanese red-crowned cranes. (B)

Day 7: Kushiro

Today we travel between private feeding areas for a full day of photography with the cranes, as they fly in to feed and perform their ritual mating dances against a backdrop of white snow. (B)

Day 8: Kushiro - Rausu

First thing this morning, we have a final chance to photograph the cranes in the misty morning light. We then transfer to Rausu, in the far north of Hokkaido. (B)

Day 9: Sea of Okhotsk

Starting early, today we have two cruises out to the forzen sea of Okhotsk, to photograph Japanese and Stellar sea eagles as they swoop to catch fish, and perform aerial battles of dominance.

Day 10: Sea of Okhotsk - Tokyo

We have another early start and two more cruises out to the forzen sea of Okhotsk, to photograph Japanese and Stellar sea eagles as they swoop to catch fish, and perform aerial battles of dominance. After the second cruise, we transfer to the airport for our flight back to Tokyo.

Day 11: Tokyo

After breakfast and goodbyes, you’ll transfer to the airport in time for your return flight home. (B).

Full Description

Japan is in my top three wildlife photography destinations of all time. The beauty of the country and its people is matched by the calm serenity of the wildlife and landscape, bathed in an ethereal light.


Chris Weston

Wildlife Photographer

What to expect on this safari

Our Japanese odyssey begins in Tokyo. After everyone has arrived and settled in, we head into the city for a group welcome dinner and a briefing on the photo opportunities coming up in the next 10-days.

The next morning, we transfer to central Honshu, set agaisnt the backdrop of the Japanese Alps. In the afternon, we have our first experience of charasimatic Japanese macaques (the official name for snow monkeys) as they take refuge from the cold in the inviting hot springs, and forage for food in their mountain landscape. In the evening, we enjoy a traditional Japanese dinner and your first chance to experience your own “hot springs” in the hotel onsen. We’ll stay in this location for the next day and a half.

From Honshu we fly to Japan’s largest, most northerly island, Hokkaido, where we spend the next six and a half days.

Our first stop is frozen Lake Kussharo. At the water’s edge, thermals keep a strip of lake open, where whooper swans can feed. They fly in over mist ocvered forests to land all-but-elegantly on the ice before waddling to the water. As the light shifts, we move location to a private section of the lake, where the swans forage for food. A mountian range forms our backdrop and it’s possible to capture stunning images of the swans in their environment.

From Lake Kussharo, we head to Kushiro for one of the highlights of the trip – two days photographing the serenely beautiful, graceful red-crowned cranes. Critically endangered, Kushiro farmers have been feeding the cranes for decades, which has provided them with a sanctuary. These private, snow-covered farmlands provide the perfect position from which to photograph the cranes, as they feed, battle over territory and perform their ballet-like courtship dance.

Our last stop is the northern town of Rausu, from where we take a specialist cruise boat, out amongst the glistening pack ice, to photograph the Japanese sea eagle and its bigger couzin, the critically endangered Stellar sea eagle. You’re in the centre of the spectacular storm, as the eagles jostle for aerial dominance, before sweooping down, tallons outstretched, to catch a fish. It’s the perfect end to a glorious experience of wildlife and wild places in the land of the risng sun.

Booking Details

Included in the price

The following items are included in the price of the trip:

  • Internal air transfers
  • All internal road transfers
  • Accommodation as described in the itinerary
  • Meals as described in the itinerary
  • Photographic activities as described in the itinerary
  • All photographic tuition
  • Services of a qualified tour guide
  • Park entry fees
  • Tips

The following items are excluded from the price of the trip:

  • International travel
  • Meals not included in the itinerary
  • Travel insurance and Personal insurance
  • Visa fees (where applicable)
  • Personal expenses
Food guide

Meals are included as described in the itinerary. B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner. Typical meals are based on local cuisine, prepared with fresh, local ingredients. In some hotels, there is an option for international cuisine. Wherever possible, and with prior knowledge, we can cater for specialist diets and individual preferences.


We do not provide travel insurance. We strongly advise you have travel insurance that includes comprehensive cover for cancellation, prior to booking flights. We also advise a policy that covers loss and accidental damage to photographic equipment. We do not take responsibility for any financial or equipment losses howsoever they occur.

Spirit of adventure

Our trips are not about ticking boxes or ‘trophy’ photography. Our ethos is to help you appreciate the complete experience, demonstrate the benefits of making a real connection with the animals and their environment, and guide you in how to experience wildlife photography in a mindful way so every photograph becomes a memory. It’s important participants have the spirit to enjoy the experience of traveling in wild places, where going with the flow is all part of the adventure. We also believe it’s never too early or too late to experience life, so we encourage participation by photographers of any age and irrespective of experience. The most important ingredients are a big heart and a strong mind.

Terms & Conditions

These Terms and Conditions form the basis of the contract between ICE Media Ltd hereafter referred to as “CHRIS WESTON” and the participant, hereafter referred to as “the participant”. No modifications to the Terms and Conditions will be accepted.

1. Participant Information

1.1 The participant is required to complete a Traveler’s Information Form and sign it. This form must be completed and signed within 14 days of receipt. The participation of the participant on any photo safari or workshop will be declined in the absence of the signed documents, with no refund given.

1.2 The participant is responsible for providing correct information regarding personal details. CHRIS WESTON will not be responsible for costs incurred due to incorrect, incomplete or inaccurate information.

2. Deposits and payments

2.1 A non-refundable deposit is required to reserve a place for the participant on a CHRIS WESTON photo safari/workshop. Deposit payments may be made by bank transfer or by credit or debit card through Paypal. All payment processing fees, including but not limited to PayPal fees and bank transfer fees, have to be paid by the participant.

2.2 Where a deposit has been paid to secure a booking, the balance of the photo safari/workshop fee is due no less than 90-days prior to the commencement of the event. Payments may be made by bank transfer or by credit or debit card through Paypal. All payment processing fees, including but not limited to PayPal fees and bank transfer fees, have to be paid by the participant. Should this final payment fail to reach CHRIS WESTON or its agent by the date specified then CHRIS WESTON reserves the right to treat the booking as cancelled and retain the deposit.

3. Cancellation and refunds

3.1 CHRIS WESTON must receive written notice of the participant’s cancellation at which time the following cancellation fees are payable:

– more than 120 days before the photo safari (workshops 90 days) starts: 100% of deposit.

– 120 days or fewer before the photo safari starts (workshops 90 days) starts: 100% of total fee.

3.1.1 No partial refunds are made for unused services or portions of a photo safari/workshop for any reason whatsoever. Photo safaris/workshops are sold as a package only. This policy also applies to photo safari extensions. Cancellation fees are not transferable.

3.2 CHRIS WESTON reserves the right to change the price of, alter or cancel any photo safari/workshop prior to the scheduled departure date for any reason whatsoever. Should a change in price become necessary, the participant will then have the choice of accepting the change, transferring to an alternative photo safari/workshop (and where this is of a lower price CHRIS WESTON will refund the difference) or withdrawing from the contract and accepting a refund of all monies paid to CHRIS WESTON. CHRIS WESTON is not responsible for any expenses incurred by the participant relating to this clause.

3.2.1 Where an alteration is necessary and the alteration constitutes a substantial change to the photo safari/workshop described in the Information Pack then the participant will then have the choice of accepting the alteration, transferring to an alternative photo safari/workshop (and where this is of a lower price CHRIS WESTON will refund the difference) or withdrawing from the contract and accepting a refund of all monies paid to CHRIS WESTON. CHRIS WESTON is not responsible for any expenses incurred by the participant relating to this clause.

3.3 CHRIS WESTON reserves the right to make any changes it deems necessary to the itinerary or to substitute hotels, modes of transport, vessels, or guides to those mentioned in the literature.

3.4 CHRIS WESTON makes a best effort to accurately price photo safaris in advance but due to the nature of operating these types of photo safaris/workshops prices are subject to change at any time. Where a price change is necessary the terms detailed in clause 3.2 (above) will apply.

3.5 The receipt of a deposit does not imply acceptance of a booking. CHRIS WESTON will confirm its acceptance of the booking in writing and it is at the time CHRIS WESTON sends out this confirmation that a contract comes into existence between CHRIS WESTON and the participant.

4. Logistics

4.1 In the event of the specified tour leader being unable to attend due to illness or other circumstances beyond the control of CHRIS WESTON then another tour leader will be provided.

4.2 Where airport and/or hotel transfers are included in the cost of the photo safari/workshop, such transfers are only guaranteed when the participant travels on the flight(s) specified by CHRIS WESTON. CHRIS WESTON will always seek to accommodate the participant arriving or departing on different flights. However, when this is impractical, the participant will be responsible for his or her own transfer costs and arrangements.

4.3 In the event that CHRIS WESTON is unable to provide after departure a significant proportion of the services the participant has booked, then CHRIS WESTON will make alternative arrangements for the participant at no extra charge.

4.4 If the participant has special dietary or other requests then he or she should inform CHRIS WESTON of these requirements prior to departure. CHRIS WESTON will advise the relevant people of the requirements of the participant but CHRIS WESTON cannot guarantee that such requests will be met and will have no liability to the participant if such requests are not met.

4.5 The type of photo safaris/workshops CHRIS WESTON offers requires flexibility on the part of the participant and the participant must allow for alternatives. For this reason the itinerary and photo safari /workshop description must be taken as an indication of what may take place on the photo safari/workshop and not as a contractual obligation on the part of CHRIS WESTON.

4.6 Refunds will not be given for unused hotel rooms, meals, unused rental equipment, missed days due to late arrival or any other modified photo safari arrangements for any reason whatsoever. Photo safari/workshop costs are quoted as a package and credits are not given for services not used by the participant.

5. Travel arrangements and delays

5.1 All travel to and from the photo safari/workshop starting point is the sole responsibility of the participant.

5.2 The cost of delays is not included if any photo safari/workshops must be delayed due to bad weather, transportation delays, government intervention, sickness or other contingency for which CHRIS WESTON cannot make provision. The photo safari/workshop start and end dates will not be extended in the event of a late arrival. The participant is not entitled to a credit or refund should the photo safari be of a shorter duration than planned as a result of late arrival, regardless of cause.

6. Compulsory withdrawals and declined bookings

6.1 CHRIS WESTON reserves the right to require the participant to withdraw form a photo safari/workshop at any time if the photo safari/workshop leader deems his or her actions or conduct to be detrimental to the operation of the photo safari/workshop or incompatible with the interests, harmony, comfort or welfare of other participants.

6.2 The participant must at all times follow the instructions of the photo safari/workshop leader, guides and staff. Should an individual be overly confident, eager or reckless in approaching an animal, the participant may be withdrawn from the photo safari/workshop. Any fines imposed by Government or other legally recognized authorities and levied due to the actions of the participant shall be the sole liability of the participant.

6.3 Any expenses incurred due to the participant’s removal from a photo safari/workshop will be the responsibility of the participant. In such cases, no refund or credit will be payable or due to the participant. In the event a participant decides that he or she would like to leave the photo safari early, all costs will be at the participant’s expense and no refund or credit will be given.

6.4 Should CHRIS WESTON be charged with fines by any wildlife officer or authority due to the reckless behaviour of the participant, these fines will have to be paid by the participant.

6.5 CHRIS WESTON reserves the right to cancel the participants booking at any time and for any reason whatsoever. CHRIS WESTON’s decision to cancel a booking on any photo safari/workshop shall be at its sole an absolute discretion. Should CHRIS WESTON cancel a booking it will refund all payments received from the participant and this will be the limit of CHRIS WESTON’s liability.

6.6 Any expenses incurred by the participant relating to a declined booking shall be the responsibility of the participant.

7. Losses and liability

7.1 CHRIS WESTON does not accept liability for any loss or additional expenses incurred by the participant and caused by delay or interruption to travel services for any reason including but not limited to weather, civil disturbance, industrial action, strikes, wars, environment or sickness. Such losses or additional expenses are the responsibility of the participant.

7.2 CHRIS WESTON does not accept responsibility or liability for death, bodily injury or illness caused to the participant or any other person included in the booking unless arising from the negligent act of CHRIS WESTON, CHRIS WESTON employees (whilst acting in the course of his or her employment). Any claims shall be subject to English law in respect of any question of liability or quantum and all proceedings shall be within the exclusive domain of the English courts.

7.3 The participant must communicate any perceived failure in the performance of this contract immediately to the tour leader thus giving the tour leader the opportunity to achieve a satisfactory solution. Should this not be possible then the participant should make his or her complaint known to CHRIS WESTON in writing within 28 days of the completion of the photo safari/workshop.

8. Insurance

8.1 CHRIS WESTON does not carry health, life, property, travel or injury insurance for the participant. The participant is strongly advised to obtain appropriate travel insurance prior to commencement of the photo safari/workshop that should include extended medical insurance, emergency evacuation, cancellation due to Foreign & Commonwealth Office or other competent warnings not to travel, cancellation and personal property.

8.2 The participant is responsible for any medical expenses they incur. CHRIS WESTON will not pay for any expenses incurred by the participant for medical reasons.

9. Health and fitness

9.1 The participant must be in general good health to participate in a CHRIS WESTON photo safari/workshop. Anyone with medical problems or restrictions must make them known to CHRIS WESTON well in advance of the photo safari/workshop. The photo safari/workshop leader has the right to disqualify on medical grounds the participant from all or part of the photo safari/workshop and no refunds or credits will be given under such circumstances.

9.2 CHRIS WESTON takes no responsibility for any special arrangements required by the participant if he or she is physically unable to complete a photo safari/workshop and assumes no liability regarding the provision of medical care.

10. Travel documents

10.1 For overseas travel the participant must be in possession of a valid passport and all necessary visas, permits and certificates, including medical certificates, for the whole of the journey and the participant accepts responsibility for obtaining the same. All information and advice given by CHRIS WESTON on visas, vaccinations, climate, clothing, baggage, special equipment, etc. is given in good faith and should not be taken as being complete or wholly accurate.

11. Accommodation

11.1 Unless otherwise stated accommodation is provided based on two people occupying a twin or double room.

11.2 If the participant is a single traveler wishing to share accommodation CHRIS WESTON will try to match him or her with a roommate of the same sex. If no roommate is available the participant will be roomed in a single room or twin or double room for sole occupancy and no single supplement will be charged.

11.3 If the participant requests a single room, where a single room is available a single supplement will be charged.

12. Itinerary

12.1 CHRIS WESTON’s itineraries are intended as an example only. The participant should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, the environment, cultural events or other logistical arrangements. While every effort will be made to adhere to the planned itinerary, it must be realized that with this type of adventurous travel, often to inhospitable regions impacted by severe and unpredictable weather, changes to the itinerary are to be expected.

12.2 Any changes to the itinerary are made at the sole discretion of CHRIS WESTON, the photo safari /workshop leader, our agents or staff and come under the terms specified in clause 3.2 (above).

13. Images & wildlife

13.1 CHRIS WESTON marketing and information materials contain photographs that depict typical locations, scenes and animals that may be viewed on a CHRIS WESTON photo safari/workshop. Photographs may not depict animals photographed at that specific location and the sightings of wildlife on any photo safari can vary and are not guaranteed.

14. Photography

14.1 CHRIS WESTON reserves the right to take photographic or video records on all photo safaris/workshops and the participant grants CHRIS WESTON permission to use such images and video for promotional purposes.

15. Group size

15.1 The maximum number of participants on a photo safari/workshops does not include the photo safari leaders, guides, camp staff or photo safari medic (if applicable).

15.2 Should only one space remain on a photo safari/workshop, it is CHRIS WESTON’s policy to accept two persons traveling together, even if it exceeds the stated photo safari maximum.

15.3 CHRIS WESTON may host multiple groups operating independently from a common base camp, with separate guides.

16. Special clauses for Polar Bear Migration & Northern Lights Fly-in photo safari

16.1 There is a chance that weather will delay the group’s arrival into or departure from Hudson Bay, which may result in the participant missing his or her return flight from Churchill. In the event of a delay on the outbound leg of the transfer to Hudson Bay, CHRIS WESTON will provide one night’s accommodation at a hotel in Churchill.

16.2 In the event that the charter flight is unable to fly on the second day due to weather delays, CHRIS WESTON will provide one additional night’s hotel accommodation in Churchill. If at 10:00AM on the morning of Day 3 flying is still not possible, CHRIS WESTON will officially cancel the photo safari and provide letters for the participant to submit to his or her travel insurance provider in relation to any claim the participant has under the travel delay, interruption and/or cancellation clause of his or her policy.

16.3 CHRIS WESTON will not offer clients a refund in the event of trip cancellation nor compensation in the event of a delay. If the charter flight is not able to take off by 10:00AM on Day 3, CHRIS WESTON will make every effort to assist the participant with rebooking hotels or flights but this will be at the cost of the participant and CHRIS WESTON strongly recommends that the participant contact his or her insurance provider prior to changing any reservations.

16.4 If the participant is at the Camp Complex during these delays then he or she will remain at the Complex at no additional cost until such time CHRIS WESTON is able to arrange transport via the charter flight.

16.5 CHRIS WESTON advises the participant to book flexible and changeable airlines tickets along with Cancellation and Interruption insurance to assist with additional airline fees payable due to delays caused by weather.

16.6 CHRIS WESTON advises the participant to have flexible travel arrangements upon completion of the photo safari in case of delays. CHRIS WESTON will not be held responsible for any change or cancellations fees incurred by the participant due to weather-related delays or any other delays arising from force majeure.

16.7 If a participant sets off an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) when deemed unnecessary by the authorities, the participant will be responsible for both the significant cost of the rescue plus the cost to replace any abandoned or lost equipment.

17. Special clauses for The Realm of the Spirit Bear photo safari

17.1 Due to the special and strict terms of our ground agent in Canada, we require payment of the final balance for this tour 120 days prior to departure. If payment is not received by this date we reserve the right to cancel your place on this trip and 100% of your deposit in non-refundable.

If you cancel your booking more than 100-days prior to departure, 50% of your deposit is non-refundable.

18. Authority

18.1 The participant’s signature below signifies the acceptance of the photo safari/workshop leader’s authority to make decisions affecting the group or individuals. For instance, such leader may require an individual to leave the group if he or she believes that person’s health is at risk, if an illegal act is committed, or their behaviour becomes detrimental to the safety, enjoyment or well being of the group. Should CHRIS WESTON or anyone acting on their behalf be required to incur legal fees and costs to enforce this agreement, the participant agrees to indemnify and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. This agreement and any disputes hereunder shall be governed by and construed in accordance with English laws. In the event a lawsuit is filed, the participant agrees to do so solely in UK.


By paying the photo safari/workshop deposit or fee the participant acknowledges and confirms that they have read and understood these Terms & Conditions in their entirety and agrees to accept all of the above conditions. The participant also confirms that these Terms & Conditions will be binding on his or her heirs, next of kin, executors, administrators and successors, and that this is the entire understanding between the participant and CHRIS WESTON and cannot be modified or changed in any way by any statements or representations by the participant or by CHRIS WESTON. The person who makes the payment does so on behalf of all the individuals included in the booking so that all are bound by the booking conditions.

Immerse Yourself in the Photo Experience

I’m delighted you’ve decided to join me on this photograhic experience and I’m looking forward to meeting you and sharing with you my passion for and knowledge of photography. To complete your booking there’s a short form to fill in. Please click the button below to start your journey.