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Tour details - Snow Country Winter Life & Traditions


  • Experience ‘Snow Country’ in the heart of central Japan—one of the snowiest areas of the world—at its winter best, and understand how the region’s unique culture and landscapes relate to the extreme climate

  • Learn about the region’s great fermented food tradition—including premium-quality sake, naturally fermented soy sauce and miso, and health-giving natto and doburoku (farmer’s cloudy sake)—by visiting artisan workshops, local food experts, and the renowned Yoshinogawa Sake Brewery

  • Stay in private and community-run accommodation in traditional country houses (renovated for modern comforts) in picturesque villages and towns—these are NOT tourist villages that you find on most tour itineraries—including two classic 19th-century farmhouses restored to their original glory

  • Experience everyday life in hill villages—take a walk along country roads for views of photogenic terraced fields and forests under the thick winter blanket, harvest ‘snow cabbages’ and learn why these vegetables develop exceptional sweetness, and learn rustic country recipes and/or traditional cloth sandal making from the villagers

  • Explore the world-renowned knifemaking and metalworking traditions of Sanjo, visit blacksmithing workshops, hunt for souvenir items at showrooms, and trying your hand at handcrafting a traditional Japanese paperknife or learning how to sharpen a Japanese handcrafted kitchen knife

  • Enjoy a day of snowshoeing through the starkly beautiful winter landscapes of the Snow Country, and unwind in a comfortable, modern wood cabin in the forests

  • Absorb the spiritual atmosphere at Snow Country’s Buddhist temples—among the most elaborate in Japan—including a small chapel renowned for the wood carvings by Uncho Ishikawa, the 19th-century ‘Michelangelo of Japan’

  • Discover the Snow Country’s craft traditions, including metalwork, handmade paper and textiles, and (optionally) try your hand crafting your own metal jewellery or textured paper

  • Enjoy a variety of dining experiences including the freshest Sea of Japan seafood, soba noodles, and sansai (Japanese ‘bushfoods’)—plus an Italian-style lunch at a winery using snow for low-temperature maturation of its unique wines

  • Learn about the region’s history, natural environment, traditional life and contemporary art at local museums and galleries—including a collection of astoundingly elaborate Jomon-period ceramics over 5000 years old

  • Visit the world-famous Matsumoto Castle at the foot of the Japan Alps with its imposing 16th-century original structure

A winter only version of the ‘Snow Country Life & Traditions’ itinerary in which you will experience one of the snowiest regions of the world under its thick white mantle. The comprehensive and varied itinerary showcases the distinct culture of the ‘Snow Country’ region on the Sea of Japan coast of central Japan, and includes experiences that cannot be enjoyed at other times of the year. The tour covers themes including food, traditional crafts, spirituality, village life, history and prehistory, which will all ‘fit together’ as you gain, through the course of the tour, an understanding of the region’s unique natural environment—particularly its extreme snowfalls—and its effects on everyday life. Activities include easy-grade walking and snowshoeing in villages, towns and the countryside, visiting food and craft artisans’ workshops and small regional museums, ‘hands on’ experiences such as traditional metalcraft, paper and cloth sandal making, and cooking demonstrations. The tour predominantly features traditional-style accommodation for an authentic experience, with an emphasis on private and community-run accommodation in traditional ‘Snow Country’ houses, in addition to family-run ryokans. With most of your time during the tour based in non-tourist village and country town environments, you will have ample opportunity for genuine interactions with locals in their everyday lives. The tour will conclude with a quick visit to the famous tourist attraction of Matsumoto Castle. Through your participation in this tour, you will be directly supporting community-based initiatives aimed at revitalising declining regional areas and preserving architectural heritage, artisans dedicated to preserving craft traditions into the future, farmers supporting sustainable agriculture and continuing farming traditions into the future, and environmentally and health-conscious family-run businesses that uphold regional food traditions.


MAIN DESTINATIONS COVERED: Sanjo, Nagaoka, Tokamachi, Uonuma region (Niigata Prefecture), Otari and Iiyama regions (Nagano Prefecture)


TOUR LENGTH: 10 days (9 nights)




SEASON: early February–late March


BOOKINGS CLOSE: 120 days before agreed departure date


START LOCATION: JR Shinjuku Station, Tokyo [MAP]


END LOCATION: JR Shinjuku Station, Tokyo [MAP]




CULTURAL TOLERANCE: moderate (must be able to sleep on traditional futon bedding on 7 nights)


COST: from AUD $3800/person (6 persons) to $5800/person (2 persons), including ALL ground transport, accommodation, meals, tour guiding, fees and charges

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