Japan Winter Magic by Rail

Max Group 12

Private Room

Lifetime Deposit

16 Days & 2 Islands: Japan's Snowy Season

Leave the travel cliches behind on this 16-day solo travellers’ trip, and come explore Japan’s remote Northern region during Winter. Leaping far from the usual tourist trail, your trip starts in Sapporo during its annual Ice Festival on the northern wilderness island of Hokkaido – where mountainous and wild-coast views leave anyone who visits, catching their breath.

Travelling by train (because nobody does trains like Japan!) you’ll cross under the Tsugaru Strait, and meander south, exploring some of Japan’s best-preserved historic towns where your expert guide makes stories of the Shogun, Samurai and Edo Period come alive.  

On the home stretch, you’ll come to rest in Kyoto for an immersive soul-recharging experience that will tick all the ‘Zensory’ boxes. All-in-all, this is a surreal winterland journey in the company of no more than 12 in your group that you shouldn’t miss!

Highlights

See Sapporo’s Ice Festival.

Explore Japan’s best and hidden best.

Visit Samurai Neighbourhoods and Shogun Post Towns.

Stay overnight in a Traditional Japanese Inn.

Dine out in the Geisha District of Kyoto.

Lunch with locals in their home in Miyama Village.

Trip Details

Trip Breakdown

Price

$10,577 AUD (per person – private supplement only)

  • $2,150 AUD deposit
  • 2-week cooling-off period applies
  • Lifetime Deposit. If you need to cancel, your deposit is transferable to other trips
  • Private room of your own, every time

Please refer to our payment terms in the FAQs.


Dates

Starts: 6 February 2025, Sapporo

Ends: 21 February 2025, Tokyo


Length

16 days / 15 nights


Arrival

Hotel Abest, Sapporo


Departure

Nohga Hotel Akihabara, Tokyo


Group Size

12


Included

  • Meals: 15 breakfasts, 14 lunches and 9 dinners
  • Private room of your own, every time
  • Private arrival and departure transfers
  • All trains and private road transfers as listed
  • 14 nights of comfortable 3-star accommodation and 1 night in a traditional Japanese Inn – see more details in FAQs
  • 5 x Luggage transfers (1 large case pp) on days 3, 5, 8, 10 & 14 – see more details in FAQs
  • A top-rated and English-speaking Tour Leader
  • All listed activities and more!

Not Included

  • International flights
  • Travel insurance (compulsory)
  • Late check-out at hotels
  • Meals and drinks not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Drinks with included lunches and dinners
  • Tip kitty (See FAQs for more information)
  • Personal expenditure

Accommodation

Your Fencox accommodation means having a private room, all to yourself – every single time. However, the overnight train is not a private supplement.


Day 1: Welcome to Sapporo, Hokkaido

Kon’nichiwa and welcome to Sapporo! We’ve arranged a private transfer to whisk you directly to your hotel. After check-in, rest up – or maybe rug up and take a stroll down to the Sapporo Beer Museum for a look-see, and a cheeky tasting or two. But don’t lose track of time, because by day’s end, you’ll be bonding over dinner with your guide and your new Fencox family. 

Accommodation: Hotel Abest, Sapporo, or similar
Included: Dinner

Day 2: Sapporo – Not Just Famous for Beer!

Pop on your winter woollies this morning, because after breakfast you’ll be exploring Sapporo with your guide on foot, through a labyrinth of snow and ice sculptures.

After lunch, your group will travel up one of those mountains hugging the city’s boundary for a close-up view of the world’s famed ski-jump. This time of year, you’re sure to see athletes practising – and on both fine and misty days the views from the mountainside are a treat. 

Tonight is for doing as you please! You might feel like tracking down a bowl of steaming miso ramen – being a Sapporo speciality, it’s easily found, and your guide can point you in the direction of a restaurant just near your hotel. You may even feel a magnetic-like drawback to the ice festival, and who wouldn’t want to see the sculptures lit up for a colourful light show! 

Accommodation: Hotel Abest, Sapporo, or similar
Included: Breakfast and lunch

Day 3: Hakodate

Wave goodbye to your suitcase this morning – it’s on a journey of its own by courier. You’ll be reunited in Hirosaki on Day 4. When you step on the train to Hakodate with your lightweight overnight bag, you’ll be wondering why nowhere else in the world has caught onto this liberating travel style!

The four hours by train will slip by too quickly. After soaking in Hokkaido’s inland snowy whiteness, your toasty-warm ride will track to the West and sidle on up to the coastline – and wintery Pacific Ocean views wherever you look. Your only distraction will be the neat compartments of deliciousness in your bento box that’s served for lunch along the way.

Before day’s end (and if the weather gods are kind to us) you’ll be treated to a different type of view – of Hakodate city stretching out on the narrow peninsula arm below you – thanks to a ride on Mt. Hakodate’s Ropeway.

Accommodation: Hotel Resol, Hakodate, or similar
Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 4: Hirosaki Castle

Rise and shine early this morning because you don’t want to miss out on eating like the locals. A donburi breakfast is basically steamed rice and anything you choose to have on top – even Hakodate’s famous catch, squid! It may sound all too lunch-like for you, but hey; when in Rome… or in this case, when in Japan and the options are almost endless! 

Afterwards, you’ll leave Hokkaido Island behind for Japan’s mainland via the Seikan Tunnel. The train ride is so smooth you’ll never know that for more than 23 km you’re travelling below the seabed. 

Hirosaki Castle is a quintessential Japanese castle,  and with ice crystals hanging from the surrounding cherry trees, this is an absolute photo-worthy scene! On clear days, it’s also a place to step back and take in the bigger picture, because looming in the background is an unexpected showstopper – Mt Fuji’s little-known look-alike, but equally as imposing, Mt Iwaki.

Accommodation: Route Inn, Hirosaki, or similar
Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 5: The Gono Line Joyful Train

You won’t know which way to look when you ride the Gono line today. The train departs the station in the shadow of Mt Iwaki and before long, the track plucks a path through the countryside. You’ll feel like you’re travelling through fairytale towns, thanks to that dusting of snow on the roofs of homes and onsens. 

Suddenly, about a third of the way into the five-hour journey, serenity is replaced with drama. The Senjojiki coastline is right there, by your side – its bedrock fingers clawing at the coastline, forming natural swimming pools that locals flock to every summer. The line hugs the shoreline now for much of the rest of the ride. Goodbye Onsens, hello fishing villages! Not even today’s Bento Box will distract you from the scenic movie playing outside your train window.

You’ll be bedding down in Akita tonight and there’ll be time to stretch your legs with a stroll around town before heading out to dinner with your Fencox gang. It’s day 5 and your group is already bonding like old friends and finding excuses to extend dinnertime into post-meal nightcaps!

Accommodation: Dormy Inn, Akita, or similar
Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Japan’s Joyful Trains

Do you fancy riding a train for the pure enjoyment of riding a train? Then you’re going to love Japan’s ‘Joyful Trains’. 

Enjoy sedate rides with musical accompaniments on the inside while coastline drama and countryside orchards pass by on the outside, or dive into the world of kitsch by riding a train celebrating all things Pokémon. Dine out with a view from a fancy-schmancy restaurant train, or test your balance with a ride on a saki-tasting train. There’s even one for cyclists; destined for a bike-friendly tourist spot and fitted with bike racks and a floor to accommodate riding shoes!

Whether you’re enticed by the views on the outside, or the activities on the inside, in Japan there’s a train ride dreamed up for everyone!

Day 6: Samurai Town and Sendai

There’ve been so many wow moments on this trip already, but still, you’ll hardly be able to contain yourself this morning. You’ll be boarding the train for a short ride to the town of Kakunodate. As you roam the streets, you may feel like you’ve travelled back in time. This place was home for centuries to military nobility known as The Samurai.  Explore it with your guide, inside and out! 

Then it’s back on the train – peel off those winter gloves and relax. Sendai is around one and a half hours away. At check-in, you’ll be reunited with your luggage once again!

Accommodation: Sendai Washington Hotel, Akita, or similar
Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 7: Day Tripping to Matsushima

Matsushima Bay is on show today, so it’s no wonder that you’ll spend some time exploring it on a comfortable cruise boat. Any spot that’s listed as one of Japan’s three most scenic views, deserves your attention! You’ll also visit Zuiganji – a temple that’s had several reincarnations over the centuries and is now a Zen Temple. Wander towards the entrance and you’ll notice the tree-lined path no longer has the ordered rhythm of Zen planting. That’s because this area was tragically hit by the tsunami in 2011 and some trees, damaged by the salt water, have been felled.

You’ll be back at your hotel around 5pm. That’s plenty of time to make your dinner plans – the night is yours to explore, or stay in, as you please!

Accommodation: Sendai Washington Hotel, Akita, or similar
Included: Breakfast and lunch

Day 8: Aizu Wakamatsu

Today’s transfer is just two-and-a-half hours and when you arrive in Aizu Wakamatsu, you’ll be pleased there’s a bunch of time up your sleeve for your guide to help you discover exactly what this scenic beauty has to offer.

Set in a valley ringed by mountains, the town not only has onsen and a must-be-photographed castle surrounded by manicured traditional streetscapes… it’s also famous for a drink – anyone up for a tasting or few at our favourite saki brewery to warm the cockles of your heart?

Accommodation: Aizu Wakamatsu Washington, Aizu Wakamatsu or similar
Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 9: Old Post Town Ouchi Juku

Your Fencox family will trade the tracks for the road this morning. It’s just one hour to your destination – the old post town of Ouchi Juku. Once a stop on the trade route between your overnight stop and Nikko, it developed out of necessity during the Shogun era, to feed, water and bed down weary traders who travelled the route on foot.

Today, Ouchi Juku is restored to its Edo Period, traditional self. You’ll wander along the unpaved main street, peering at the shops and inns, feeling amazed by the immaculacy of their trimmed, thatched roofs. By now you’ll have come to realise that each day on this trip is like a leap from one magic-filled storybook to the next.

Back to Aizu Wakamatsu for a free afternoon. Hmm… how will you decide to spend it

Accommodation: Aizu Wakamatsu Washington, Aizu Wakamatsu or similar
Included: Breakfast and lunch

Day 10: Overnight in a Traditional Inn

You’ll travel by train to Kinugawa Onsen this morning – however not for the obvious reasons tourists usually flock to this onsen resort town, known for its amusement parks. Instead, in true adventurous style, you’ve come in search of a train called Great Tree! It’s a short ride, but we guarantee that this time of year, it’s a must-do! 

Tonight, it’s your turn to sleep in a traditional Inn. Don’t worry – your accommodation has come a long way since the Edo Period, and while the low-rise beds may take some getting down to, once you’re tucked in, you’ll sleep surprisingly well! 

Accommodation: Hoshinoyado, Nikko or similar
Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 11: Bullet Train to Kyoto

Today is a travel day, so pack that book, just in case you want to drift off to another world for a time, while your group transfers to Kyoto via Tokyo (oh… did you notice that Kyoto is an anagram of Tokyo?!). The whole trip will take about five-and-a-half hours but the last bit is on the Bullet Train, which is absolutely thrilling!

Your luggage will be waiting for you in Kyoto, so pop on your party-best (if it goes with your sensible walking shoes)! You will get to know Gion, Kyoto’s most famous district, on a walking tour with your guide tonight. With the lanterns lit for the evening, there is an atmospheric glow in town. Keep an eye out for geisha girls flitting about the streets like fireflies. This is a new side of Japan that’s just now unveiling itself to you, so take it all in and enjoy! Afterwards head onto dinner at a restaurant that’s one of your guide’s favourites, in a nearby local neighbourhood.

Accommodation: Onyado Nono Shichijo, Kyoto or similar
Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 12: Kyoto – The Famous

Good morning! You just finished your first sleep of four in your premium Kyoto Hotel. Now is that time in your trip where it’s oh-so-nice to change the pace, unpack and make yourself feel truly at home.

Today, your guide will show you Kyoto’s premier must-see list. Touristy or not, the Old Town is still going to knock your socks off, and when you walk through the orange colonnade of the Torii Gates, you’ll be pinching yourself that you’re doing it! 

With a few other ‘A-lister’ experiences to sneak in, including a private tea ceremony, you’ll be back at your hotel by the late afternoon. Tonight is yours for the making – go out on the town or stay in – whatever you choose, now is an excellent time to mention your hotel has his and hers hot springs baths onsite!

Accommodation: Onyado Nono Shichijo, Kyoto or similar
Included: Breakfast and lunch

Day 13: Miyama Village

Today is a special one! Once you’ve been there and it’s weaved its magic on you, when you hear the word Miyama, all that will follow is a sigh of contentment – guaranteed. Welcoming. Unique. Warming – just a few words to express this place when you break up into groups of four for your in-home lunch experience. An experience to fill both your belly and your soul!

Accommodation: Onyado Nono Shichijo, Kyoto or similar
Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 14: The Sagano Romantic Train

We couldn’t let you leave Kyoto without visiting the Bamboo Forest, so we’ve snuck that into your morning before you head out to trump it with an oh-so-special train ride! It’s just a leisurely 25-minute trip in all, but how mesmerising those minutes are, no matter the season. Who needs cherry blossom when the Japanese maple surrenders its best in autumn, summer brings the greenest of greens and the winter landscape twinkles with a dusting of snow. The line runs along the Hozugawa River and winds through the mountains at a gentle pace, giving you plenty of time for photo opportunities.

There are no set plans for dinner tonight, but can you hear your Fencox family calling anyway? 

Accommodation: Onyado Nono Shichijo, Kyoto or similar
Included: Breakfast and lunch

Day 15: Tokyo Bound

It’s time to say goodbye to Kyoto – Tokyo is beckoning! Let’s jump aboard the bullet train one more time. In a little over three hours, you’ll be staring up at those never-ending high-rise clusters of central Tokyo. Life is at a different pace in Japan’s capital and biggest city. It’s high time you experienced it!

After a spell at the hotel, you’ll regroup for an evening guided walk around Shinjuku. This neighbourhood is not only one of Tokyo’s largest entertainment and shopping areas, it’s also home to the world’s busiest train station! That sounds like a perfect spot for your farewell dinner – together you’ll celebrate the adventures you’ve had and friendships you’ve made. 

Accommodation: Nohga Hotel Akihabara, Tokyo or similar
Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 16: Farewell

Has it really been sixteen days? You’ve experienced so much and it’s hard to fathom how the time went by so fast. Grab your nearest Fencox friend for a hearty hug. This may be your last breakfast together for now, but surely not forever – the only question left is: where to next?!

Included: Breakfast

Trip Map

Frequently Asked Questions


Prior to the payment of your full balance, the final price may change if there is a significant variation in the AUD:JPY exchange rate. Our trip pricing is determined by what the exchange rates are at the time of publishing the trip.

The pricing on this trip is based on an exchange rate of 1 AUD:104.6 JPY

A deposit of $2,150 is required to hold your spot. Payment can be made by credit card (fees apply) or bank deposit.

There is a cooling-off period of 2 weeks. (Applicable to all bookings made 110 days in advance.)

We have implemented a ‘lifetime deposit’ guarantee. Deposits are not refundable, but they are transferable at any time, right up until the first day of the trip.

The final balance of the trip is required 95 days in advance of the departure date. Our suppliers require upfront payment well in advance to guarantee availability.

Please refer to the full terms and conditions for further information.

Level 1 or Easy

So long as you have a general level of health and fitness, you’ll be fine. However, to enjoy this trip, you’ll need to be able to spend time on your feet and regularly walk for 3-4 hours. Daily activities might include walking on uneven, snow-covered and hilly ground, getting on and off various forms of transportation and occasionally climbing some stairs.

You may also encounter over-the-bath showers in some of the accommodations. Also, one night is spent in a Japanese Inn, which means sleeping on a traditional futon, so you’ll need to be able to get up and down from the floor for that. 

All activities are optional, meaning that if you don’t feel like it, you can skip it, but it will be impossible to enjoy your trip if you’re not able to do a walking tour for a full afternoon. Unfortunately, this tour cannot accommodate people requiring walking aids.

 

Fencox was created because we had so many enquiries from men and women who had heard about our amazing Patch Adventures trips for women-only and wanted the opportunity to travel solo in the same way, only in a mixed group.

Fencox caters to both men and women who are solo travellers, have a genuine sense of adventure, are aged 55+, and are physically active and young at heart. Your fellow travel mates on a Fencox trip are inquisitive about the world and love exploring new travel destinations. Fencox travel mates love meeting new people, enjoy a good chat, and are happy to share a table with fellow travel mates for dinner.

If you’re travelling solo but don’t want to feel alone, this is your opportunity to share your travel experiences with other like-minded people. And best of all …. you’ll never pay a single supplement because everyone is guaranteed their own room!

Will we be picked up at the airport?
Yes! One of our friendly team will be waiting for you in the public arrivals area of the airport. You’ll transfer directly to the hotel. The transfer is free and in a private and air-conditioned vehicle, which you will only share if there is anyone else on your flight joining the tour.

When should we arrive?
Try to arrive before midday on the start day, although earlier would be recommendable. If possible, come one day early to settle in. We can organise additional hotel nights for you at cost.

Being tour operators (not travel agents), we are not licensed to sell flights. We recommend contacting your trusted local travel agent to book flights if you’re in need of assistance.

Japan’s train system is impressive, and rather than lugging luggage around, locals use couriers to transport it between destinations. We’ll be using the same. So, as well as your usual luggage (single case, please), you’ll need a small backpack or overnight case (with wheels) to pack essentials for a brief overnight stay while your luggage is couriered directly to meet you at the next major destination. This trip has five Luggage transfers that occur on days 3, 5, 8, 10 & 14.

Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require a tourist visa for short stays in Japan. All travellers need a passport that is valid for 6 months after departure.

Tipping is not expected in Japan (and tipping in restaurants may even offend), however, if your guide has ensured that your trip is memorable, we encourage a gesture of thanks with a tip at the end of your adventure. As a suggestion, between 8,000 and 12,000 Yen per person would be appropriate, but also feel free to choose a different amount.

On Night 10, you’ll sleep in a traditional Japanese Inn. That means you’ll sleep on a futon mattress laid out on Tatami flooring. It might take a bit of manoeuvring to get down and into bed, but once you’re tucked in, you’ll sleep surprisingly well! Each twin share room has its own toilet, but bathing facilities are shared (single-sex) Japanese-style communal baths (no clothing or swimming attire allowed). 

Have more questions? Check out our FAQ page!