Why Choose Samurai Tours?

Hokkaido Rail and Drive


The northernmost of the main islands, Hokkaido is Japan’s last frontier. It is a natural wonderland of mountain ranges, deep caldera lakes, active volcanoes, numerous thermally-heated mineral springs and virgin forests. The attitudes of the inhabitants are akin to those of the pioneers of the American West, but still unmistakably Japanese.


Sapporo, Abashiri, Genseikaen, Shiretoko, Lake Akan, Sounkyo Onsen, Biei, Noboribetsu Onsen, Lake Toya, Hakodate, Tokyo (Shinjuku)

Among the Japanese, Hokkaido has become synonymous with sensational food, stunning scenery and some of the best onsens in Japan.  Because of this, Hokkaido has become popular vacation destination for the Japanese. We slow the pace down on this tour to allow you to relax and to really enjoy and appreciate Hokkaido to its fullest.

You’ll enjoy Sapporo, Hokkaido’s largest city and host to the 1972 Winter Olympics, with its many fine restaurants and the secluded beauty of the Shiretoko National Park. You will tour Sounkyo Gorge in the middle of the beautiful Daisetsuzan National Park with its soaring mountain ranges, visit Noboribetsu Onsen, one of Japan’s largest and most popular hot springs resorts and walk along the rim of an active volcano at Lake Toya. You will explore the morning market of Hakodate, where you can have the local specialties of crab, sea urchin or squid prepared for you for breakfast, and learn about Hokkaido’s original inhabitants, the Ainu, whose culture almost disappeared until recent efforts of restoration. You will visit the Akan International Crane Center where research is being done to bring the cranes back from the brink of extinction.

Rail and Drive Tours

The Japan public transportation system in Japan is one of the best, if not the best in the world. However, if you want to travel to the remote areas of Japan, public transportation is sometimes either non-existent, too infrequent or too slow to be practical. Automobiles are the best way to access these remote areas. Our Rail and Drive tours are a convenient combination of public transportation and 8-seater vans, allowing us to really get “off the beaten path”. (Because of seat limitations, these tours are limited to a maximum of 8 people.)

DAY 1Arrive Tokyo

After clearing customs and immigration (which can take up to an hour and a half due to increased tourism to Japan), you will be met at Tokyo’s Narita Airport by a Samurai Tours meeting assistant. The meeting assist will then help you board the bus to the hotel. After checking in, the rest of the evening is free.  You will need to bring your main luggage to lobby to be sent ahead to Abashiri. You will need to pack your overnight bag for 3 days and 3 nights. No meals included.

Travel: 15 Hours; Walking: Light

DAY 2Fly to Sapporo

After breakfast you will start the day with a Welcome/Orientation meeting. We with then fly to Sapporo’s Chitose Airport, and then take an express train into Sapporo, the largest city on Hokkaido and the host of the 1972 Winter Olympics. After checking in, we visit the JR Sapporo Tower where you will be able to get a bird’s eye view of Sapporo, while getting your bearings at the same time. In the evening, we will have dinner at the Sapporo Beer Garden, located next to the original Sapporo Beer brewery, where you can try the local specialty of grilled lamb, cooked yourself at the table. Breakfast at the hotel and dinner at a local restaurant included.

Travel: 3 Hours; Walking: Light

DAY 3Sapporo

Today we will visit the Nijo Fish Market where locals visit to shop for fresh local produce and seafood such as crabs, salmon eggs, sea urchin and various fresh and prepared fish. On our way to the market, we will walk along Odori Park, the venue for the world-famous Sapporo Snow Festival held annually in early February. We will also walk along the Tanuki Shopping Arcade. The unique aspect of this mall is that you will find traditional merchants selling kimonos, tea or incense side-by-side with modern stores specializing in computers, software or state-of-the-art electronics. Next, we will visit Susukino. Susukino is Japan’s largest entertainment district north of Tokyo. It is packed with stores, bars, restaurants, karaoke shops and pachinko parlors. We will have lunch at Ramen Yokocho, a narrow lane lined with shops serving Sapporo’s famous miso ramen. From there, we will tour the old government building and clock tower. The evening is free. Breakfast at the ryokan and lunch at a local restaurant included.

Travel: TBD; Walking: Medium

DAY 4Travel to Abashiri

We travel by van with overnight bags only to the city of Abashiri on the northeastern coast of Hokkaido. Upon arrival, we will check into the ryokan where will be staying in Abashiri. After checking in and retrieving main luggage, you can enjoy the baths overlooking Lake Abashiri before we have dinner. Breakfast at the hotel and dinner at the ryokan included.

Travel: 5 Hours; Walking: Light

DAY 5Abashiri – Abashiri Prison Museum, Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples, Ryuhyo Drift Ice Museum, Genseikaen, Travel to Shiretoko

We start the day by touring the Abashiri Prison Museum. Abashri Prison was initially constructed in the late 19th century, but the prison gained national fame through yakuza movies in the 1960s and became known as the Alkatraz of Japan. The museum illustrates the daily life of prisoners and has more than a dozen buildings and structures from the old prison. Next, we will visit the Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples. Here, we will get our first exposure to the Ainu culture as well as other similar cultures of the northern hemisphere. We will finish our visit to Abashiri at the Ryuhyo Drift Ice Museum. Every winter, ice flows from Russia collide with northeastern Hokkaido. This museum documents science behind the ice flows and also introduces some of the animal life living below the ice. Next, we will drive to Genseikaen. The Genseikaen natural flower garden with its carpet of colorful flowers is located in the sand hills facing the Sea of Okhotsk, and is part of the Abashiri National Park. Here you will be able to stroll among the sand hills and flowers, and even along the beach. To finish the day we will drive to Utoro Onsen, the gateway to Shiretoko National Park, where we will be staying for the next two nights. Breakfast at the ryokan and buffet dinner at the hotel included.

Travel: 2 Hours; Walking: Medium

DAY 6Shiretoko National Park – Shiretoko Peninsula Sightseeing Cruise, Shiretoko Goko

Today we will explore the remote and beautiful Shiretoko National Park. Shiretoko is an ancient Ainu word meaning ‘edge of the world’. Shiretoko National Park is famous in Japan for its beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife including deer, bear and foxes. In the morning, we will take a sightseeing cruise along the Shiretoko peninsula were we can see the dramatic and spectacular coastline with its tall cliffs and waterfalls and the mountains in the background. In the afternoon, we will take an easy hike around the Shiretoko-go-ko area. (PLEASE NOTE: Depending on weather conditions, the boat cruise may be cancelled. In the event the cruise is cancelled, we will walk to the Furepe Waterfall in the morning instead.) Buffet breakfast and buffet dinner at the hotel included.

Travel: 1 Hours; Walking: Heavy

DAY 7Iozan, Lake Masshu, Kushiro Marshland, Akan International Crane Center, Lake Akan

After breakfast, we will be driving to Lake Akan. But first, we will stop at Iozan (Mt. Sulpher). After arriving, you will understand where it got its name. After that, we will drive to Lake Masshu, considered by many to be one of Japan’s most beautiful lakes because of its clear, deep blue water, and then to the Kushiro Marshland. We will be stopping at observation areas where you can see the natural habitat of the Red-Crowned Crane, indigenous to this area of Japan. It was once thought the cranes were extinct. However, about 50 years ago, a few cranes were found, and extensive efforts were made to bring them back from the brink of extinction. While much work remains to be done, the crane population has stabilized and is even growing. We will also stop at the Akan International Crane Center to learn more about the cranes. After arriving at Akan-ko and checking-in, the evening is free. Buffet breakfast and buffet-style dinner at the ryokan included.

Travel: 4 Hours; Walking: Medium

DAY 8Lake Akan Free Day

Today is a free day to enjoy scenic Akan-ko. Take a sightseeing boat cruise around Akan-ko where you will stop to see Marimo, the unique globe-shaped algae that only grows in Lake Akan. Visit the Ainu Village with its many souvenir shops and restaurant selling authentic Ainu cuisine, and attend an authentic Ainu Dance Demonstration at the Ainu Village. Go hiking in the medieval forests surrounding the lake, or climb one of the nearby dormant volcanoes. Buffet breakfast and dinner at the ryokan included.

Travel: TBD; Walking: TBD

DAY 9Travel to Sounkyo Onsen, Sounkyo Onsen – Obako, Ginga no Taki Waterfall, Ryusei no Taki Waterfall, Kurodake Ropeway

In the morning, we will drive to Sounkyo Onsen. Sounkyo Onsen is located in a scenic narrow gorge that is flanked by 100 meter high, forested cliffs. Before arriving in Sounkyo Onsen we will first stop at Obako Gorge with its beautiful rock formation along the river that is said to resemble folding screens. Next, we will stop at Ginga no Taki and Ryusei no Taki waterfalls cascading down the 100 meter high cliffside. After arriving at Sounkyo Onsen, we will ride the gondola and chairlift to the top where (weather permitting) you will get an excellent view of Kurodake, an old volcano, and the surrounding mountain peaks and ranges. Buffet breakfast and dinner at the ryokans are included.

Travel: 3 Hours; Walking: Light

DAY 10Travel to and tour Biei, Travel to Noboribetsu Onsen

In the morning, we drive to the Biei District of Hokkaido. The best places to visit in Biei depends on the time of the year, so the itinerary for today will vary depending on what time of the year you are visiting. After touring the Biei district we will drive to Noboribetsu Onsen. Buffet breakfast and buffet-style dinner at the ryokans included. (Note: there is a swimming pool at the hotel in Noboribetsu, something not found at many hotels in Japan. You may want to pack your swimsuit to swim on your free day.)

Travel: 5 Hours; Walking: Medium

DAY 11Noboribetsu Onsen Free Day

Today is free to explore the Noboribetsu Onsen area. Enjoy the many hot springs or walk around the Jigokudani (Hell Valley) where you will find many steam vents and thermally heated pools and small geysers. Or just enjoy one of the 17 separate baths at the ryokan. Buffet-style breakfast and dinner at the ryokan included.

Travel: TBD; Walking: TBD

DAY 12Lake Toya

Before leaving Noboribetsu you will prepare your luggage to transfer to Tokyo and will travel with an overnight bag only. You will prepare your overnight bag with enough items for 3 days and 2 nights. We travel by train to Lake Toya, one of the largest and deepest volcanic caldera lakes in Japan. After checking in to the ryokan, we will visit Usu-zan and Showa-shin-zan, both active volcanoes located at Lake Toya. We will take a cable car to the top of Usu-zan, which last erupted in 2000. Here you can walk around the rim of the volcano through the barren, moon-like landscape. Afterwards, we visit Showa-shin-zan. In 1944, a surprised wheat farmer found Showa-shin-zan growing out of his field instead of wheat, and it has been growing larger ever since then. We will also visit the nearby Lake Toya Volcanic Museum. Amazingly, when Usu-zan last erupted in 2000, no one was killed. But there was a lot of damage from the eruption, and much of it is preserved at the museum and illustrates the sheer power of geothermal activity and documents the volcano’s turbulent history. Buffet style breakfast and dinner at the ryokan included.

Travel: 2 Hours; Walking: Medium

DAY 13Travel to Hakodate

After breakfast, we travel to Hakodate. Hakodate was one of the first cities in Japan open to foreigners after the Meiji Restoration. After arriving in Hakodate, we will visit the Goryo-Kaku, Japan’s first western-style fort. Built in 1864 by the Tokugawa Shogunate in the shape of a five-pointed star, it was designed to trap attackers in a deadly crossfire. We will go to top of the Goryo-kaku tower next door to the fort, providing a view of the fort and the surrounding city. We will also visit the Moto-machi historic area. Overlooking the western bay at the foot of Mount Hakodate, there are numerous sloping streets lined with 19th century churches, consulates, shops and homes of the foreigners who first opened this area of Japan to commerce. In the evening, we take a cable car to the top of Mt. Hakodate, where we will enjoy a panoramic view of Hakodate’s night lights. Breakfast at the ryokan and lunch at a local restaurant included.

Travel: 3 Hours; Walking: Medium

DAY 14Travel to Tokyo

In the morning, we visit the Hakodate Morning Market, where the sellers can prepare the specialties of Hakodate (crab, sea urchin and squid) fresh from their stalls for breakfast. In the afternoon, we will board the new Hokkaido Shinkansen to return to Tokyo. In the evening, we will have our Sayonara dinner. Breakfast at the ryokan and dinner at a local restaurant included.

Travel: 5-1/2 Hours; Walking: Light

DAY 15Home

It’s time to say Sayonara (Goodbye).  You will be escorted to the train station where you will travel by train or limousine bus to the airport. Breakfast at the hotel included.

Travel: 1-1/2 Hours; Walking: Light

As a general rule:
Light – 0 to 2 miles on level ground
Medium – 2 to 4 miles on level ground or 0 to 2 miles on hilly ground
Heavy – 4 to 6 miles on level ground or 2 to 4 miles on hilly ground


  • Local, licensed, English-speaking, Japanese guides
  • Travel Guard Gold Policy from Travel Guard, one of the world’s largest travel insurance providers, will be provided to everyone from the United States. All others will receive a $100 per person credit and will be responsible for obtaining their own travel insurance in their own home country. (The insurance provided by Samurai Tours will cover the land portion only. Insurance to cover airfare and other additional expenses is the tour member’s responsibility.) Click Here for More Coverage Information
    • The provided insurance coverage includes:
      • Trip Cancellation (up to trip cost)
      • Trip Interruption (up to 150% of trip cost)
      • Trip Delay (up to $750)
      • Missed Connection (up to $250)
      • Baggage and Personal Effects Loss (up to $1,000)
      • Baggage Delay (up to $300)
      • Medical Expense (up to $25,000)
      • Medical Evacuation and Repatriation of Remains (up to $500,000)
      • Accidental Death or Dismemberment (up to $10,000)
      • Coverage for financial default of tour operator
      • Cancel for Work Reasons
      • A waiver of any pre-existing medical conditions that could eventually cause you to interrupt your trip (entire trip, including airfare must be insured  for pre-existing waiver to be valid.  Contact travel guard for for information)
    • Insurance Surcharge: Depending on your age at the time the insurance is purchased, you may be subject to the following surcharge for your insurance. insurance surcharges will be due at the same time as your tour deposits. (the surcharge itself is not insured)
      • 70-74 – $104
      • 75-79 – $180
      • 80-84 – $356
      • 85+ – $545
    • Travel Insurance Opt-Out: If you would prefer to opt out of the travel insurance, please note this at the time of registration. You will receive a $100 credit per person, which will be reflected on your invoice. In the event that you would need to cancel your tour, cancellation penalties may apply. See the Terms and Conditions page for the Cancellation Fees Schedule.
  • Meeting service at Tokyo’s Narita Airport and transfer to the hotel
    • The meeting service will meet you at the airport and provide you a transfer to the hotel near the airport
    • Meeting service can only be provided between 6am and 9pm. If you arrive at a time outside of these hours, we will need to provide alternative directions for you to get to the ryokan on your own.
  • Sending service to the closest train station in Tokyo and transfer to Tokyo’s Narita Airport
    • The sending service will escort you to the train station and make sure you board the correct train. The sending service will not accompany you to the airport.

For those requiring meeting or sending services on other than the scheduled arrival/departure dates, there will be a $100 fee for the meeting service from the airport into Tokyo or the sending service to the Tokyo train station.)

  • Lodging for 14 nights
  • Meals:
    • Japanese-style or Western-style breakfast every morning (Please Note: Some ryokans offer Japanese breakfasts only.)
    • Two Japanese-style lunches
    • Thirteen Japanese-style or Western-style Dinners (including four gourmet kaiseki dinners at the ryokans)
  • All transportation costs when traveling with the group. (Transportation costs during scheduled free times are the tour member’s responsibility)
  • Electronic version of itinerary
  • Admission fees to the destinations and activities listed in the Tour Highlights column on the right (Itinerary specifics subject to change.)
  • Sayonara dinner at the end of the tour
  • Baggage transfer from the hotel in Tokyo to the ryokan in Abashiri
    Baggage transfer from the ryokan in Lake Akan to the ryokan in Noboribetsu Onsen
    Baggage transfer from the ryokan in Noboribetsu to the hotel in Tokyo
    All bags must be under 25 inches tall to accommodate the storage during the driving portion of the trip.

Each tour member receives a tour handbook. This handbook is full of tips and suggestions taken from our Japan experiences that allow you to better plan and prepare for your trip, and therefore enjoy your trip even more. The tips and suggestions included cover everything from how to save while exchanging money, what to pack, some basic Japanese-language tips, general etiquette do’s-and-don’ts, ryokan customs, etc.


Airfare is NOT included

Alcoholic beverages, soft drinks and desserts are NOT included

A printed itinerary is not included

Tour Map


Overall Customer Ratings

Individual Customer Reviews

Erik Pihl. Fran Sato – Sep 25, 2016 to Oct 09, 2016

Anonymous – Oct 02, 2016 to Oct 16, 2016

Robert Higashi

Lewis H Gray Jr – Sep 25, 2016 to Oct 09, 2016

John A Parker

Eddington and Gloria Lee – Jun 07, 2015 to Jun 21, 2015

Roberta Choy – Jun 07, 2015 to Jun 21, 2015

Gilles and Chiyoko Marchand – Aug 31, 2014 to Sep 14, 2014

Larry and Yoshie Eto – Jun 14, 2008 to Jun 28, 2008

Ed & Jackie Linn – Jun 14, 2008 to Jun 28, 2008

Tessa Corkill – Jun 09, 2012 to Jun 23, 2012