The Land of the Rising Sun is a haven for rare and endemic mammal species and this tour aims to showcase some of Japans most iconic and unusual species. By exploring the highlands of the Japanese Alps as well as visiting the subtropical forests of the far south on Iriomote Island, you will be taken on a comprehensive tour of Japan where you will be sure of experiencing the best wildlife watching that Japan has to offer. As well as seeing some species that are only found in small areas and face numerous problems in their continued fight for survival. So if you wanted to see the iconic Japanese macaques in their hot springs or try and find the unbelievable giant salamander or maybe track down the rarest species of cat in the world, then this is the wildlife tour for you.
Night searches for rare mammals
Night searches for Iromote Wild Cats
Hike Mt. Asama for Japanese Serow
Local expert guides & zoologist escort
Snorkel for rare Giant Salamanders
Finless Porpoise watching trip
Ryuku Flying Fox
Giant Flying Squirrel
Tour Dates: 6/8/2021 – 22/8/2021
Duration: 17 nights
Type / Focus: Japanese Endemics
When you arrive in the Japans capital the busy and ultra-modern Tokyo you will be met by your local guide and transferred to your accommodation, level – 3-4* hotel (Best Western Shinjuku). As most flights arrive to Japan during the evening or night we recommend resting tonight and preparing for a full day in Tokyo tomorrow. This morning you will be shown around some of this iconic and wonderful city, comparing the traditional and modern aspects of Tokyo is half the fun of visiting the city and we will visit locations such as the Japanese bonsai garden, Imperial Palace, Nijubashi Bridge, Odaiba Bridge, Kaminari-mon Gate as well as the iconic Omotesando Street and the famous intersection at Shibuya. You will also be taken to the amazing Tsukiji; this huge outdoor fish market is the heart of soul of Japanese food cuisine and seeing all of this beautiful sushi before it is prepared is an ideal way to prepare for your evening meal back at the accommodation, level – 3-4* hotel (Best Western Shinjuku) or a nearby restaurant.
This morning you will rise early and be taken east to the harbour town of Choshi, from here you will be taken out on a whale and dolphin watching trip. During the summer the target species is the very rare finless porpoise. They are seen here briefly during this period but we also have chances of seeing other marine mammals like bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoises, Pacific white-sided dolphins and possibly whales too. After this trip you will be transferred back to your accommodation, level – 3-4* hotel (Best Western Shinjuku) in Tokyo.
This morning you will be transferred train towards the Japanese Alps in the centre of the main island, Honshu. These mountains form the spine of the country and harbour some of the countries largest mammal species. The Japanese Alps are fairly volcanic and there are plenty of geothermal features including many hot springs, some of which we will be visiting. After arriving at the accommodation, level – traditional Japanese hotel – you will be taken to visit the Snow Monkey Park (the official name is Jigokudani Yaenkoen). This park was set up to protect the endemic Japanese macaques and their hot spring spas. There are currently around 160 macaques living here and taking advantage of the natural hot springs here. They use the hot springs throughout the year but we are more likely to see them in the forests during this summer tour. This troop of Japanese macaques has been well studied and all are very well habituated, you will be able to get good close up views and photographs of them. It is very interesting to spend time watching their behaviours and working out their strict and fluid hierarchy. You will return to the accommodation for your evening meal.
This morning you will once again visit the snow monkeys in their hot-spring spa, in the morning it is possible to see some of the macaques as they come down from their sleeping spots in the trees surrounding the hot-springs and begin their day of foraging, fighting and playing. Later on today you will have lunch back at traditional style Japanese restaurant before boarding the train and heading back to Tokyo for your last night in Japan and your farewell evening meal.
Today you will be taken by train further into the heart of the Japanese Alps and to the town of Karuizawa, this is a mecca for bird watchers and more recently mammal watchers too. This is because the forests and hillsides around here are full with wonderful species that are very hard (if not impossible to see elsewhere). During this afternoon you will be taken on a bird watching hike in search of species such as copper pheasants, Ural owls, great-spotted woodpeckers, Japanese grosbeak, yellow bunting, brown dipper, narcissus flycatchers and dozens more. It is also possible to see Japanese squirrels here and sometimes (although rarely) Japanese weasels or possibly a raccoon dog. Later on you will be take to your accommodation, level – traditional Japanese style (Shiotsubo Onsen Hotel) for your evening meal.
Over the next two full days you will be led around some of the best wildlife watching locations in the whole of Japan. These expert led guided walks and hikes are conducted by local researchers who are pioneering techniques to have people and wildlife live in harmony as well as capturing introduced species and conducting other conservation work. The order of the activities will be determined when we are there, based on the local conditions and recent wildlife sightings. But we will hike around the beautiful Mt. Asama, this is one of the best places to see the endemic Japanese serow, the population here is very used to people and it can be possible to get close to these bizarre animals that are a mix of goats and sheep. It is also possible (although rare to see Asiatic black bears whilst on this hike. The local villages around here sometimes suffer problems when the bears enter the villages to feed on refuse, however the local researchers have radio collared various bears and are educating the local people of harmonious ways bears and humans can live together. You will also have a dusk walk around the local area, visiting several nest boxes that are set up and play home for the endemic Japanese giant flying squirrel. This walk also aims to find various bat species. As well as these activities we will also have some further spotlighting where we will search for Japanese martens and raccoon dogs. On the hike to Mt Asama we will have a packed lunch, otherwise all our meals whilst here will be served at the accommodation, level – traditional Japanese style (Shiotsubo Onsen Hotel) or a nearby restaurant.
This morning we will be transferred from the rural community of Karuizawa to the stunning city of Kyoto. Depending on what time we arrive in Kyoto you will be taken into the city to see some of the sights, or if we have more time you will be taken to the nearby Ashiu forest, the forest is a great wildlife watching location and one we will further explore tomorrow. As the journey to Kyoto will be a long one we often just relax around the accommodation, level – traditional Japanese style hotel, and prepare for some forest hiking tomorrow.
During the next couple of days we will explore the Ashiu forest by day and night and try to find raccoon dogs that are fairly common around here, we will also search out the native and endemic Japanese weasel and the introduced Siberian weasel. Also present here is the endemic Japanese small flying squirrel. There are Asiatic black bears and Japanese serow found here although they are rarely seen. Alongside the wealth of mammal life around this forest we will also enjoy some birding here, where goshawks are amongst the top predators. We will walk through the forest by day and spotlight after dark, it is after dark that we have better chances of spotting raccoon dogs and possibly a bear. As with our stay in Karuizawa you will have your meals at the accommodation, level – traditional Japanese style hotel, unless we take a packed lunch for when we hike in the forest. Whilst staying in the historical city of Kyoto we will try showcase some of the cities best sights, Kyoto was the Emperors place of residence from 794-1868 and the Imperial Palace is spectacular as are the various other temples and shrines that dot the city and surrounding areas.
Today will be a long transfer from Kyoto to the most westerly of the main islands in Japan, Kyushu. On arrival you will check into your accommodation, level – traditional Japanese style; and have some lunch. The rest of the afternoon will be free for you to relax and rest as well as enjoying the views out over this very aesthetic island. This is a mountainous island that contains the most active of all of Japans volcanoes. But we are not here to see the volcanoes, instead we are here in search of one of the strangest and most endangered animals in the whole of Japan. If time allows you will be taken to a local aquarium to see the animal and convince yourself that they are not just a part of Japanese mythology.
Today we will be picked up early by one of the leading amphibian researchers in Japan and taken to a high attitude stream. This stream is one of the last locations were the worlds largest amphibian can still be seen. This is of course the Japanese giant salamander. Growing up to 1.5m long and living as long as 80 years, they are a bizarre and unique species. This particular population inhabit a fast flowing river which will require the wetsuits and snorkel gear to enjoy sightings of them. This is the only way (and possibly the only place) to see this iconic and prehistoric creature. They require clear and fast flowing rivers and are in danger as more and more of their pristine river systems are silting up. After swimming in the cool mountain water and hopefully coming face to face with probably the worlds most bizarre looking species we will drive back to the accommodation for your evening meal at the accommodation, level – traditional Japanese style hotel.
This morning we will leave the rural home of the giant salamanders and travel back to Oita and catch the flight back to Tokyo. Once here you will check into your accommodation. Level 3-4* hotel (Best Western Shinjuku) and then have the rest of the day to relax.
Today we will transfer to the airport and catch the flight to the small tropical island of Iriomote, this is a very different Japan to what you will have already experienced with dense jungle and mangrove forests covering 90% of the island. With 80% of the island protected this is a great place to end our wildlife watching expedition of Japan. The island is closer to Taiwan than Tokyo and you not feel like your still in Japan. Due to the remoteness of the island, we will need to take a ferry after arriving at Ishigaki Airport, once on the island you will check into the accommodation, level – 3-4* hotel, and after lunch relax in the afternoon.
For the next two full days you will search the forests here in search of some of the rarest and most restricted species in Japan. With expert guides and the help of night vision equipment we will look for the very rare Iriomote cat, this is currently described as a subspecies of the leopard cat but having been isolated here for around 200,000 years it is thought that with genetic evidence they could soon be granted full species status (making the 100-109 strong population the rarest species of cat in the world). Also here is the huge Ryuku flying fox as well as the elegant pit viper. As well as walking around here and driving the island you will also enjoy a boat ride to a smaller island to see World War II torpedo caves as well as having the chance of seeing giant clam shells above the pristine coral reefs here. We will return to the accommodation, level – 3-4* hotel; for your evening meal before enjoying further wildlife watching for Iriomote cats after dark with the help of our night-vision equipment.
This morning you will take the ferry back to Ishigaki Airport to catch the return Tokyo for your last full day in Japan, once in Tokyo you will be taken to your accommodation, level – 3-4* hotel (Best Western Shinjuku) and after resting you will be taken to a restaurant for your farewell evening meal. This is a great time to go over what we saw throughout the tour.
After breakfast you will be transferred to the international airport in time to catch your return flight home.
Please note that the itinerary stated above is correct as our planned intentions for the tour. However adverse weather conditions and other local considerations can necessitate some modifications of the itinerary during the course of the tour; any changes will be made to make the best of the time and weather conditions available to us.
This tour is available on different date (subject to availability) please contact us for more details about running this tour on a date which suits you more.
The weather in central and southern Japan ranges from pleasant to hot in summer, with temperatures ranging from 20 to 35 degrees C with an average of around 25 degrees C. It will be hotter and more humid in Iriomote than Honshu. There is also the chance of rain on any given day but July and August is two of Japans driest months of the year.
Everything mentioned in the itinerary is included. Including three meals per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner). There will be an amount of bottled water (approx 1ltr) available for each guest each day. We have our own private vehicle to be driven by a local guide for transfers and taxis when needed. We have included the services of expert local guides as well as our own zoologist throughout.
All our excursions including guided walks, dolphin watching trips, guide fees, hiking fees, spotlighting, sightseeing fees and park entrance fees are also included.
We recommend you bring along your own binoculars or spotting scope as well as appropriate clothing; which should be a a combination of warm clothing and light and airy hiking clothes. Comfortable, waterproof walking shoes are a must. Any medication, books or other items of a personal nature is of course up to you to bring along. Oh and please bring plenty of memory cards or film for your camera.
We provide a comprehensive species list of all the vertebrates present in the areas we are visiting as well as some of the best field guides and reference books for the areas we are visiting. We provide a couple of binoculars and at least one spotting scope. We will also bring bat detectors, spotlights and other night vision equipment. Camera Traps will also be used to try and capture hard to see wildlife in the dead of night and wildlife scanners etc are used when needed (subject to local conditions).
Nearly everything is included in this tour. The only things not included are international flights and flights within Japan, (special tourist air passes can and should be purchased together with international tickets. For more information on the flights that you need to book please contact us and we will let you know), Travel insurance (contact us for more information one what is required from your insurance policy), any food bought outside of the three main meals, drinks outside of any offered with the meals and the bottled water provided each day and any items of a personal nature such as souvenirs and tips. Any applicable departure taxes and not included (but maybe included in the cost of your flights). Please check before departure.
International air tickets – when purchasing an international ticket, make sure that the airline is part of the oneworld team. This includes Air Berlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Mexicana, Qantas, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines and this will allow you to also purchase a discounted oneworld Yokoso pass which makes your internal flights very cheap. If you book with another airline then the Visit Japan Fare will be applicable. For more information you can visit http://www.jal.co.jp/yokosojapan/ . It is worth noting that either passes are very cheap and make the internal flights very good value. When it comes to time of booking then I recommend you contact the UK office and they will talk you through the best way of purchasing what you need.
All UK passport holders are not required to have a visa for Japan but there are criteria for entering (it is all pretty standard requirements but worth checking first). However things change so the easiest way to find information is by visiting http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/essential/visa.html (be aware that this link leaves our site and we at Royle Safaris hold no responsibility for information on the site).
There are no mandatory vaccinations needed to visit the USA. Please consult your GP about your individual requirements for visiting the Japan as soon as you have decided on this trip.
Matt & Joss, London
Mr & Mrs. Alexander, Edinburgh
Phillip Hammond, Kent
Erin & Michel, Extremadura