Hokkaido is a beautiful, breathtaking place to visit, especially when the snowfalls. It becomes the ultimate paradise for wildlife and winter landscapes photography. Since 1998, I have led photography adventures throughout Japan. In the winters of, 2015, 2016, and 2017, I photographed a herd of a 1000 Sika Deer. This is a rare event, timing and weather are everything to capture this moment; I and my colleagues at Blain Harasymiw Photography wish for you also to be graced with such a spectacular site.
The Kushiro wetlands are a must-see location to photograph the Red-Crowned Crane which are designated as a special national treasure and protected species. The red-crowned cranes are often described as snow ballerinas, as they perform their graceful courtship dance; they bow to one another then raise their heads towards the sky and call in unison as they begin to dance. A pair or the entire flock will leap into the air at the same time commencing in the courtship dance. The golden hour is spectacular for filming the birds roosting in a river of foggy mist. Just as the first rays of light streak through the trees and hit the river its a breathtaking show, the cranes awake and some dance, the night's glazed frost on the trees melts, then the magnificent Red-Crowned crane takes flight.
The area between Lake Furenko and Rausu is the perfect location for birding, wildlife, and landscape photography. The region is home to the largest herds of Sika Deer on our planet; also in the area are the red-tailed fox, white-tailed eagle, black kite, golden eagle plus many other species. We roll into Rausu in the early AM and board a chartered vessel navigating through pack ice to photograph the Steller’s Sea-eagles in their natural habitat. The Steller’s Sea Eagle one of the largest and most powerful birds of prey on our planet and is also designated a national treasure of Japan. After every cruise, we have hundreds of great shots of them clutching fish in their talons, feasting on fish and in flight. The Hokkaido photo tours I lead participants don't waste time sitting in Hotels attending seminars as other groups do, due to us being locals and mobile in SUVs with myself and our experienced staff drivers. From the golden hours, we will be out exploring as adventure photographers shall-and should always be!
One of my favorite places in Hokkaido to explore is the Akan-Mashu National Park - Volcanic Complex the high alpine route is breathtaking with snow-capped mountains and alpine lakes. At Lake Kushiro, we always find over 300 whooper swans who return every winter. During winter the lake freezes over but along its sandy beach, geothermal hot springs prevent any ice from forming. This is where we photograph the magnificently beautiful pure white giant swans. Lake Mashū (摩周湖 Mashū-ko) (Ainu: Kamuy-to) is an endorheic crater lake formed in the caldera of a potentially active volcano. Lake Mashū is surrounded by steep crater walls 200 meters (660 ft) high. It has no inlets and no outlet. The lake is one of the clearest in the world and one of the deepest in Japan and is sweet to photograph.
Hokkaido is home to the First Nations People of Japan the Ainu. While in Akan participants and I enjoy the spiritual celebration of the lomante fire festival at the Ainu Theater Ikor. ‘Ikor’ means 'Treasure' in the Ainu language. Imagine flames of torches burning all around, the air filled with mysterious sounds of the 'Mukkuri' as the Ainu perform their ancient spiritual, religious ceremonies. The Ainu dance has been designated as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage. During the performance, participants on our tour may take photographs in press seats that Blain arrange's. After the Ikor theater, there is a nightly fireworks at the lakeside.
For those wishing to include an up-close and personal encounter with the wild snow monkeys, and visit Mt. Fuji, a Samurai castle contact Blain and ask about our extension deals. Or you could always join Blain's annual all-inclusive winter wonderland PHotography tour Mt. Fuji, Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido.