Distinct history and culture characterises the most northern prefecture of Japan, Hokkaido. Among the various destinations in Hokkaido is Do-To, meaning the eastern Hokkaido region, where the culture of the region is hugely influenced by the indigenous Ainu people of Hokkaido.
The hub cities in the area are Kushiro, the biggest city in eastern Hokkaido, Nemuro, the most eastern city of Japan with never-ending roads along the coast, Abashiri, a small city facing the Sea of Okhotsk, Shiretoko, a gem of natural beauties, and Tokachi, a region filled with beautiful farmland. The following 10 locations are filled with scenery and natural monuments that are bound to amaze you!
1. Lake hopping at Shiretoko
Shiretoko, listed as one of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites, is filled with various natural monuments, and among them are the Shiretoko Goko Lakes. With no rivers flowing in and out of the lakes, the tranquil atmosphere there is uniquely Hokkaido. If you are lucky, there is a chance you might see the wild animals that call the place home. It is a must-go for nature-lovers!
2. Oshinkoshin no Taki: waterfall of twin beauty
At the aggressive mouth of the River Charassenai lies a waterfall that is listed as one of Japan’s Top 100 Waterfalls, the Oshinkoshin no Taki. With a height of 80 metres (262 feet) and a width of 30 metres (98 feet), the grand waterfall is split into two at the top, hence its nickname of Futami No Taki, the waterfall of twin beauty. You can board the Shiretoko Line bus towards Utoro from Shari Bus Terminal (in front of Japan Railway Shiretoko Shari Station) and alight at the waterfall. However, due to the limited number of buses available, it is recommended that you take a taxi or drive there.
Kushiro Prince Hotel is conveniently located just a 7-minute walk away from the Japan Railway Kushiro Station. Part of the 4-star Prince Hotel chain, Kushiro Prince Hotel is known for its gorgeous buffet-style breakfast and is also popular due to its proximity to Kushiro Fisherman’s Wharf MOO, one of the must-visit sites in Kushiro.
4. Kushiro Wetland - a wildlife haven
At Kushiro Wetlands National Park, over 2,000 species of wildlife call the place home. Creatures include the rare ezo deers, white-tailed eagles, and the red-crowned crane, a majestic bird selected as one of Japan’s Natural Monuments. Opened in 1987, the national park is the biggest wetland national park in Japan where you can hike along the pathways or board the Kushiro Wetlands Noroko Go Tram, which will bring you on a 45-minute journey through the wetlands.
Although there are numerous hotels in Abashiri, many of them are concentrated in the city area. Auberge Kita no Dandan, on the other hand, is an inn located near to Lake Abashiri. Despite being surrounded by vast greenery, it is located only a 3-minute car ride from Abashiri Station, allowing you to have the best of both worlds: convenience and serenity. The retro inn also has a natural open-air onsen that provides a splendid view of Lake Abashiri.
6. Experience prison life at the former Abashiri Prison Museum!
Abashiri Prison Museum is an open-air museum in the renovated buildings of the former Abashiri Prison. Abashiri Prison was built in 1890 and was used for almost 100 years, and a total of 10 tangible cultural properties are registered there. Apart from viewing the exhibits on display, there are also activities where you can try out the former prison foods and attempt carrying the heavy equipment that the prisoners used for construction.
Abashiri Prison Museum
Address: 1-1 Yobito, Abashiri-city, Hokkaido
Access info: 10-minute bus ride from JR Abashiri Station
Opening hours: 9am - 5pm
Fixed holiday: nil
Contact: +81 152-45-2411
Entrance fee: 1,080 JPY (9.80 USD)
On a small hill near Abashiri Lake lies Hokuten No Oka, Abashiriko Tsuruga Resort. The hotel has various artwork with the theme “Okhotsk Culture”, such as sculptures and oldern Japanese pottery. You can listen to the locals speak about the culture and history of the region. Abashiriko Tsuruga Resort also has several natural onsens with different healing effects, rejuvenating not just your skin but also your body.
8. True beauty of summer at Koshimizu Wild Flower Garden!
Koshimizu is a town that is only five stations away from the Japan Railway Abashiri Station. Located there is the Koshimizu Genseikaen (Koshimizu Wild Flower Garden), a flower garden that is best visited from mid-June to the end of August. The flower garden cultivates a diverse range of flowers, including chocolate lilies in mid-June, Siberian lilies in July, and various types of Japanese parsley in August. You can also have a 360-degree view of the Sea of Okhotsk and Lake Tofutsu together with the vibrant flowers.
Koshimizu Wild Flower Garden
Address: Aza-Hamakoshimizu, Koshimizu Town, Shari County, Hokkaido
Access info: Near Gensei Kaen Station, Kushiro Honsen Line (between May and October) or 10-minute car ride from Hamakoshimizu Station of Kushiro Honsen Line
Opening hours: all day
Opening dates: from late April to the end of October
Contact: +81 152-62-4481
Entrance fee: free
9. Cape Bihoro, the landscape of the north
As you travel south along national route 243 from Abashiri, you will reach Cape Bihoro, a spectacular natural landscape that gives you a panoramic view of Lake Kussharo and the mountains that surround it. Located in one of the oldest national parks in Hokkaido, Akan National Park, Cape Bihoro has an observatory and a rest house where you can enjoy the delicious Hokkaido Ageimo fried potato while viewing the fantastic scenery of the surroundings.
10. Perfect for a jump shot! The long straight road of Shari, Shiretoko
Known as “the road to heaven”, this 18-kilometre (11-mile) stretch of road has been made famous through its appearance on various posters. The fantastic sunset view makes it the ideal place for a photoshoot and it is a must-go for photo lovers.
Here are the directions:
Travel along National Route 244 from Abashiri towards Shiretoko Peninsula and bypass the road leading to National Route 334. (This is actually the stretch of road in the photo). At the foot of the Shiretoko Peninsula, there will be a side road facing north that leads to the coast. Do not turn, and exit the National Route by continuing to go straight. As you keep travelling up the gentle slope, you will pass by an observatory on the left and eventually reach a T-junction, finally reaching your destination.
Hokkaido, nature’s artwork from the Ice Age
With UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Shiretoko and Natural Monuments such as the red-crowned crane, eastern Hokkaido is filled with nature that will capture your heart. Photographs are not powerful enough to explain the beauty of this place, so make sure you visit as many of the places mentioned as possible to experience the magnificent nature of Hokkaido!
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