Shiretoko National Park - Hokkaido
Shiretoko, a natural heritage site registered only in July 2005, is considered to be the last pristine wilderness remaining in Japan.
Shiretoko is a long narrow peninsula located in north-eastern Hokkaido. The volcanic Shiretoko mountain range runs down the centre of the peninsula and includes the highest peak of the range, Mt. Rausu (1,661m above sea level) and the active volcano, Iouyama. The Sea of Okhotsk lies on the western side of the range and the Nemuro Straits on the eastern side. The coastline cliffs facing the Sea of Okhotsk rise up more than 100m, and you can glimpse waterfalls large and small cascading directly into the sea, and colonies of seabirds.
Shiretoko, along with the coastline from Monbetsu, is also one of the places in Hokkaido where you can spot the incredible drift ice (ryuhyo in Japanese) which comes across from northeastern Russia during the winter months. You can participate in all kinds of drift ice related tours, from venturing into the icy waters via boat, diving amongst them, walking a top the drift ice pieces, or enjoying the view from the coast as your take in an endlessly white, wintery wonderland with both sea and shore covered in a bright white glow.
The salmon and trout that breed in the sea off Shiretoko are an important food resource supporting the terrestrial ecosystem with rare birds such as Blakiston's fish owl, Steller's sea eagle and the white-tailed sea eagle, as well as brown bears. The Shiretoko ecosystem is a dramatically clear example of the linkage between marine and terrestrial ecosystems, and it is considered an important wildlife reserve, with unique features unlike any other in the world. Along with birds, spotting brown bears is also a popular activity and can be done throughout the year.
Shiretoko, blessed with mountains, lakes and an abundance of plants and animals, offers many places of interest throughout the seasons. A good example is the Shiretoko Five Lakes, situated on a lava plateau surrounded by old-growth forest. The five lakes don't have individual names; they are referred to by number from Lake No. 1 to Lake No. 5. If you take a stroll along the walking trail (takes approximately 1 hour), you may see wild animals and will certainly enjoy the beauty of the changing seasons.
In the autumn, when the mountains are adorned in red and yellow, the hoards of salmon and trout swarming up river to spawn are an incredible sight. In winter, there is also beautiful scenery as the drifting ice changes the Sea of Okhotsk into a white snowfield. There are various nature experience programs available at the site such as night tours for animal watching under wonderful star-lit skies, daytime treks for alpine plant spotting while surrounded by birds singing, or nature watching enjoying waterfalls and wild animals while walking along the trail. It is highly recommended to contact Shiretoko Nature Centre before departing.
Access: From Tokyo - 1hr 40 mins from Haneda Airport to Memanbetsu Airport, and 2hrs 15 mins from the airport to Utoro by bus.
From Osaka - 2hrs 5 mins from Kansai International Airport to Memanbetsu Airport.