The Official Hokkaido Adventure Travel Guide

Coexistence with Rare Wildlife - East Hokkaido
Winter Observation Tour

5-DAY

DIFFICULTY

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SNOW SEASON

  • From JPY 386,000

  • 5 days 4 nights

  • Min. 6, Max. 10

  • Wildlife

    Wildlife Observation

HIGHTLIGHTS
  • Explore and photograph birds of prey (eagles, owls) and wildlife (sea otters, foxes, cranes, and deer) through traditional smelt ice fishing methods, fishing boat rides, and secret spots.
  • Observe the ecology of rare wildlife through "symbiosis of traditional fishing and wildlife" and "observation of wildlife ecology by fishing boat," which are unique to the East Hokkaido in winter.
  • Take part in a backyard tour of the Institute for Raptor Biomedicine Japan to understand the current status of wildlife in Hokkaido and contribute to the conservation of birds of prey by donating the full amount of the tour fee.
LOCATION

Kushiroshitsugen National Park, Eastern Hokkaido

OVERVIEW

The “Hokkaido Winter Bird Watching Tour,” rapidly gained popularity around the world due to its high encounter rate with rare wildlife such as Steller’s sea eagle, white-tailed eagle and Blakiston’s fish owl. Every winter, bird watching spots are becoming more and more crowded, with a concentration of tourists that have become undesirable for wildlife and local communities but also making difficult to book accommodations, cruises and local guides.

This tour aims to avoid crowded watching spots and lodgings. While coexisting in harmony with the wildlife, we will observe birds through traditional smelt ice fishing methods, local fishing boat rides and local photographers’ best spots!

We will experience the Hokkaido winter wildlife as you never did before through the both unique “coexistence of traditional fishing and wildlife” and “wildlife ecology observation on a fishing boat.” We will also visit the center dedicated to the protection of wild animals injured by accidents that occur due to the close proximity between them and people. We would like to think about the symbiosis between wildlife and people in order to realize sustainable tourism.

ITINERARY

DAY 1

Meeting at Kushiro airport and National Park orientation

We will meet the rest of the group around 1:00 pm at Kushiro Airport (KUH). Once everyone has joined the group, we will spend some time getting to know each other and having a briefing for our upcoming adventure program before heading to the center of Kushiro city, only 20 min away from the airport by private van.

We will visit the Kushiro City Museum to get an idea of the uniqueness of east Hokkaido. Kushiro Marshland, which is located only few km north of the city of Kushiro, is Japan’s largest marshland with a width bigger than the size of the center of Tokyo. We will learn about the wildlife and vegetation of Kushiro area and acknowledge the rarity of encounters with wildlife that we will experience from tomorrow. The Japan’s largest submarine canyon is also located in this area and for our first Hokkaido meal, we will savor Kushiro’s unique “seafood robata-yaki”, a traditional way to enjoy fresh local seafood, similar to a barbecue.

Accommodation

Kushiro| Private room with ensuite

Included meals

Dinner at a Local Restaurant

DAY 2

Visit the Tanchou (Red-crowned crane) homeland

Today, we will visit the homeland of Tanchou, ”the Red-crowned crane” with a local photographer.

An hour’s drive north from the town of Kushiro brings us to the small village of Tsurui, which means “the village where Tanchou live”. It is where you can encounter the wildlife that has been essential to Hokkaido since ancient times, called Sarurun Kamui (God of the Marsh) in the Ainu language. Tanchou were thought to be temporarily extinct in the 19th century due to human overhunting. In Tsurui Village, more than a dozen Tanchou were discovered around 1920, and since then, residents have protected them. The town was named Tsurui Village because it became a habitat and breeding ground for the specially protected Tanchou. Today, the population has been revived to over 1,500 birds, but they are now facing a new stage of coexistence with humans due to their dependence on feeding and destruction of farmland.

The Ito Sanctuary was established on the land owned by Mr. Ito, who started feeding Tanchou in 1966 while working as a dairy farmer in Tsurui Village. Mr. Ito supported the conservation of Tanchou by serving as a feeder and monitor of them on commission in Hokkaido. After a lecture by an expert on coexistence with Tanchou, we will experience the ecology of them and human coexistence through photographing and observing them.

We will visit the studio of Mr. Wada, a famous local photographer in Hokkaido, and have lunch while exchanging opinions on wildlife conservation.

In the afternoon, we will visit a place only known by the local photographer that is the home of birds such as Ural owls. *Wild animals cannot be guaranteed to be seen

Accommodation

Kushiro| Private room with ensuite

Included meals

Breakfast, Lunch

* Dinner can be eaten anywhere around the hotel or at the hotel on your own. Your guide will assist you with your requests.

DAY 3

Scenic train journey to a fish port and observation of wild otters from a local fishing boat

Enjoy a 2 hours train ride on the 135 km railway Hanasaki Line that connects JR Kushiro station and JR Nemuro station. On this scenic route that passes through a wetland registered in the Ramsar Convention and has the highest wildlife encounter rate in Japan, observe Ezo deer, fox and birds from the train window. We will also see forests, farms and the Pacific. Our journey will end at JR Ochiishi Station, 16 km before Nemuro Station.

After arriving at the local station, we will drive to Ochiishi fish port and will enjoy a lunch box cooked by local women with ingredients caught in Ochiishi to contribute to local production for local consumption.

We will take a fishing boat accompanied by a professional local fisherman with 40 years of fishing experience to a local hole-in-the-wall spectacular spot. For 2.5 hours overall, we will observe up close wild birds and endangered sea otters.

At a café along the frozen lake where we will be shooting tomorrow morning, Mr. Kawamura, the owner of Lake Sunset, will give us a lecture on the history of his eagle photography and the seasonal changes of Lake Furen over a coffee break, which will make tomorrow’s shooting even more meaningful.

In the town of Nemuro, home to Japan’s easternmost sake brewery, we will enjoy a night out, savoring dishes that go well with sake.

Accommodation

Nemuro| Private room with ensuite | Spa

Included meals

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner at local restaurant

DAY 4

Symbiosis between traditional fishing method of ice fishing and wildlife

In the morning, we will head to Lake Sunset where there is a café that also serves as an accommodation facility located at the entrance to Nemuro City, right in front Lake Furen. Lake Furen is one of the world’s greatest bird sanctuaries and one of the largest swan migration sites in Japan. As the swans leave the lake for warmer waters before the lake freezes over, it becomes an excellent spot to see white-tailed eagles and Steller’s sea eagles up close.

After having taken plenty photos of eagles, we will move to the small fish port where we will take part in the traditional smelt fishing. This traditional method of fishing takes place during the winter season from mid-January to mid-March when the lake is frozen. Snowmobiles are used to travel over the iced lake to the point where the fish are caught. As fishes other than Japanese smelt are dumped on the snow, white-tailed eagles, Steller’s sea eagles and crows fly in for the sake of it. Some of the white-tailed eagles are currently nesting around this area. We will taste fresh Japanese smelt at the port and warm up with chilled Japanese Sake while watching wild animals.

Enjoy creative cuisine such as Ezo deer meat from Nemuro for our dinner.  In Hokkaido, the ever-increasing number of Ezo deer is causing serious damage to agriculture and deforestation. In an effort to solve this problem, Ezo deer meat is being actively used as a precious blessing from the forest, and activities are being carried out to maintain an appropriate number of animals.

Today’s whole tour will make us to be more conscious about the coexistence of humans and wildlife.

Accommodation

Nemuro| Private room with ensuite | Spa

Included meals

Breakfast, Light Lunch, Dinner at local restaurant

DAY 5

Take part in a backyard tour by the Institute for Raptor Biomedicine Japan

After having a relaxing breakfast, we will check out the hotel and drive back to Kushiro city for over 2 hours with a refreshment stop. The scenery from the van will differ from what we saw two days ago on the train.

Dr. Saito and other experts will give us a backyard tour and held a discussion session at the Institute for Raptor Biomedicine Japan, where wild animals are protected in a sustainable way. For those animals that cannot return to the wild and have to be kept in captivity for their entire lives, the Institute respects their natural way of living and seeks out their potential. In order to deal with each life, the Institute implements breeding methods that involve them in environmental treatment, accident prevention, rescue of injured animals and environmental education activities. By grasping this fact and sharing with people around us after enjoying this wildlife tour, and by donating the entire amount of the lecture fee, we believe that we too, in no small way, can make a difference by being a responsible visitor coexisting peacefully with the local wildlife.

Then we’ll head to Kushiro Airport and have a last toast at the airport restaurant before

we fly back to Tokyo.

Included meals

Breakfast, Lunch

ACCOMMODATIONS

Area Facility Type Room Type Onsen / Spa WiFi
1 Kushiro Hotel Private room with ensuite None WiFi
2 Kushiro Hotel Private room with ensuite None WiFi
3 Nemuro Hotel Private room with ensuite Spa WiFi
4 Nemuro Hotel Private room with ensuite Spa WiFi

Tour Operator / Contact

Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel Inc.

Address

9F Daito Bldg, 8-1, South 2 East 2, Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan

Email

info@hokkaido-treasure.com

Official web site
https://hokkaido-island.com/

We are Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel (HTIT), an award-winning team of creators of unique, perfectly tailored Hokkaido travel experiences. HTIT Team is deeply rooted in Hokkaido, North Japan. In 2004, HTIT started its journey as a pioneer of a new style of adventure travel by sharing the treasures of Hokkaido. We are constantly opening new doors and making local destinations previously inaccessible for travelers available all over Hokkaido. We provide a compelling combination of personal and professional travel advice, knowledge beyond that of the guidebook insider, and behind the scenes access to places and authentic local experiences generally not available for the public. Our mission is to create for you a journey of a lifetime, every time you travel with us.

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