The Kushiro Wetlands, Lake Kussharo and Lake Akan, and of course Shiretoko（UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site）. The vast land of eastern Hokkaido features a myriad of spectacular natural landscapes and phenomena. This tour, designed to start at Kushiro Airport and end at Memanbetsu Airport, will take you to the most famous spots in the region. You will be transported through a cavalcade of impressive flora and fauna, so if you are keen to get back to nature, this guide has you covered!
The Kushiro Wetlands extend north of Kushiro City and Japan’s largest wetland. The area spans around 26,000 hectares, with the Kushiro River running through them. They are designated as a national park and became Japan’s first Ramsar Convention-registered wetlands in 1980. In addition to the symbolic red-crowned crane, the vast marshland, which is largely out of reach of humans, is home to a variety of creatures such as the white-tailed eagle, ezo sika deer, red fox, and Japan’s largest freshwater fish, Sakhalin taimen (also known as Japanese huchen or stringfish). There are numerous observatories where you can overlook the wetlands, such as Kushiro City Wetland Observatory, Hosooka Observatory and Kottaro Wetland Observatory. Finally, the Onnenai wooden path allows you to take a walk around the wetlands and is a barrier-free facility making the natural spectacle accessible to anybody.
Sunset at Nusamai Bridge
Kushiro is the largest city in Eastern Hokkaido. The city, which is built on the fishing industry, is known for its beautiful sunsets. Indeed, the marvelous shades of red, orange and purple of Kushiro’s sunset have long been well documented through word of mouth, with foreign sailors spreading its tales of its beauty for hundreds of years. Thus, it became to be known as one of the “three greatest sunsets of the world”. One of the most famous spots to enjoy the sunset is the Nusamai Bridge over the Kushiro River, which is located in the city center. Here, people flock to take a picture of the “Four Seasons Statue” with the sunset in the background, though we also recommend a shot from the top of the bridge facing towards the mouth of the river. To add to the ambiance, the Nusamai Bridge is consistently lit up around 30 minutes after the sun has set.
SEA CRANE sunset boat tours
Another great way to enjoy Kushiro’s famous sunset is from the sea, and for this, the sightseeing cruise operator SEA CRANE has you covered. Operating from late April to November every year, the cruise will bring you out to the ocean just in time to marvel at the sunset. In addition to the sunset cruise (which departs 1 hour before sunset every), the company also offers a “picnic cruise” during the day on weekends, and a “night cruise” that operates by charter only. These cruises come with a selection of alcohol, soft drinks and snacks to enjoy, making the spectacular sunset even more comfortable.
1-1-11 Omachi, Kushiro-shi, Hokkaido
Trekking around Lake Akan
Lake Akan, located within Akan Mashu National Park, is a popular destination due to its stunning scenery, hot spring offerings and surrounding forest. If you are staying at Lake Akan, we recommend trekking along the shores of Lake Akan. The easiest way to do this is by taking on the Bokke Walking Trail, which is located east of the Akanko Onsen district. The trail is 1.5 kilometers in length and stretches along the lakeshore and into the nearby forest. Here, you can see “Bokke”, a natural phenomenon in which hot mud and volcanic gas blows out from the ground. If you wish to dive even deeper and understand the true power of the nature at Akan, various trekking tours tailored to your endurance level are also offered by the Akan Tourism Association and various local nature guides.
Shiretoko Peninsula Utoro Cruise
Shiretoko is a place that needs little introduction. This vast hinterland features untouched nature and pristine landscapes, all the while being the home to many wild animals such as brown bears. At the same time, it is also difficult to access to the would-be visitor. Therefore, one of the best and least disruptive ways to enjoy Shiretoko is by sea, taking a cruise from the Utoro area, which is located in the center of Shiretoko and features a small port. The course takes you to the foot of Mount Iwo in about 1 hour, and there are numerous operators for you to choose from. Whilst on board, you will have the chance to see the local wildlife for yourself, including wild birds such as guillemots, Steller’s sea eagles, and, if you are lucky, dolphins.