These fantastic Hokkaido winter sights are not be missed
Snow dances and scintillates in the air. Hokkaido’s fantastically beautiful snow-covered scenery is a hallmark of winter. Pure snow and ice form silvery-white worlds of indescribable beauty. Please read on to learn about some of our top recommended Hokkaido Winter sights.
Drift Ice – A once-in-a-lifetime experience! (Abashiri City, Mombetsu City)
Hokkaido is the only place in all of Japan where you can see the breathtaking sight of drift ice. Be sure to include the drift ice in your winter Hokkaido sightseeing plans.
Most years, the Sea of Okhotsk is fully covered with drift ice around late January. Drift ice can be seen from late January through March. To enjoy drift ice to the fullest, we recommend to join one of the icebreaker cruises which venture into the heart of the drift ice, such as the Aurora sailing from Abashiri, or the Garinko II sailing from Mombetsu. These drift ice cruises take about one hour. Experience the thrill of crushing masses of ice as your ship ventures out into the silvery sea. In addition to close-up views of the drift ice, you may be fortunate enough to see wildlife such as white-tailed sea eagles soaring through the clarion skies, or seals napping atop beds of drift ice. These cruises provide a unique chance to experience one-in-the-world scenery amidst the magnificent drift ice.Where:Abashiri City, Mombetsu City, etc.Recommended Season:Late January through MarchAccess:Aurora: About 10 minutes by Abashiri bus from JR Abashiri Station. Immediately next to Aurora Terminal.
Garinko II: About 12 minutes by Hokumon Bus from Okhotsk Monbetsu Airport. Immediately next to Kaiyo Koryukan Bus Stop.Website:Aurora:https://www.ms-aurora.com/abashiri/en/
Garinko II: https://o-tower.co.jp/publics/index/#googtrans(ja|en)
Carpets of snow, as far as the eye can see at hills of Biei and the Patchwork Road (Biei Town)
Biei is renowned for its scenes of gently-sloping hills, one after another. While Biei is also popular for its abundant greenery and flowers in spring and summer, the snow of winter quickly transforms the vast plains into a remarkable world of silvery white, as far as the eye can see. Covered in pristine snow, the hills of Biei create breathtaking scenes. On a clear day, the contrast of the deep blue skies and pure white snow is indescribably beautiful. Biei is particularly known for its abundant scenic spots, such as the Lone Christmas Tree, Parent and Child Trees, Hokusei Hill, Mild Seven Hill, Seven Stars Tree, and Ken and Mary Tree. Join a snowshoe tour and tour around the snow-covered hills of Biei, enjoying the unique beauty that winter brings to these famous scenic spots.Where:Biei Town, Patchwork Road and other areasRecommended Season:December through MarchAccess:About 15 minutes by bus from Asahikawa Airport to Biei. About 5 minutes by car from JR Biei Station to Patchwork Road.Website:https://www.biei-hokkaido.jp/en/visit/observationfacility/
A breathtaking contrast of blue and white at Shirogane Blue Pond (Biei Town)
Lush green forests and stark Japanese larches reflect in the mirrorlike surface of Shirogane Blue Pond, creating a scene of enigmatic beauty which has become one of Biei’s most famous sightseeing spots. While beautiful as it sparkles under the brilliant summer sun, the Blue Pond also creates enchanting winter scenes: a breathtaking contrast of blue and white before the lake surface freezes, and snow-covered views of the frozen Blue Pond.
The “Biei View Bus” regular sightseeing bus departs from the Biei Tourist Information Center nearby JR Biei Station, offering a convenient transportation option to Shirogane Blue Pond.
Enjoy the tranquil beauty of these iconic winter Biei scenes on the “Blue Pond Course”, which tours the Shirogane Blue Pond and Shirahige Waterfall, and takes in 360-degree panoramic views at Shinei-no-Oka. At night, try the “Light-Up Course”, which explores the magical scene of the illuminated Blue Pond, as well as Shirahige Waterfall and more.Where:Biei TownRecommended Season:November through MarchAccess:About 15 minutes by bus from Asahikawa Airport to Biei. About 20 minutes from JR Biei Station by Dohoku Bus. Disembark at Shirogane Aoi-ike Iriguchi bus stopRegular Sightseeing Bus “Biei View Bus”■Blue Pond Course (Tour Time: About 2 hours 45 minutes)
Tour Season: Weekends and Holidays from November 2nd to November 30th, 2019 Tour Fares: Adults 2,700 yen / Children (Elementary School) 1,000 yen
■Light-Up Course (Tour Time: About 2 hours 35 minutes)
Tour Season: Weekends and Holidays from Sunday, December 1st, 2019 to Sunday, March 22nd, 2020(Operates daily from December 23rd-25th and February 10th-14th)
*This bus does not operate December 30th to January 10th. Tour Fares: Adults 2,700 yen / Children (Elementary School) 1,000 yen / Infants 5 years and under free of charge (if seat not required)How to Purchase Tickets for Biei View Bus① Tickets are sold at Biei Tourist Information Center from the day prior to the tour, on a first-come first-served basis. Sales are closed once seats are filled.
② Tickets may be purchased in advance online, through the website linked below. For details of the courses and departure times, please see the website below.Website:Blue Pond Course
Miraculous scenes created by freezing temperatures at Frost Tree Terrace (Hoshino Resorts Tomamu, Shimukappu Village)
As temperatures drop to around -2 to -10 °C, trees become coated in hoarfrost, a sure sign of winter. Unkai Terrace is a popular sightseeing attraction at Hoshino Resorts Tomamu, offering amazing views of the “sea of clouds” below. As frosts set it, Unkai Terrace transforms into Frost Tree Terrace, providing the perfect vantage point to enjoy breathtaking panoramas of the frozen countryside. It takes about 13 minutes by the Unkai Gondola to reach Frost Tree Terrace from the mountain base.
Frost Tree Terrace projects from the mountainside, as if reaching out into the sky. Below, the world of boundless nature topped in sparkling ice creates a scene of captivating beauty. Until December 25th, there is a special, limited-season illumination program. Warm up with a hot drink and some sweets at the panoramic Tenbo Café.Where:Hoshino Resorts Tomamu, Shimukappu VillageRecommended Season:Sunday, December 1st, 2019 to Sunday, April 5th, 2020Hours:Day: 8:00 – 15:00
Night: 16:30 – 18:00 last gondola up, last gondola down at 18:30 (December 1st – 25th only)Special Limited Season Illumination – Until December 25thAfter the ski slopes have closed for the day, Frost Tree Terrace is enveloped in silence as illumination sparkles across frost-covered trees, creating a magnificent nighttime scene. Some nights, you may even see diamond dust dancing in the air.
■Season:Sunday, December 1st to Wednesday, December 25th, 2019
■Hours: 16:30 – 18:00 last gondola up, last gondola down at 18:30Fees:Gondola Round Trip Tickets: Adults 2,200 yen / Elementary Student 1,300 yenAccess:90 minutes by the fastest train from JR Chitose Airport. (Change of trains at JR Minami Chitose Station required.) Disembark at Tomamu Station.
JR New Chitose Airport – Minami Chitose Station (Change Trains) – Tomamu StationWebsite:https://www.snowtomamu.jp/winter/en/ski/muhyo/index.php
Red-crowned cranes dancing in the snow-covered Kushiro Wetlands (Kushiro City, Tsurui Village)
Hokkaido is filled with bountiful nature, and offers visitors the chance to observe wild animals in their natural habitats.
The Kushiro Wetlands are renowned as the largest wetland in Hokkaido. Here dwell the magnificent red-crowned cranes, one of the largest bird species in Japan. During winter (November to March yearly), in search of food, many red-crowned cranes gather at feeding grounds located near the wetlands, such as Akan International Crane Center ‘Grus’ in Akan-cho (within the municipality of Kushiro City) and Tsurui Ito Tancho Crane Sanctuary in Tsurui Village. From Spring to Fall, the red-crowned cranes leave the feeding grounds to raise their young in the wetlands, so winter offers the best opportunities to photograph red-crowned cranes as they gather at feeding grounds. Beautiful sights of the red-crowned cranes amidst nature include pecking for food at the feeding grounds, and soaring high in the skies over snow-covered fields. With wingspans reaching over two meters, flying red-crowned cranes are truly magnificent. We recommend to visit during the mating season of February to March, which offers opportunities to observe the mating dance.Where:Tsurui Ito Tancho Crane Sanctuary, Tsurui Village, Akan International Crane Center ‘Grus’, KushiroCity and moreRecommended Season:Around February to MarchHours■Tsurui Ito Tancho Crane Sanctuary
9:00 – 16:30
Regularly closed Tuesday and Wednesday (except holidays), and year end (December 26th-30th)
■Akan International Crane Center ‘Grus’
Red-crowned Crane Observation Center Hours 8:30 – 16:30 (closes 16:00 November through January) Open dailyWebsite:Tsurui Ito Tancho Crane Sanctuary
Akan International Crane Center ‘Grus’
‘Frost Flowers’ blooming across the surface of Lake Akan create a stunning scene of deep winter beauty (Lake Akan, within the municipality of Kushiro City)
As water vapor settles upon the frozen lake surface, featherlike ice crystals form, gathering in layers which resemble rose petals. This stunningly beautiful natural phenomenon is known as ‘frost flowers’. While frost flowers can normally only be observed in December and January, as the particular combination of geographical and weather conditions at Lake Akan allows frost flowers to form until early March, making this the best location for enjoying these miraculous blossoms. To view frost flowers, we recommend to stay at Lake Akan during the coldest season between mid-January and March, and join a guided tour which will take you to the areas with the best chance of frost flower formation.Where:Lake Akan, and other areasRecommended Season:Mid January to MarchAccess:About 80 minutes by Akan Bus from Kushiro Airport. Disembark at Akanko Onsen Bus Stop.Website:http://en.kushiro-lakeakan.com/overview/2824/