Complete Guide to Hokkaido This May vol. 1
Cruise with the Whales of Shiretoko Peninsula
Shiretoko Peninsula is the only UNESCO’s Natural World Heritage in Hokkaido and offers a landscape where you can go on adventurous wildlife tours. In the town of Rausu, located in the Southeast, Shiretoko Nature Cruise is where you can go on drift-ice cruising tours in winter months (Jan ~ Mar) and whale/dolphin/bird-watching programs during summertime (May ~ Oct).
“We have the best whale-watching experience here in Rausu!” a captain raves about his whale-watching cruising tour. Tourists are very likely* to catch sightings of sperm whales between August and September, or spot Dall’s porpoises in their natural habitat from June to October, as well as white-tailed eagles and Steller’s sea eagles at a very close range. Interesting wildlife is there all year round. Still, it’s recommended to check out the “Animal Encounter Rate Calendar” via the official website before reserving a seat – if you are a fan of any of the above species.
*We cannot guarantee 100% sighting on whales, dolphins and any other wildlife on the cruises.
Shiretoko Nature Cruise
Address: 27-1 Honcho, Rausu-cho, Menashi-gun, Hokkaido
Boarding area is located within a 5-minute walk at the Rausu fishing port
Departure time: depends on cruise ships and season
Access: about 1 hour 15 minutes by car from Nemuro Nakashibetsu Airport
Website: http://www.e-shiretoko.com/ (some English available)
Note: Departures depend on weather conditions and the conditions at sea.
The Café Bathed in a Nostalgic Glow
Kitaichi Glass No.3 Building, designated as a “Historical Building” by Otaru City, boasts a long history, one that began in the early Showa Era.
The building, which was previously owned by the glass tycoon Kitaichi Glass during the Meiji Era, now houses an otherworldly space ornamented with a romantic orange glow. Instead of electric bulbs, many travellers might be startled to find this café lit by 167 oil lamps. You might be tempted to visit the profound atmosphere of this café for a coffe break, but the real draw happens at 8:45 a.m sharp every day, right after opening.
If you’re lucky enough to get here early, grab a seat to witness the daily lighting ceremony in which the staff light up the lamps on the tables and along the walls one by one. Also be sure to keep your eyes peeled when the chandelier is raised up to the ceiling. Nothing makes this dreamy place more magical than sipping on some delicate milk tea and eating some Hokkaido soft-serve.
Kitaichi Glass No.3 Building Kitaichi Hall
Address: 7-26 Sakai-machi, Otaru-shi, Hokkaido
Hours: 8:45 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Access: about 10 minutes by walk from JR Minami-Otaru Station
Website: https://kitaichiglass.co.jp/ (some English available)
Kushiro’s Pride; One of the Best Sunsets in the World
Considered by the locals as one of the “Top 3 Sunsets in the World” alongside other famous worldwide spots like Bali and Manila, Kushiro in East Hokkaido is a reputed sunset-viewing location. Walk along the Kita-Odori Street from JR Kushiro Station for about 15 minutes and you’ll come across the 124-meter-long Nusamai-bashi Bridge, one of the three most famous bridges in Hokkaido.
Most visitors will be in awe of the beauty of four female statues, the “Shiki no Zo” on the guardrails with the setting sun painting the background a calm vermillion hue. And the backdrop after dark is no less magical. Finish off your Kushiro night by admiring the light-up event starting 30 minutes after sunset, sampling the sunset-themed local cocktail “Kushiro Sunset High Ball”, or joining the SEA CRANE cruising tour. No matter what you get up to, these features will give you plenty of reasons to stay out past sunset.
Address: 1 Kita-dori, Kushiro-shi, Hokkaido
Light-up hours: After sunset till 12:00 a.m. everyday
Access: about 15 minutes by walk from JR Kushiro Station
Kushiro – Lake Akan Travel Guide: http://en.kushiro-lakeakan.com/things_to_do/3788/
A Taste of Autumn in the Spring in Biei?
Taking in the beautiful colours of the autumnal foliage might sound like something exclusive to the last parts of the year, but you might just be surprised to hear that those vibrant reds are around for viewing in the early parts of the year in the city of Biei.
Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to see the autumn leaves in early October or the fiery red leaves of the larches that follow closely behind in early November. But even if you missed out on ‘em, there’s nothing to fear. You can still catch the spring colours, or “Haru Momiji,” in Biei from early April to mid-May. It’s a natural phenomenon which can only be seen during a short period of time while trees lack the chlorophyll to turn their leaves green. Red and orange pigments cover up the green ones, making for an autumn-like sight in the early spring!
To catch this incredible spring sight, drive up to Akabane Seidai Dam. There you can enjoy the best view, merely a 10 minute journey from JR Furano Line Biei Station.
The golden collaboration of a furniture showroom and a cafe space
Higashikawa-cho is a little town in northern Hokkaido that has a knack for woodworking. Kita no Sumai Sekkeisha is a hybrid furniture store/manufacturer which was renovated from an elementary school.
The former classroom has been re-purposed into a workplace for craftsmen and the former academic dormitory is used as an office. While browsing through the adjacent showroom, you’ll come across furniture and lifeware which are all made from 100% preservative-/insecticide-free Hokkaido-sourced natural wood. The shop also sells everything from kitchen goods to interior accessories, so it’s not surprising to see that the store is always crowded with customers that come from all over the country!
Keep an eye out for the bakery & cafe, which is filled with the aroma of pizza, pasta and bread made from natural yeasts. Are you searching for novel and sustainable products?
Kita no Sumai Sekkeisha
Address：Kita-7-sen Higashi-7-go, Higashikawa-cho, Hokkaido
Hours：10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.（cafe until 5:30 p.m.）
Access：about 45 minutes by car from Asahikawa City downtown
Viewing the Cherry Blossom like the Meiji Imperial Family
Possibly one of the best locations for cherry blossom viewing in Hokkaido – designated as one of the “Top 100 Roads of Japan,” “Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots” and a “Hokkaido Heritage Spot,” Nijukken Road is a stop on many tourist itineraries which draws over 200,000 flower lovers during May each year.
Nijukken Road, or Twenty-Way Road in Japanese, was originally constructed as a passageway for the Meiji Imperial Family to inspect the family’s ranch in the Hidaka region. Nowadays, the 7km-long straight road is lined with more than 2000 sakura trees. While the cherries are in prime bloom, you can drive straight through the pink tunnel these incredible trees create, and admire the pale petals uplose by cycling through the “Flower Tunnel.” You may also visit the Sakuras in full swing when the Shizunai Sakura Festival is held during the same period. That’s the only chance when you can explore the interior of the Ryuunkaku, an inn built in 1909 for the Imperial Family, which is usually not open to the public.
Nijukken Road Cherry Blossoms
Address：Shizunai Tahara / Shizunai Misono, Shin-Hidaka-cho, Hidaka-gun, Hokkaido
Access：about 20 minutes by Donan Bus bound for “Noya” from JR Shizunai Station, alight at “Sakura-ga-oka Sho-gakkou” bus stop then walk for about 15 minutes