Sunday, August 29, 2010

Shiretoko Peninsula

Protruding out of the northeastern end of Hokkaido, Shiretoko Peninsula is truly one of the most remote and untouched parts of Japan. In fact, in the Ainu language, Shiretoko means "the end of the earth"! It is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (as recent as 2005) and cutting into the Sea of Okhotsk, it is the most southerly point where sea ice will form. (I've covered an ice-breaking cruise in the Sea of Okhotsk in my post on Abashiri).

The best way to access the area is really to drive. Even then, most part of the peninsula is not covered by roads (or is restricted access) and there are only 2 towns close/within the peninsula - Utoro and Rausu. Buses to these towns however, operate only in non-winter months, and is really expensive I feel! I took the JR train to Shari town, where I transfered to the bus to Utoro and subsequently, another bus to Iwaobetsu Youth Hostel where I stayed. Iwaobetsu Youth Hostel is well covered in the various guidebooks and is really a great place to get close to nature. The highlight for me there however, is really the salmon dinner in which a whole salmon is prepared in front of the diners and made into 5-6 different delicious dishes! Phenomenal!

The beauty of the place, of course, is the nature. Large portion of the peninsula is designated as Shiretoko National Park and hence access to a number of areas are limited/restricted. However, there are still plenty of activities available - a trek up Mt Rausu, an easy boardwalk/trail to the Shiretoko Five Lakes, a number of waterfalls and an impressive visitor centre. You could also take a cruise from Utoro and go whale or seal spotting! When I was there, access to 3 of the 5 lakes was closed as bear activity was spotted!! Sika deers, however, is common and easily spotted. But my contact with nature was the most magical when I managed to spot the red fox! Imagine my thrill!

For nature lovers, Shiretoko Peninsula and Shiretoko National Park is definitely a must-go when you next visit Hokkaido!


gnohz said...

I really enjoyed reading your travel blog posts, especially those of Japan as I also travelled a little when I lived there 2 years ago :) But I didn't get to explore Hokkaido as much as I wanted as I was in the Kansai region.

Anyway, keep up the great work! :)

Wanderer said...

Hi gnohz,
Thanks for dropping by! Happy that someone read my blogs!

Wow, lived in Japan for 2 years?! I made 4 trips thus far, and still not enough! :p

Check out my Roving Random Ramblings blog too when u r free :)

Wanderer said...

Oh, wonderful images on your website and congrats on getting runners up!!!