Introducing Shiretoko National Park
Shiretoko-Hantō, the peninsula that makes up Shiretoko National Park was known in Ainu as ‘the end of the world’, and it’s aptly named. As remote as Japan gets, this magnificent park has no sealed roads within its boundaries save for a short northwest–southeast road that connects the town of Utoro (on the northwestern edge) with Rausu (on the southern side); two-thirds of the park has no roads at all. The hiking tracks to Shiretoko-misaki () are for expert hikers only: remote and poorly maintained, they wind over slippery boulders and disappear at times on cliff sides. If the weather turns frigid or you slip and break an ankle, you’ll need to hope that a passing fishing boat spots you before the bears do. Hiking must be arranged in advance: there are steep fines for anyone caught hiking off limits or after hours.
Boat rides (
The Shiretoko Nature Centre (
Unfortunately, Iwaobetsu Onsen () and Kamuiwakka-no-taki (), a stunning rotemburo waterfall, are closed for five years for maintenance and restoration, but Shiretoko-go-ko (; Shiretoko Five Lakes) offers hiking with beautiful views of the ponds and mountains behind them.