Top things to do

Top Choice Lake in Kawayu Onsen

Mashū-ko

Considered by many to be Japan's most beautiful lake, Mashū-ko once held the world record for water clarity. The island in the middle was known by the Ainu as the Isle of the Gods. A road runs along the western rim.…
Top Choice Village in Akanko Onsen

Ainu Kotan

This collection of shops and households is actually the largest Ainu village in Hokkaidō. Residents make a living promoting their culture: dancing on the stage at Ikor, cooking pochie (fermented potato dumplings) in…
Top Choice Lake in Kawayu Onsen

Kussharo-ko

Japan's largest caldera lake is a rich blue on sunny days. A small volcano peeks out from the centre, creating the island Naka-jima – best viewed from the Bihoro Pass.
Top Choice Ainu in Akanko Onsen

Poronno

Poronno, inside the Ainu kotan, has the most interesting menu of the restaurants in town specialising in Ainu cuisine. You can try yukku ruibe (frozen, preserved venison) and dried salmon or pizza with pochie (ferme…
Zoo in Tokachi

Bear Mountain

This 15-hectare forested enclosure in northern Tokachi is home to 12 male higuma (who range in size from 300kg to 400kg!). The clever viewing facilities include a boardwalk 5m above ground and, for a little more yen…
Ainu in Kawayu Onsen

Marukibune Restaurant

OK, the food here isn't dramatically different from what a Japanese diner would serve, but you can get a donburi (rice bowl) topped with Hokkaidō venison and gyōja niniku (alpine leek), the local aromatic that has a…
Cafe in Shari

Teishaba

Inside the 90-year-old Kita-Hama Station, operating since 1986, Teishaba is decked out to look like a vintage rail car, with wood and burgundy-velour booths and rotating fans overhead. With views of both the Sea of …
Wildlife Reserve in Kushiro-shitsugen National Park

Akan International Crane Centre 'GRUS'

You can see a few cranes in breeding pens here but the real attraction is the Crane Observation Centre (8.30am to 4.30pm November to March), a winter feeding ground that is your best chance to see cranes outside of …
Museum in Akanko Onsen

Akan Kohan Eco-Museum Centre

At the eastern edge of town, this centre has exhibitions on local flora and fauna, including marimo in aquarium tanks. It also has hiking maps in English and info on trail conditions and bear sightings.
Park in Shari

Koshimizu Gensei-kaen

This is a spectacular 20km stretch of wildflowers along the coast between Abashiri and Shari. Visit in early summer and catch it at its peak, when more than 40 species of flowers bloom.