Top ChoiceLake in Kawayu Onsen

Mashū-ko

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...

Top ChoiceVillage 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)...

Top ChoiceLake 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.

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...

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...

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.

Wildlife Reserve in Kushiro-shitsugen National Park

Kushiro Japanese Crane Reserve

Run by Kushiro Zoo, this reserve has been instrumental in increasing the crane population. There are currently 14 tanchō-zuru living here, though they are free to leave anytime they like (the fences are for...

Volcano in Kawayu Onsen

Iō-zan

This hissing mountain (512m), a couple of kilometres south of Kawayu Onsen, is stained sunshine-yellow in patches from sulphur. Locals steam eggs in the hot volcanic vapours for a speciality known as...

Viewpoint in Shiretoko National Park

Shiretoko Pass

Rte 334, where it traverses the Shiretoko Pass, is considered one of Japan's most scenic stretches of road. It winds about 30km through the foothills of Rausu-dake between Utoro and Rausu, passing groves of...

Museum in Kawayu Onsen

Museum of Ainu Folklore

In the Kussharo kotan (village) on the southern shores of Kussharo-ko, this museum displays traditional Ainu tools and crafts. Ask the staff to play the 25-minute English video, which talks about Ainu history and...

Museum in Akanko Onsen

Ainu Folklore Museum

At the top of the hill in the Ainu kotan, this small museum has changing exhibitions of contemporary Ainu artisan work, and sometimes thought-provoking shows. There are some traditional dwellings here, too.

Viewpoint in Kawayu Onsen

Bihoro Pass

This lookout point on Rte 243, which runs between Abashiri and Mashū, has a fantastic panoramic view over Kussharo-ko, with Naka-jima in the middle.

Market in Kushiro

Washō Market

This fish market is as much a sightseeing spot as a place to eat. The speciality here is called katte-don (勝手丼) – literally 'rice bowl as you like it'. First buy a bowl of rice from one of the vendors on the...

Museum in Kawayu Onsen

Taihō Sumo Museum

This museum is full of photos, both official and candid, of legendary hometown hero, the sumo wrestler Taihō (大鵬; 1940–2013). He was born on Karafuto (Sakhalin) to a Ukrainian father and Japanese mother, brought...

Museum in Abashiri

Abashiri Prison Museum

Some of the original Meiji-era prison buildings were restored and relocated to this oddly pleasant museum park. The Kangoku Hakubutsukan (penal museum) here details the reasons this historic prison was so feared:...

Museum in Abashiri

Hokkaidō Museum of Northern Peoples

The examples here of traditional dress, tools and musical instruments from the indigenous cultures of the northern latitudes demonstrate the resourcefulness and joy that can be found in some of the world's...

Nature Reserve in Abashiri

Sango-sō Gunraku

Known as salt pickle or grasswort in other parts of the world, coral grass, an otherwise humble marsh plant, gets its moment of fame in September when it turns bright red. There are a few boardwalk viewing spots...

Museum in Kawayu Onsen

Kawayu Eco-Museum Centre

Stop by this museum and visitor centre in Kawayu Onsen to see how the surrounding volcanic landscape got its shape and to pick up hiking maps. There's a cafe, and free wi-fi throughout. A number of short nature...

Museum in Abashiri

Okhotsk Drift Ice Museum

Come here to see videos of the drift ice in winter and small tanks of the fascinating creatures that live beneath it, such as the tiny kurione (sea angel), Abashiri's mascot. There's also a rooftop observatory.