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 ChoiceAinu 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...

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...

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...

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...

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.

Bar in Shari

GVO

Guitars, motorcycles, CDs and 1960s folk all grace this cafe that's all about the sea urchin. If you've been craving sea urchin curry, sea urchin pasta, or sea urchin pretty-much-anything this is the place. Yet...

Cafe in Akanko Onsen

Onsen Kōbō Akan

This is brilliant: a cafe with an ashi-yu (foot bath) so you can soak your feet while sipping coffee (¥250). There's food available, too; try the 'zari-bonara' (pasta carbonara with zarigani – freshwater...

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...

Cafe in Kawayu Onsen

Orchard Grass

This cafe is inside historic Kawayu Station (built in 1936), which retains much of its original character – in the form of high, wood-panelled ceilings, antique pendant lamps, stained-glass windows and an...

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...

Ice Cream in Ikeda

Happiness Dairy

Since 1949 this popular Tokachi dairy has been serving great ice cream from its small cafe. It makes dozens of flavours – from black sesame to edamame to pumpkin – of which 10 or so are available at a time,...

Seafood in Shiretoko National Park

Rausu Maruo Hamada Shoten

Choose your crab and have it served, or go for the menu, either way it's delicious seafood in a building that's four decades old. Note that the hours can be a bit wonky – your best bet is to call before heading...

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.