Hokkaido - Shiretoko to Abashiri
Updated: Nov 25, 2022
Today, we planned to spend as much time as our itinerary would allow us in Shiretoko. Afterall, it has been a long drive all the way here.
Breakfast at Shiretoko Noble Hotel (scroll to the bottom) is typical Japanese. The spread was generous with their Arabiki sausages, mentaiko and grilled fish. Just the kind of meal I need in preparation for our 3 hour hike in the Shiretoko National Park later.
Shiretoko Five Lakes
If you’re using the In-car Navigation system: Shiretoko Five Lakes Rest House Tel: 0152-24-2299
Otherwise This google maps link will take you to the Shiretoko Goko Field House where hike guides meet their groups.
Arrived: 15min before our tour group’s designated meeting time.
How you are supposed to explore this protected land depends on when you’re coming to visit. This link will give you more detailed information: https://www.goko.go.jp/multilingual_eng/ground_pathway.html
We visited during the last week of July (which is between May 10 to July 31). During this period, bear sightings are more common because this is the time where they become a bit more frisky, and try to expand their population. Access to the nature trails is only possible if one joins a tour group led by a licensed registered nature guide. Some guides can speak some English. You can book your guide via this website https://www.goko.go.jp/fivelakes/?locale=en
Each tour takes about 3 hours, and they cost about ¥5000 per person. A maximum of ten people are allowed on each tour. In the event where there is a bear sighting, the tour will be cancelled and your fee would be refunded. This is for the visitors’ safety.
Unfortunately, that was what happened to us. Barely 30min into our tour, before we could see the first lake, a group ahead of us spotted a bear. Sadly, we had to turn back. It was a good thing that the first lake was still accessible to us via a long wooden elevated boardwalk which has its own safety mechanisms against bears.
Special shout-out to our amazing guide, Umebayashi-san. This is her company’s website. One can book a slot in her tour groups via the goko website (the link posted in the paragraph above) or can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although our tour with her was short, she shared with us a lot of insightful knowledge about the Shiretoko National Park’s ecosystem, and the diets of the Brown bears.
Hopefully the next time we get to complete the course, and visit all 5 lakes.
Location of the free parking: google maps link
16minute drive away from Shiretoko Five Lakes parking lot.
This was fun! The thought of being able to walk in a river was something that only existed in my dream, until that day.
As we ventured into that body of water, our feet was greeted by the gentle flow of warm water, caressing our feet. Such a unique experience. As we splashed our way around the Kamuiwakkayu falls, we played like children in a new inflatable backyard paddling pool.
We were well-prepared for this adventure of ours. Our aquatic shoes had good grip, and saved our feet from potential cuts.
Do note that between Aug 1 and Aug 25, Kamuiwakkayu Falls are not accessible by car, and between end Oct to 31May, the roads are closed to all forms of transportation.
Information guide on what to take note of at Kamuiwakkayu Falls © Shiretoko National Park Nature Centre
Lunch @ Kaniya
7:30am-5:30pm. (Though some other websites state a different timing. Hmmm) Opens everyday
Arrived at 1:45pm.
We’re starving from all the activities we’ve been up to all day. It’s time to get some chow! We’ve driven past this Kaisendon restaurant several times over the past 24H so we decided to drop here for lunch.
Kaisendon 海鮮丼 is a simple dish where slices of sashimi-grade fish and other seafood is placed on a bed of sushi rice. Simple dish but the key lies in the freshness of the ingredients.
The view here is memorable. If I had to write a book on Kaisendon, I would use the picture I took from here. The visual element of waves crashing in the background adds to the authenticity of the dish. Its origins.
We didn’t plan for our meal here. Being able to discover and enjoy the moment was magical.
Shiretoko Sightseeing Ship “Aurora”
Ticket counter: 北海道斜里郡斜里町ウトロ東107番地
Boarding site: https://goo.gl/maps/3ADK1SD3c8gyC9WP7
Parking: 町営有料駐車場 https://goo.gl/maps/zfnXS9HzoNScgZEPA Fee required.
Ships run daily between Apr 28 and Oct 25.
Two types of cruises:
3hr 45m duration - runs twice daily.
1hr 30m duration - runs five times a day.
Schedule can be found on their website.
Ship departed at 2:15pm.
After we have explored parts of Shiretoko by land, it is time to check the other parts by sea. We decided to take the longer cruise because it would take us to the tip of the peninsula - we can then say that we have been to the end of Japan. Landmark moment!
The Aurora boat spans over three decks. One can look out either from indoors, the balconies or the top deck. Visually, the most exciting moment was when we reached the Cape of Shiretoko. There were times when the Captain of the ship announced that a bear is being sighted, but we couldn’t identify its location. I wish that we came across more animals during our cruise. I am appreciative of the slow pace of the cruise, since our vacation has been moving at an intensive pace. I had a good nap in the cruise. We had a lovely chat about how our journey has been.
The cruise ended at 6pm, just when the sun started to set. Our short stay at Shiretoko has come to a beautiful end. We’re now heading to Abashiri - that’s a 90min drive from here. Here we go!
We left Shiretoko just as the sun started to set. The drive was pleasant, with scenes of sunset accompanying us til we reached Abashiri.
Double room @ Dormy Inn Abashiri © Dormy Inn Abashiri
Stay @ Dormy Inn Abashiri
Arrived: 7:40pm.We chose to stopover at Abashiri because it is the nearest town to Memanbetsu Airport. Dormy Inn Abashiri is a cosy hotel, wonderfully located next to our dinner spot.
Dinner @ Abashiri Beer Kan
5pm-11pm. We made a reservation prior.
This yakiniku restaurant is literally minutes away from our hotel. So convenient!
We were given our own room to grill and dine: that’s a bag of brownie points from me. The reason why I booked this place is because for most of our trip, we haven’t had much beef, and Hokkaido does have some delicious Wagyu. We ordered the Zabuton ザブトン, and Jo Karubi 上カルビ. The marbling is exquisite. When the oils from the cuts drip into the flames, they go berserk. Special mention to their baked potato with butter on top (Jaga-Bata) じゃがバター. Did you know that Hokkaido is the leading producer of potatoes in Japan? It is not a surprise why Hokkaido’s french fry styled Jagapokkuru snack is such a hit at every airport.
Men's bathhouse @ Dormy Inn Abashiri © Dormy Inn Abashiri
After dinner, I soaked in the warm waters of the bathhouse. Ahhh… nothing helps to soothe sore and tired muscles better than a good soak.
「夜鳴きそば」 @ Dormy Inn Abashiri © Dormy Inn Abashiri
I was tempted to grab myself a bowl of Shoyu-based Ramen「夜鳴きそば」which is available between 9:30pm-11pm, free on the house. Unfortunately, my sleepy body decisively chose my next course of action. Zzz...
Tomorrow is the last day of our road trip. We'll be spending the day around Abashiri, and flying back to New Chitose Airport from Memanbetsu Airport. [Click on me for tomorrow's itinerary]