Hokkaido is the world’s furthest southern area where drift ice (ryuhyo) reaches the seashore. From around early February, drift ice floes start arriving on the Hokkaido shores of the Sea of Okhotsk — gradually nearing Monbetsu and Abashiri, moving around the Shiretoko Peninsula, and eventually reaching the shore of Rausu. On the Monbetsu seashore, the furthest northern point in Hokkaido for drift ice observation, you can encounter an entirely frozen seascape. At Rausu and Nemuro to the south of Shiretoko, drift ice can sometimes be observed in April, and the floes are smaller. What kind of seascape do you want to see? Choose an observation point depending on the location and the season when you can visit.
Ice floes can be viewed from inland, but if you’d like to observe the drift ice seascapes at closer range, it’s best to take a cruise tour. Various cruisers (large and small) are available at each departure point. Popular large vessels include the Aurora with capacity for approx. 400 passengers and the icebreaker Garinko-go II, which has drilling equipment to grind a path through the drift ice. On the other hand, it’s exciting fun to be aboard a small boat with capacity about 10 people, following wild sea creatures and fishing vessels seeking a catch. Due to limited cruise availability, you usually need a reservation for such tours.
If you want more dramatic adventures in drift ice viewing, try sunrise or sunset cruises departing from port at dawn or dusk. You can witness the sky dyed red by the sun above drift ice floes with pale blue faces emerging from the sea. And you may encounter fantastic seascapes with sea eagles and white-tailed eagles swooping over the ice. Such dynamic scenes are the coolest part of travel in Hokkaido.
Drift ice (Eastern Hokkaido)
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