So Many Places to See in Winter! Introducing Ryuhyo, the Natural Art of Eastern Hokkaido.
Located in Northern Japan, Eastern Hokkaido is a region overflowing with winter attractions. Among those, I'd especially like to tell you about the extremely popular drift ice. In the latter half, I'll introduce a highly recommended way to go sightseeing in comfort: by excursion bus!
Ryuhyo Drift Ice
In winter, the Sea of Okhotsk is covered in a field of glittering blue-white ice. This magical and mysterious world is called "Ryuhyo" in Japanese. Impossible to imagine in the choppy blue seas of summer, Mother Nature creates this spectacular scene in the freezing winter.
Usually, seas don't ice over until the water temperature dips below 0 degrees Celsius (32 Fahrenheit). The drift ice that can be seen in the seas surrounding Japan originally comes from Russia's Amur River, where intense cold flash-freezes the fresh water at the estuary.
These ice floes expand and travel 1000 kilometers (600 miles) south to arrive at Hokkaido.
The Ice-Smashing Sightseeing Ship is Recommended
The main attraction of drift ice is its glittering, gorgeous blue-white hue and the dynamic shapes it makes. To enjoy the full impact of this experience, I highly recommend taking an exciting cruise in the Sea of Okhotsk from Abashiri aboard an ice-smashing sightseeing ship. Comfortable for passengers of all ages, the thrill of this pleasure is tangible. What's more, you may also meet impressive and rare animals such as sea otters and Steller's sea eagles.
The Best Time to see Ryuhyo
Since the ice floes come down from the end of January to the end of March, winter visitors to Hokkaido should definitely check it out!
"Jewelry ice" refers to the transparent ice crystals that are formed as the ice is jostled about. The glittering form of the ice reflecting the sunlight is as beautiful as a jewel! This phenomenon can be appreciated from the coast of Toyokoro Town on the Tokachigawa River flowing from Higashi Hokkaido into the Pacific Ocean.
The Peak Season to see Jewelry Ice
It starts in the middle of January and lasts until around the end of February.
*Please note that this period may change, depending on the climate that year.
Get Around Comfortably on the Eastern Hokkaido Sightseeing Bus
Starting from Abashiri, where you can see the Ryuhyo drift ice, I recommend seeing all the sights in Eastern Hokkaido by taking the Eastern Hokkaido Sightseeing Bus. Eastern Hokkaido is so vast, but you can enjoy traveling in comfort from Sapporo City to Sounkyo Hot Springs, Abashiri, Shiretoko, Lake Akan/Lake Mashu, and Obihiro/Tokachigawa Hot Springs.
Rather than going by car, this is the best way those who wish to relax and go with the flow while enjoying the scenery on their travels through the Eastern Hokkaido area.
Recommended Places to Visit on the Eastern Hokkaido Sightseeing Bus
- At the Asahiyama Zoo, you can see animals that dwell on ice, and crane-lovers can watch these birds take flight at the International Crane Center in Akan.
- Lake Mashu, Lake Akan and Sounkyo Hot Springs are all very popular for their beautiful scenery.
- Study the history of Hokkaido's pioneers at Abashiri Prison.
- Kawayu Hot Springs and Tokachigawa Hot Springs are perfect for warming up after a cold day of winter sightseeing.
- Finally, Shiretoko Utoro, designated as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, features rare plants and animals living in a splendidly unspoiled natural environment.
As you can see, Eastern Hokkaido is teeming with tourist attractions to appreciate!
The Comfortable and Economical Eastern Hokkaido Sightseeing Bus
All buses are equipped with WiFi and reservations may be made from one person. Until March 15, 2018, buses will run every day, so travelers can easily make plans.
Also, be sure and check out the passenger privileges you will receive, such as coupons offering preferential treatment at restaurants and tourist attractions in Eastern Hokkaido.
For first-time travelers to Tohoku and Hokkaido, I can highly recommend this site! If you're looking for an economical packaged tour including accommodations, look no further than: CLUB TOURISM YOKOSO JAPAN.
If you wish to decide your destinations by yourself, there's a convenient site you can access. It's the Official Website of "Hokkaido - Route to Asian Natural Treasures" Promotion Conference.