Home > Suggested Itineraries > Golden Route > Hokkaido Eastern Route from Sapporo

Hokkaido Eastern Route from Sapporo

2 nights, 3 days

Hokkaido Eastern Route from Sapporo

Visiting mother nature and Ainu culture in Hokkaido. Shiretoko and Akan, a hidden land designated as a world heritage site, and Kushiro-shitsugen Marsh, the home of the red-crowned crane.

1st Day

From Shin-Chitose Airport (07:55) to Memanbetsu Airport: Approx. 1 hour
Memanbetsu Airport > (Shari Bus/Abashiri Bus; Approx. 2 hours, 2,800 to 3,000 yen) > Utoro Bus Terminal / Each hotel in Shiretoko Utoro-onsen Hot Spring

*Check beforehand because the number of the bus service may differ for summer and winter.

> Utoro Bus Terminal> 5-minute walk > Shiretoko Sightseeing Boat from 2,700 yen > 5-minute walk > Utoro Bus Terminal > (10 minutes by bus, 640 yen) > Shiretoko National Park Nature Center > (15 minutes by bus, 430 yen) > Shiretoko Five Lakes


Shin-Chitose Airport > (Approx. 1 hour by plane) > Memanbetsu Airport > (30 minutes by Abashiri bus, 880 yen) > Abashiri Station > 50 minutes on the JR Senmou Honsen line > Shiretoko-Shari Station > Take a Shari bus (50 minutes, 1,490 yen) > Utoro Bus Terminal.

The Shiretoko-hanto Peninsula
The Shiretoko-hanto Peninsula that juts out into the Okhotsk Sea east of Hokkaido is an almost completely hidden area covered with bountiful forests and pristine nature. The wildlife there includes brown bears, Ezo Shika deer and rare birds, and it was designated as a world heritage site in 2005. Be prepared for a certain amount of inconvenience in order to get there.

Fly from Shin-Chitose Airport to Memanbetsu Airport. From June to the middle of October, there is a bus service (approx. 2 hours) that takes you to Utoro, one of the major towns in Shiretoko like Rausu. In other seasons, go to JR Abashiri Station by bus and to Shiretoko-Shari Station on the JR line. Then, take a bus to Utoro. You might find it convenient to buy a 'Shiretoko round-trip ticket' (1,800 yen) at Shari Terminal, with which you can get on and off as you like, for example at Utoro Onsen Terminal, Shiretoko Nature Center and Shiretoko Five Lakes.

Winter attractions include a drift ice cruise or drift ice diving, but you must make sufficient plans including securing a means of transportation.

Before entering the town, you can see 'the falls of Oshinkoshin' crashing down from the 60-meter high cliffs.

In summer, why not take a trip on the Shiretoko Sightseeing Boat from Utoro Port? It is approx. 90 minutes long (2,700 yen, booking is required) and you can enjoy seeing the steep jutting cliffs and powerful falls. There's also a 4-hour tour that takes you to the end of the Shiretoko Cape (6,000 yen, booking is required), but you must check carefully because there is only one service a day.

How about hiking around the Shiretoko Five Lakes through the surrounding primeval forest in order to soak up the atmosphere of this hidden world? The water of the five lakes is groundwater welling up from the bottom of the lakes and there are no rivers running into them. It takes one hour to walk around all of the lakes. There is also a short 20-minute walk available. Before departing on your walk, you should pop in to the Shiretoko Nature Center and get a bell or spray to repel brown bears.

Be sure to get back to Utoro before night falls so you won't miss the dynamic sunset from Yuhidai. We also recommend trying the fresh local seafood such as salmon, salmon roe and sea urchin.

2nd Day
Lake Mashu-ko, Lake Akan-ko
Utoro > (50 minutes by bus) > Shiretoko-Shari Station > JR Senmo Honsen line (1 hour) > Mashu Station > (20 minutes by Akan bus, 670 yen) Mashu 1st vantage point > (70 minutes by bus) > (Akan Bus, Akan Panorama course, 4,000 yen) Lake Akan-ko-onsen Hot Spring
Lake Mashu-ko
You go to Mashu using buses and trains from Utoro. There is a 24-hour footbath next to Mashu Station on the JR line, the perfect place to go and ease your fatigue from the long journey.

'Lake Mashu-ko', created by the eruption of Mashu-dake Mountain, is a crystal clear, magical lake in which the water level remains the same throughout the year. A fine mist covers the lake all year long, creating a very mysterious atmosphere. You can get an impression of its solemn beauty from the 1st vantage point.

Around noon, a bus will take you to Lake Akan-ko.

Lake Akan-ko
Freshwater fish such as grayling, Japanese smelt and carp live in Lake Akan-ko, which lies in the crater of a volcano. You can go fishing there in the summer and also in the winter by making a hole in the frozen lake. There are many other winter activities including ice skating and snowmobile riding. From the end of January to March, a festival is held on the ice and the lake is crowded with people at night.

A sightseeing boat (1,350 yen) cruising around Lake Akan-ko operates from May to the middle of November. The boat stops at 'Marimo Exhibition Observation Center' (400 yen) situated on Churui Island. Marimo, a form of spherical green moss, is particularly beautiful in Lake Akan and is designated as a national protected species, but there is concern over its possible extinction.

Ainu Kotan
The other must-see place is 'Ainu Kotan' village situated at the east of the town. The Ainu are indigenous people of Hokkaido and they have lived worshiping nature since ancient times. This colony is the largest one in Hokkaido. There are facilities where you can learn about their livelihood and culture and there are also more than 30 souvenir shops. In the largest house there, you can see the ancient Ainu dance.

Akan-ko-onsen Hot Spring
At night, you will stay at Akan-ko-onsen Hot Spring on the shores of Lake Akan-ko. The building dates back about 140 years, and it is believed that the Ainu people first lived there. Most of the hotels face the lake, providing a panoramic view from the guest rooms or open-air spa. We recommend trying the tempura of fish caught from the lake such as Japanese smelt and grayling.

3rd Day
Kushiro-shitsugen Marsh
Lake Akan-ko > (1 hour by Akan Bus, 1,800 yen) > Tanchozuru (Red-Crowned Crane) Park > (1 hour by bus, 880 yen) > Kushiro Station > (30 minutes by bus, 660 yen) > Kushiro Marsh Observatory > Kushiro-shitsugen Marsh Walkway > (30 minutes by bus, 660 yen) > Kushiro City > To Sapporo by JR line or airplane
Kushiro-shitsugen Marsh
You'll travel by bus from the lakeside of Lake Akan-ko to Kushiro city center. At Tanchozuru Park established to protect the endangered species of beautiful Japanese red-crowned cranes, about 20 birds roam free. Around May, you might have a chance to see their lovely chicks.

Kushiro-shitsugen Marsh is the largest marsh in Japan, having reached its current expanse over 20,000 years ago. Approx. 80% of the marsh is covered with grass and it is home to about 600 species of plants and 170 species of birds. A wooden path about 2.5 km long extends out from the observatory, which also plays the role of information center for the marsh, so let's take a walk around the marsh. From the satellite observatory about halfway along the path route, you can see the boundless scenery stretching towards the horizon.

In the winter season from October to March, you might have a chance to see a Japanese red-crowned crane, one of the protected species.

Another way to enjoy the marsh is to take a train excursion. From January to March, a steam locomotive (one way 1,840 yen) runs between Kushiro Station and Shibecha Station on the Senmo line for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. In the passenger carriages, there are coal-fired Daruma stoves or potbelly stoves. The train stops at Kushiro Shitsugen Station, so it might be fun to take a ride if you have a chance.

On the other hand, from the end of April to September, a diesel locomotive called 'Norokko-go' travels the marsh route. Norokko means slow, so you can literally relax and appreciate the view of Mother Nature from the train window.

In the evening, why not try robatayaki at one of the restaurants in Kushiro city center? Robatayaki is where seafood is grilled over charcoal in an irori or open hearth, and you can eat fish grilled right in front of you. Kushiro is the birthplace of robatayaki, so there are many restaurants offering fresh seafood at a reasonable price.

JR Limited Express to Sapporo departs at 19:08 and arrives at 22:58. Airplane from Kushiro to Sapporo departs at 18:55 and arrives at 19:50.

*Photo (C) Hokkaido Tourism Organization