The popular representation of Japan is of extremely dense population, but Shiretoko National Park contradicts that. At around 150 square miles, it shapes about half of the 44 mile long peninsula that protrudes into the Sea of Okhotsk. Shiretoko means “end of the earth” or “land’s end”, and the park is one of the world’s true wilderness, with very limited access by road with some areas only accessible by foot or boat.
Shiretoko National Park Landscape
The park is as unique as it is beautiful. The peninsula was formed from volcanic rock, and there are enormous black boulders spread along its length as a strong reminder of the creation of the land. The park also contains majestic volcanic mountain ranges, splendid waterfalls, ponds, lakes, rough cliffs pounded by wild seas, woods, thermal vents and hot springs. During the winter time, the Sea of Okhotsk has the southernmost ice flows in the Northern Hemisphere. Another popular tourist attraction is the seasonal drift of sea ice. The ice breakers tours are available from nearby Abashiri and are worth a try.
If you prefer hiking you can follow a trail to shiretoko-go-ko, the five famous lakes and the Kamuiwakka falls. One of the few roads in the park exits Utoro and permits drivers to visit both the lakes and the falls. Another popular trek, leads hikers on an uphill climb to Io-Zen volcano this takes approximately 8 hours. Although this is a rugged and difficult hike, it is well worth the trek. Active visitors may choose to walk the backbone of Shiretoko from Iwaobetsu to Rausu-dake volcano which takes about 4.5 hours to walk. This walk offers stunning views of the park and out to Russian held islands.
Wildlife of Shiretoko National Park
Shiretoko National Park is a short drive from Rausu-cho’s urban area, in the east of Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands. Rausu visitors center is located at 32-1 Rebencho, Rausu-cho, Menashi-gun, Hokkaido, O86-1834.
Hours of Operation:
Shiretoko National Park is open April to October, 9AM to 5PM and November to March, 9AM to 4PM
Rausu-Kunashiri observation tower:
Information: Ministry of the environment, Rausu-cho, Menashigun, Hokkaido, 089-1822;
The entrance to the park is free
You can find at the park the Rasau visitors center and a variety of accommodation can be found in the town of Utoro on the west coast of the peninsula.
Best Times to Visit:
Whilst the park is great to visit anytime of the year, fall, summer, and spring is the best time to explore the park.
More Travel Tips:
In Utoro, you can board a sightseeing boat that sails along the west coast of the peninsula and continues below the cliff line, providing amazing views that cannot be witnessed from land. This can be rough and rugged territory so dress accordingly with sturdy hiking or walking shoes. It is recommended to pack rain gear as the weather can be changeable.
Shiretoko National Park Map
Shiretoko Kafukamura, Rebun, Rebun District, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan