Eastern Hokkaido: Kushiro Shitsugen National Park

Kushiro Shitsugen National Park
Kushiro Shitsugen National Park contains Japan’s largest marsh, and was the first area to become a national park in Japan.  Come here to enjoy the winding river and Japan’s famous Red-crowned crane. There are many places within the marshland that you can enjoy. From the Hosooka Observatory (細岡展望台) you can see the river meander its way through the unspoiled Kushiro marsh. The Kottaro Marshland Observatory (コッタロ湿原展望台) gives a view of a different part of the park and a swamp area.  The Sarubo Observation Deck  (サルボ展望台) and the Sarurun Observation Deck (サルルン展望台) are located on a small hiking trail and you can see a view of 2 smaller marshes from them. 
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Winding river through the park.
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Hosooka Observatory

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From the Sarubo Observation Deck.
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From the Sarurun Observation Deck.

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The Kottaro Marshland Observatory.

Side Trips 
Near Kurshiro Shitsugen National Park are the 2 small towns of Tsurui and Akan (not the lake). Visit these 2 towns to see cranes in winter. In Akan go and visit the Crane Observation Center (タンチョウ観察センター) to see Red-crowned cranes close up. The cranes are fed dry corn every morning so they regularly come here to eat. You may even see a herd of deer and foxes if you are lucky. Later in the afternoon fish are brought out for the cranes and you can see the eagles and cranes fight over fish. It’s quite a thing to see. It cost 500 yen to go to this observatory. In Tsurui there are 2 observation areas to see cranes. These two are free to the public. They are called Tsurui Ito Tancho Crane Sanctuary (鶴居・伊藤タンチョウサンクチュアリ) and Tsurui Obervation (鶴見台).  Between Akan and Tsurui is a very special bridge. On the Otowa Bridge (音羽橋) you can see a large group of cranes huddled together in the river sleeping in the morning. It is a very beautiful sight to see 50-100 cranes in one area during sunrise with fog and frosted trees surrounding them.  This is a very popular spot for photographer so if you should get there early to get a good spot.

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Crane Observation Center
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View from Otowa Bridge 

Colette English