The End of the Earth: Shiretoko National Park

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Ainu for the end of the earth, Shiretoko is one of the most unspoiled national parks in Japan. Its the most northeastern point of Hokkaido and is hard to get to unless you have a car. The closest train station, Shiretokoshari, is located almost an hour away from the Utoro side of Shiretoko National Park. It is one of the most unspoiled national parks in Japan.  Because of this, many wild animals can be seen.  Shiretoko is home to the Ussuri brown bear, Blakiston's fish owl, Steller’s sea eagle (winter only), White-tailed eagle, killer whale, Sockeye salmon, deer, ezo fox, and so much more. There are many nature tours you can join and some of them are available in English. A majority of the national park can only be seen by boat or multi-day hikes.

Utoro (Western side of Shiretoko)
An Ussuri brown bear catching Sockeye salmon in the river.

The Utoro side of Shiretoko is best visited in the summer and fall. The Utoro Michi-no-eki acts as the nature center, so go there for information on the park.  Similar to Mt Fuji, Shiretoko National Park has a famous 5 lake trail called the Five Lakes. There are nature tours through the five lakes, and in the fall there are tours viewing the sockeye salmon coming upstream to spawn. During peak bear season people are required to listen to a short lesson on bear safety before venturing into the five lakes. You can see more bears and Sockeye salmon on the Utoro side of Shiretoko.  Because there are so few roads through the park, boat tours are available to see bears on the coast.
What you can expect on the bear tour.

Rausu (Eastern side of Shiretoko)

Rausu is visited most often in the winter for its drift ice and the Steller's sea eagles, but you can also visit in summer to see killer whales. There are boat tours for killer whales, Steller’s sea eagles, and drift ice.  If you want to see one of the largest and rarest owls in the world you can do that here. At the hostel Washi no Yado you can see 1-2 wild Blakiston's fish owls. They are fed fish every night in the river, so they come to feed almost every night. There are views of these wonderful birds from the window of your room. Located next to the hostel is a special building where people gather to enjoy and take pictures of these owls.
You don't always see killer whales. When I went on the tour there were dolphins and this sperm whale.

One of the killer whale tour boats.
Washi no Yado

Colette English