Photo provided by Shari Town Office.

Shiretoko holds rich, correlated terrestrial and marine ecosystems that are influenced by seasonal ice in its sea waters.

The peninsula’s forests are home to a variety of wildlife, including brown bears, deer and foxes. Its biodiversity is very important for salmon, migratory birds and sea mammals, including sea lions. Life in the sea, rivers and forests interacts via salmonid species swimming upstream to spawn and becoming food resources for terrestrial animals.

Community Perspective: Utoro is the tourist hub for this park, from here you can take a cruise along the coast or a bus ride to the Five Lakes. Be aware that the season lasts only until late September (and essentially starts only in July), and that it can get very cold afterward.

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Svein Elias

Norway - 09-Mar-24 -

Shiretoko by Svein Elias

Shiretoko National Park is the northeastern most WHS in Japan. It’s a bit off the beaten track, but a few visitors from this community have managed to tick it off. We managed to visit in late June ‘23.

The nature in the park is wild and unspoilt and animal encounters are common. Somehow, we could connect to this Nordic environment, but then again – it’s far from the nature of northern Europe. On our two-nights visit we had encounters with bears, deer, and foxes. Meeting wild animals in their natural habitat is magnificent.

The weather was rather nice on arrival, and we chose to drive directly into the park to the area called Five Lakes. It was impossible to know how the weather would turn out the following days. Five Lakes has a visitor centre and some options for hiking the area. Even though we arrived late (all visitors were leaving the place) the parking officer granted us a quick visit just so we could hike to the nearest lake. We were happy with that and strolled on to the elevated boardwalk which is about 800 m long through an open area, winding its way to the lake. While enjoying the beautiful nature both close and distant, we had our first bear encounter halfway, just 10 m from the secured boardwalk. Minding its own business, it totally ignored us. As it turned out this evening in fact, we had the best visibility on our visit.

The first night we stayed at Iruka hotel in Utoro just outside the park due to the bigger hotel inside the park was fully booked. The next morning our plan was to join a boat cruise along the northern shore (the ticket kiosk was close to the harbour), but the morning cruise to the eastern tip was already cancelled due to heavy fog. Instead, we booked an afternoon trip but were warned that it might just be cancelled as well. So, as an alternative we wanted to go back to do a morning guided hike at Five Lakes. On the way in we had another bear encounter, a mother bear with to cubs! Just fantastic! Arriving at the visitor centre we found out we were too late for a morning hike. It takes 3 hours and can’t be rushed (because it’s a guided group hike), and we wouldn’t be able to finish in time for our boat cruise. Our third option was driving further into the park to Kamuiwakka Hot Springs for an unguided hike. This was another joyful drive through the foggy terrain. We have a Norwegian expression called “trolsk” which means that it feels like a place the trolls could live, and this was how we felt. We had animal encounters all along the road (mostly deer), but unfortunately, the hiking area is closed from October 1. to July 1. - and “today” was June 30. 

Back in Utoro the boat cruise was still on, and we happily entered the vessel. We positioned us on the starboard side and quickly started enjoying the shoreline. It was even more “troll-like” near the water. Some 15-20 minutes later the vessel suddenly turned and started going back. A crewmember informed us that the trip was cancelled, and we would get a refund, but nobody tried to explain to us why they cancelled (probably because of the language barrier). 

Yet another return to Five Lakes and we found out that all the guided hikes for the afternoon were fully booked. Our remaining option was to repeat our first walk on the elevated boardwalk, and so we did, but this time without any bears. Yet we thrived in this environment and enjoyed every minute. It’s an enjoyable temperature for a northerner (as opposed to the rest of Japan) and its nice area for hiking even though we had only short hikes.

The following night we spent at the hotel inside the park, Chi na Hate. This hotel is traditional Japanese and recommendable. The nice ohnsen, the fantastic looks and taste of the fixed menu and the hotel itself is also enjoyable, although expensive.

The following day we crossed the core zone by car through Shiretoko Pass, north to south. Sadly, it was heavy fog at top of the pass, but less further down. This time of year, it is foggy – that’s part of the experience.

On the southeastern side we took the 24 km dead end road northeast along the peninsula. Along that shore there are inhabitants – fishermen villages, thus not so wild. The National Park starts at the steep hillside - impossible to enter and even almost impossible to see. The road itself is not included in the core zone. But in the end, we were very happy with our Shiretoko experience!

Getting there

Shiretoko is about a day drive from Sapporo to the park (round 400 km) and just a bit shorter from New Chitose Airport. There is a bus connection from Sapporo (which takes more than 7 hours) and an airport in Nakashibetsu southwest of the park but is a bit off.

On our way east we stopped at the town called Furano to enjoy the flowering ski slopes which was a nice break - it split the long drive in two.

### Randi & Svein Elias

Zoë Sheng

Chinese-Canadian - 28-Dec-22 -

Shiretoko by Zoë Sheng

Shiretoko has a lot to offer, at a price. You can technically get here with public transportation but getting around seems a little difficult. I drove in Hokkaido for the entire duration and it was well worth it to explore not only the north of Japan but also the Shiretoko area itself. I stayed at a luxurious hotel (Daiichi, which has a five star buffet if you ask me) which is unusual for me but seemed to match the trip. The hotel (as third party) offers a boat cruise but the weather in October wasn't good enough for the boat to ever depart so I never got to see the northern tip of Shiretoko NP (Mountain) from the boat and there is no other way to get there. The road at the western side enables you to see some wildlife, especially deer, which was great in itself but doesn't really "go" anywhere. There is a famous pass (see pic) as you get over to the east side and there is another road going north which is very similar for both content and views. There are many onsen (hotsprings) around the area but the hotel already offered that so I didn't need to waste exploring time on that.

The easiest and one of the better ones to enjoy is the boardwalk along the Shiretoko Five Lakes. It's easy, very green, very fresh and lots of info to read about. You would usually see migratory birds here but I was already too late for that. The park has a lot to offer throughout the seasons but as a tourist you'll only enjoy the summer.

Frederik Dawson

Netherlands - 24-Jun-13 -

Shiretoko by Frederik Dawson

Eastern Hokkaido is an unusual image of Japan; the area is a large unspoiled rural region with the scenery similar to northern Sweden with Japanese signs! I started my trip at Kushiro; the city was famous for its seafood. Then I took a train to Shari, this rail line was quite well known in Japan as it run thru two famous Hokkaido attraction, the Kushiro Marshland and Lake Mashu. The marshland was really surprising when I unexpectedly spotted the Japanese cranes which I heard really hard to see outside reserve area. I reached Shari/Shiretoko station before noon, the lovely designed station really reminded me last year Hiraizumi train station, the connecting bus to Shiretoko National Park was conveniently parking just outside the station. Along the way was beautiful view of mountain, waterfalls and sea coast with protective wire fence separating national park and outside word.

My destination was Utoro, a small tourist town just outside Shiretoko National Park, after hotel check-in, it was a time to explore Shiretoko. I was the only tourist on the bus to Shiretoko Five Lake, when the bus crossed the bridge outside Utoro; the driver welcomed me with broken English to Shiretoko and pointed to the direction of a herd of cute deer on the hill next to the road. They were everywhere on the very steep hill and behind them was the view of the whole town of Utoro and the Okhotsk Sea below! Shiretoko gave me the first "WOW". After deer surprise, the bus continued to the park inner zone and then snow was started to pour, then came with the thick mist, I was really worried with the weather situation. Finally I was at Shiretoko Five Lakes, the visibility was really low then I could not see the tourist center, with some luck and pre-research I guessed the right direction and found a sign to the lake. The tourist trail was the boardwalk so it was quite easy, the boardwalk in the thick mist was really beautiful, I felt like I walked on the clouds and the boardwalk was the bridge to heaven, my second "WOW". After 15 minutes the mist was gone and I finally could see one of the five lakes. The view was fine but nothing remarkable, after some photo I walked back to tourist center, bought some souvenir and then backed to Utoro to catch the cruise tour, along the way back I noted some similarities of Shiretoko and Shirakami-Sanchi range I saw last year with theirs many beech and pine trees. For the cruise, the cruise ship was packed with Japanese tourists, and it was quite hard to appreciate the view in such a situation that everyone also wanted to see the same spot with you. The view was fine but again nothing special; I personally preferred the land route.

After long day, I backed to hotel, had onsen and a very delicious kaiseki meal with nice sake (my third "WOW"). It was a really nice day after all. In my opinion, Shiretoko is a nice place to visit if you are in eastern Hokkaido; the place was not the top sight of this island. However the protection of Shiretoko is a reason to visit and it is very interesting, after the site became a World Heritage Site, tourism is increasing dramatically effecting environment in the park. To prevent problem, more restriction on tourism and some areas are totally closed, in the old time tourists could walk freely to see all five lakes, but now only one lake is allowed via boardwalk. If you want to see other four lakes then have to go with expensive guide tour in high season. Shiretoko is going on the way of sustainable development, and a good place for us to learn how to protect fragile environment from facilities development for tourism.

John booth

New Zealand - 12-May-10 -

Shiretoko by John Booth

To view the Shiretoko Peninsular I took a cruise on the tourist ship 'Aurora' and sailed along the north coast of the peninsular. I boarded the vessel in the port of Utoro, which I reached by bus from outside Shiretoko Shari station.

The voyage provided a panoramic view of the bush clad peninsular, including its waterfalls, rock formations and steam rising from thermal vents along the ridge.

At Cape Shiretoko where a lonely lighthouse stands looking out towards the Russian Kurile Islands, clearly visible just a few kilometers away, the vessel turned to return to Utoro. This popular 4 hour cruise cost 6500 yen.


USA - 20-Jul-09 -

I visited Shiretoko in October 2008. We went to see the fall foliage, which was beautiful. One thing to keep in mind is that Hokkaido is very cold starting in early October and many of the sites in Shiretoko are closed starting in the end of September. We only saw the sites close to the visitor center and along the roads in the park. The weather was rainy and cloudy and a lot of mist covered the mountains. It made the scenery very dramatic and showed the raw nature of the park. Of course so did watching for deer and bears on the road as we drove through rain and snow up at the top of the mountain pass. I plan on going back this summer so that I can enjoy another aspect of this fantastic place.


USA - 10-Sep-05 -

I visited Shiretoko this past summer vacation. It is beautiful. Stayed at a crowded, but cheap campsite in Utoro. Not to be missed are the hotsprings kamuiwakka and Iwaobetsu. Both are incredible. Rausu hotspring is unbearably hot. Also the 5 lakes of Shiretoko are amazing especially on a sunny day when you can see the reflection of the mountain range. Wild deer are everywhere. If you have the energy, the hike up to Mt. Rausu is very nice. Stunning views. Overall a really great place with so much wildlife. I highly recommend Shiretoko.

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