Eastern Wilderness 7 Day Self-Guided Tour

A view of mountains in summer reflected in one of the Shiretoko Five Lakes.

Discover the breathtaking highlights of eastern Hokkaido with this self-guided itinerary, designed to immerse you in the beauty of two national parks. Enjoy exciting walks, spot fascinating wildlife, and interact with friendly locals.

Hokkaido’s far east region is often described as the last unexplored frontier of Japan. The area is an ideal place to get in touch with mother nature and observe the flora and fauna unique to Hokkaido. On this tour, you will travel through two National Parks found in eastern Hokkaido; Akan–Mashu - home to caldera lakes - and the wild Shiretoko Peninsula. The latter is also designated as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. During the journey, you will also have the opportunity to discover local treasures, including the cuisine enjoyed by local fishermen and the culture of Hokkaido's indigenous Ainu people, who have lived here in harmony with nature, surviving as hunter-gatherers, long before Japanese colonists arrived.

Tour Highlights

Enjoy spectacular views of caldera lakes

Take in views of the astonishing Lakes Akan and Mashu, two beautiful caldera lakes nestled at the heart of their titular national park.

Search for Brown Bears, seabirds & marine mammals off the Rausu coast on a wildlife cruise

Taking to the sea is the best way to search for wildlife that calls the Shiretoko National Park home.

Learn about the Ainu, Hokkaido's indigenous people

Meet local Ainu and learn first hand how they use their knowledge of Hokkaido's flora passed down over generations.

Learn about the local area from locals themselves

On this tour, many of your experiences will be guided by locals. They'll offer you a unique perspective that you'd not learn if travelling alone.


Day 1

Arrive in Kushiro, Airport Bus from Kushiro to Lake Akan

Irankarapte! Welcome to Kushiro, the gateway to Eastern Hokkaido.

Upon arrival at the airport, you will need to catch an express bus directly to Lake Akan. The bus departs from the airport five times a day. The bus departure times are designed to line up with flights arriving from Tokyo throughout the day so please choose the one that matches best with your flight schedule.

A reservation is not required to board the bus. You will need to pay the fare on the day (¥2190 per person). You can purchase a ticket for the journey from ticket machines at Kushiro Airport. Journey time to Lake Akan is 1hr 15mins.

Upon arrival at the Lake Akan Bus Centre, the last stop, you’ll be able to make your way to your accommodation, which is a 5-10 minute walk from the Bus Centre. After checking in, the rest of the day is at your leisure to rest and enjoy the hot springs at your accommodation. A delicious dinner will be served at your accommodation this evening.

Stay Hotel at Lake Akan
Day 2

Guided walking tour of Lake Akan & Explore Lake Akan at Leisure

After breakfast this morning, you'll have ample chance to stretch your legs on an insightful walking tour of a nearby forest, guided by a local Ainu. The walking tour starts at 9:45 am, giving you a leisurely window to make it to the Ainu Theatre Ikoro , where the tour starts.

The 1.5 hour walking tour will finish just before lunch, which gives you the opportunity to enjoy lunch and a walk around the Akan Ainu Kotan high street, home to a number of souvenir shops run by Ainu families. There are even some shops with English speaking staff who will be glad to share their culture with visitors, as well as restaurants serving traditional Ainu food, rare even within Hokkaido.

Your afternoon is at leisure, but if you’re looking for a few extra walks then we recommend enjoying a leisurely walk to bokke, a spot where you can see the bubbling mud on the shore of Lake Akan. The trail begins behind the Akankohan Eco-museum Center, on the eastern shore of Lake Akan. Keep your eyes peeled for squirrels, woodpeckers and other wildlife during the walk!

The Ainu Theatre Ikoro offers performances at night. The traditional dance performance starts at 8:00 pm (30 mins, ¥1500) and the cultural performance– a fusion of Ainu performance with modern art and music– starts at 9:00 pm (30 mins, ¥2200). Neither show requires an advance booking, but it is recommended during weekends and holidays.

Walk 4.5 km
Stay Hotel at Lake Akan
Day 3

Visit Lake Mashu & Hike Mt. Iozan to Kawayu Onsen

This morning, a taxi will pick you up at 10:00 am for a day of excursion in Akan–Mashu National Park. You can load your luggage into the taxi and your taxi driver will take you to Lake Mashu Caldera for the first stop. On a clear day, you'll be greeted by an expansive view of Lake Mashu, known as one of the clearest lakes in the world, as well as the Kussharo Caldera, which is home to the fuming Mt. Iozan .

From the Lake Mashu No. 1 Observation Platform, you’ll travel by taxi to the No. 3 Observation Platform to enjoy the lake from a different perspective. After you’ve enjoyed panoramas of the lake, your driver will take you to Mt. Iozan, Sulphur Mountain. 

Mt. Iozan is a bubbling active volcano coated with bright, yellow sulphur. You can enjoy an easy walk on a well-maintained path from Mt. Iozan to the Kawayu Visitor Centre ( 2.6km ).

You’ll meet your taxi driver again at the visitor centre, who will take you to the last stop of the day– Sunayu Onsen on the shores of Lake Kussharo. This is your reward for all your walking today! This beach has hot springs flowing beneath its sand. Dig around to make your own foot bath and enjoy relaxing on the lake shore for a while before heading to your accommodation for tonight, bidding farewell to your friendly driver. 

After dinner at your accommodation tonight, relax in the hot spring waters at your hotel, but be sure to remove any jewellery before bathing, as the sulphuric waters of the hot spring will turn them black!

Hike 2.6 km
Stay Ryokan at Kawayu Onsen
Day 4

Canoeing on the Kushiro River

After an early breakfast at your hotel this morning, a taxi will pick you up at 8:30 am to take you to the meeting point for a relaxed canoeing experience on the Kushiro River, which feeds into the Kushiro Wetlands. You will meet your guide on the shores of Lake Kussharo, where they will paddle you down the Kushiro River in a Canadian canoe. As the pristine waters convey you down the river to Biruwa Bridge, take in the tranquil atmosphere and keep an eye peeled for wild birds, such as the Grey Heron and Crested Kingfisher - you may even spot some deer grazing by the riverbed!

After your canoeing experience ends, your canoe guide will drop you off at the accommodation in Kawayu Onsen. The rest of the day is at your leisure. There are a few great lunch options in Kawayu Onsen township. Enjoy the afternoon relaxing and bathing in hot springs until dinner at your accommodation!

Canoe for 2.5 hours
Stay Ryokan at Kawayu Onsen
Day 5

Travel to Utoro Shiretoko & Guided walking tour of Shiretoko Five Lakes

This morning you will make the long journey from Kawayu Onsen to the Shiretoko Peninsula, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Japan National Park. We have simplified this journey for you by arranging a taxi to take you the whole way. The taxi will pick you and your luggage up at Kawayu Onsen at 10:00 am and will drive you straight to Utoro’s Roadside Station at 12:00 pm.

Surrounded by the Sea of Okhotsk and covered in enormous mountains, the Shiretoko Peninsula is home to a plethora of wildlife ranging from Brown Bears and Japanese Deer to Sperm Whales and Dall's Porpoises. Over the next two days you'll have a chance to explore Shiretoko by land and by sea, but before you get to exploring, be sure to grab lunch at the Utoro Roadside Station. 

After you have enjoyed lunch, a local guide will pick you up from the Michi-no-Eki Roadside Station in Utoro at 1:15 pm and together you will head to Shiretoko Five Lakes , a habitat for Japan's biggest land mammal, the Brown Bear. Today's hike aims to take you past all five lakes. However, some sections of the trail may be closed due to bear activity. When this happens, your guide will reroute you if possible or you may have to abandon the walk for your safety.

On a clear day, the Shiretoko Mountain range will be laid out in front of you in a stunning panorama. During your hike, your luggage will be kept in the guide's car and after the tour they will drive you to your accommodation, where you will stay for the next two nights.

Hike 3.1 km
Stay Hotel in Utoro, Shiretoko
Day 6

Nature Cruise off Utoro Coast & Travel to Rausu Shiretoko

This morning you will board a boat at 10:00 am for a morning excursion along the coast. 

What you’ll really want to look out for this morning are brown bears, Japan's largest land mammal and a creature of significant cultural importance to the Ainu, who revere it as kim'un kamuy (God of the mountains). You'll see them roaming along the shoreline on the prowl for food and, depending on the season, possibly some bear cubs in tow!

After returning to land,  board a local bus at 3:10 pm to cross over the famous Shiretoko Pass into the town of Rausu, on the opposite side of the Shiretoko Peninsula. Make sure you are on time for this bus– they are very infrequent! Rausu is a thriving fishing village known throughout Japan for its seafood, particularly Atka Mackerel and kelp. 

After arriving in Rausu, head to your accommodation and check in. You'll have the afternoon to enjoy the town at your own pace. Tonight's meal will be a seafood dinner at your accommodation.

Nature Cruise for 2 hours
Stay Lodge in Rausu, Shiretoko
Day 7

Whale-Watching Cruise off Rausu Coast & Travel to Kushiro

Today is the last day of your tour. You can ask your accommodation to look after your luggage while you enjoy one last nature-watching cruise departing at 9:00 am. The coast of the Shiretoko Peninsula is home to a deep ocean trench, making it a popular habitat for Sperm Whales and Dall's Porpoises and today’s cruise may offer you a chance to catch a glimpse of them, as well as marine bird life unique to the region. Flesh-footed Shearwaters, Northern Fulmars and Pomarine Skuas are all birds you can expect to see at this time of year.

The cruise will take you back to land at around 11:30 am, so we recommend enjoying an early lunch in Rausu. As it’s salmon run season, we highly recommend taking the chance to enjoy salmon roe rice bowls, which will be as fresh and delicious as you can get at the time of year! 

After lunch, all that is left is to make your way to Kushiro. Congratulations for completing this self-guided tour of Hokkaido! You can catch a local bus from Rausu to Kushiro. The bus ride is roughly 3 hours and 40 minutes, so be sure to stock up on snacks and drinks to tide you over until you reach Kushiro. We recommend catching the 1:00 pm bus from Akan Bus’s Rausu office, as the next one is not until 4:40 pm!

If you have some extra time to spare before leaving Kushiro, consider visiting the Kushiro City Museum or a walk along the Kushiro River to reflect upon your trip. If you are interested in learning about the conservation of wildlife including rare species of birds, consider visiting the Kushiro Marsh Wildlife Conservation Centre . The two facilities are out of town and beyond walking distance. As there is no local bus operating in the area, your transportation options will be limited strictly to taxis.

Make sure that you have left nothing behind in Hokkaido before heading to the airport. Itterasshai!

Nature Cruise for 2.5 hours

Dates & Prices

Pick your departure dates


From ¥352,000pp

Travel Style

We will arrange accommodation, activities and give you transportation information but the rest is up to you. Going self-guided means being your own boss - you have complete control over the day’s schedule, from what to eat to how long to spend at a destination. This tour is therefore perfect for independent travellers who love the flexibility that comes with travelling alone, but want some help planning and arranging their trip. It also makes a great self-guided extension to any of our more involved guided tours!

During your tour, you will travel by public transport. We will provide you with timetables and a suggested schedule and you just have to get yourself there. There are no luggage transfers provided in the tour, so pack light and embrace the freedom as you explore our unique island.