Japan's Far East 9 Day Wildlife & Adventure Tour

A red crowned crane sits in damp green grass and is surrounded by a jumble of branches. It is looking to the right.

An intrepid journey covering the three National Parks in Eastern Hokkaido. Experience the best of our outdoors, wildlife & culture on this multi-day guided hiking, canoeing & wildlife tour.

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, we travel through all three National Parks found in eastern Hokkaido; the marshy Kushiro Shitsugen Wetland national park, 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, we will also introduce you to 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

Explore three national parks in Japan's Far East region

Visit Kushiro-Shitsugen National Park - home to the Red-crowned Crane, Akan–Mashu National Park - a land of lakes and volcanos, and Shiretoko National Park - a wild peninsula with a unique ecosystem.

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.

Take in the contrast between serene caldera lakes and active volcanoes

The calm caldera lakes of Lake Akan and Lake Kussharo stand in stark contrast to their violent formation. We can still see volcanic activity in the area now.

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.

Itinerary

Day 1

The group assembles in Kushiro City

We will meet between 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm in Kushiro City. We can arrange to pick you up from the airport at around 1:00 pm or from the railway station at around 1:30 pm. 

After the group gathers in Kushiro city, we’ll set off to our first destination, Cape Kiritappu, chatting and getting to know each other along the way. Journey time is about 1.5 hours. After we reach Kiritappu, we’ll have the option to head to the nearby cape where we will see if we can catch sight of Sea Otters floating on the waves below. The otters are quite the adorable sight and, in the right season (the summer months of June -July), you might be lucky enough to catch sight of a baby otter curled up on its mother’s tummy! We’ll enjoy a group meal in the township this evening, where our guide will also talk us through the upcoming tour.

Stay Ryokan in Kiritappu
Day 2

Guided Canoeing on the Kiritappu Wetland, Explore Shunkuni-tai Sand Dunes & Transfer to Nemuro

Today we have an easy morning as we’ll take a short drive inland towards the Biwase River for canoeing on Kiritappu Wetland. Although the scale of the wetlands in Kiritappu is not as significant as those in Kushiro, its narrow river channels are fantastic for canoeing. We will float peacefully through the wetland and experience the ecosystem up close. After we enjoy canoeing, we’ll enjoy a local lunch before heading over to Shunkunitai sand dunes and the brackish lake, Lake Furen, both part of the Ramsar Convention, a 20 min drive away. This important ecological area is home to many species of wild birds. It is also the one place in Hokkaido where spruce trees grow so close to the ocean— usually they are found inland only! After exploring the wetlands, we will continue on to Nemuro, our base for tonight. Your evening and dinner is at leisure today. We recommend the local seafood!

Canoe for 2 hours
Stay Hotel in Nemuro
Day 3

Explore Po-gawa Historical Forest Park, Transfer to Rausu & Marine Wildlife Watching Cruise

After an early breakfast, we will head to Rausu on the eastern side of the Shiretoko Peninsula. Enroute, we can stop off at Pogawa Historical Grassland to stretch our legs with a short stroll.

When we reach Rausu, we’ll head to port to board a whale-watching cruise. The ocean on this side of the Shiretoko Peninsula features a deep trench, making it an ideal home for marine mammals such as Sperm Whales and Dall’s Porpoises. We will head offshore to try and spot these sea mammals and sea birds.

Back on dry land we will head to an informative visitor centre in Rausu where we’ll be able to learn more about the region’s fascinating ecosystem.  Afterwards, we will check in to our accommodation and enjoy a delicious meal prepared with local ingredients.

Nature Cruise for 2.5 hours
Stay Lodge in Rausu, Shiretoko
Day 4

Bear Watching Cruise in Rausu & Transfer to Utoro via Shiretoko’s Waterfalls

This morning we travel 30 minutes up the coastline to the end of the road, where we will board a small fishing boat. The smaller boat lets us hug the shoreline where we may spot Brown Bears searching for food along the water's edge or high up on the cliffs. After our 2.5 hour cruise is finished, we will return to Rausu for lunch.

After lunch,  we will take a short 1km return walk through the forest by the visitor centre we visited yesterday to either Kumagoe Waterfall or, if you are a little tired out today, we can take a dip in Kumanoyu Hot Springs instead, a wild hot spring overlooking the Rausu River, lovingly maintained by locals.

We’ll then hop in the car and make our way through the Shiretoko Pass— the only public road linking both sides of the peninsula. The road is only open in the snow-free months and the views from the top are beautiful. 

Once we reach the Utoro side, we will head to Furepe Waterfall, where we can enjoy a short, 2km walking course through the heart of Shiretoko grasslands to a viewpoint where you can look out over the falls from above. On the way we may see local wildlife like Japanese Deer and various species of birds. We’ll then check in to our accommodation in central Utoro before we enjoy a delicious evening meal.

Walk 2 km
Stay Hotel in Utoro, Shiretoko
Day 5

Guided Walk of Shiretoko Five Lakes

Surrounded by the Sea of Okhotsk, most of the Shiretoko Peninsula has been preserved as a National Park since 1964 and was also designated as a Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005.

Approximately 7,000 people live on the peninsula, but their homes are concentrated in two towns: Utoro on the western side, and Rausu on the eastern side. The rest of the peninsula remains untouched and is a habitat for wildlife, such as Brown Bears, Japanese Deer, Red Foxes and Eurasian Red Squirrels. Needless to say, the area’s marine and bird life is also rich in diversity.

This morning, we will explore Shiretoko on foot, walking amongst the Shiretoko Five Lakes. The area is home to a large population of brown bears. We will aim to complete the entire walkway and to visit all five of the lakes, unless the walkway is closed due to a bear sighting on the trail.

In the afternoon you are free to explore the town of Utoro, or relax in your hotel. We recommend stopping by the Shiretoko World Heritage Centre to learn more about what makes Shiretoko’s ecosystem unique, walking up to Miharashi bridge for ocean views, or both! We will regroup in the evening for dinner in town/at our hotel.

Walk 3 km
Stay Hotel in Utoro, Shiretoko
Day 6

Guided walking to Mt. Io, Guided canoeing on Kushiro River & Transfer to Lake Kussharo

After breakfast, we travel on to Kawayu Onsen. In Japanese, kawa means river and yu means hot water and, true to its name, there is a hot water river running through the centre of the village. We will hike to the source of the thermal springs that feed the river, Mt. Io, on an easy 2.5 km/1.6 mile trail from Kawayu village.

A young and active volcano, Mt. Io is constantly jettisoning steam from its fumaroles, providing spectacular views. Hokkaido’s indigenous Ainu people named this mountain Atosanupuri , which means ”naked mountain” due to no vegetation growing on its slopes.

Returning from the hike, we’ll spend a little time at the nearby Visitor Centre before we return to our vehicle and head for the starting point of our canoeing adventure on the Kushiro River, which feeds into the Kushiro Wetlands. We will jump on our Canadian canoes on the shores of Lake Kussharo and start floating leisurely down the pristine waters until we reach the Biruwa Bridge. This area is a habitat for wild birds, including the Grey Heron and Crested Kingfisher, which are occasionally seen while paddling down the river.

After canoeing, we will drive a short distance to our accommodation on the edge of Lake Kussharo. We will enjoy a meal and bathing in hot springs at our accommodation tonight.

Walk 2.5 km
Stay Lodge at Lake Kussharo
Day 7

Transfer to Lake Akan, Guided Walking at Lake Akan & Evening Ainu Cultural Performance

After breakfast, we’ll drive 1 hour to Lake Akan where we will meet up with a local Ainu guide who will tell us folklore stories and explain the culture and customs of Ainu as we walk through the woods. The Ainu worship wildlife and it is enlightening to learn about how they have lived in harmony with nature for centuries.

We’ll then be treated to an Ainu lunch at a local cafe, where we can appreciate the cuisine of the Ainu. For the afternoon, depending on the group's interests, we'll enjoy a leisurely walk to bokke , a spot where we can see the bubbling mud on the shore of Lake Akan.

After dinner at our hotel, we dive head first into Ainu culture at a night concert at the Lake Akan Ainu Kotan. Like many other indigenous cultures, the Ainu did not have forms of writing; their folklore is deeply embedded in song and dance that varies from region to region. Tonight we will appreciate the traditions presented by the Akan Ainu.

Walk 2.5 km
Stay Hotel at Lake Akan
Day 8

Explore Kushiro-Shitsugen National Park & Transfer to Tsurui

On our last full day, we will take this opportunity to explore the beautiful Kushiro-Shitsugen National Park. We’ll begin by heading to Cape Kirakotan after breakfast. The cape is considered to be the inner sanctum of Kushiro-Shitsugen National Park and its tip is designated as a National Natural Monument. It is a beautiful network of rivers and spring water latticing the marshland. Being such a heavily-protected area, visitors are not allowed to enter the marshland here without prior special permission. We are fortunate enough to have been granted this, and so we will be able to enjoy a beautiful 5km walk to the tip of the cape. Along the way, we may see deer and, of course, the graceful Red-crowned Crane, whose numbers have surged back from the brink thanks to local conservation efforts. In fact, this area was the first place the crane was spotted in Japan after it was thought to have gone extinct, so it is something of a sacred ground for fans of the bird!

We’ll then drive to the nearby village of Tsurui to enjoy a local lunch before heading to our next destination, Onnenai. We’ll stop by an informative visitor centre to learn more about Kushiro-Shitsugen National Park before we head out to enjoy a walking course. There are several course options, from 0.5km up to 3km, and we will choose one based on the weather and the group’s preferences on the day. There are a number of beautiful wildflowers that you can enjoy along the way in spring and summer and in autumn,  the marsh is ablaze in beautiful colours.

After enjoying the walk, we will make our way to Tsurui, where we’ll check into our last hotel. We’ll enjoy a group meal in the hotel’s wonderful restaurant to celebrate the end of our tour and reflect on all we’ve achieved.

Walk 8 km
Stay Hotel in Tsurui
Day 9

Transfer to Kushiro & Farewells

We will say goodbye to our hosts and then drive 45 hours to Kushiro City to complete the tour. We can drop you off at either Kushiro Airport at around 9:30 am or Kushiro Station at 10:00 am.

What Guests Say

Guest with Adventure Hokkaido guides and Lake Kussharo canoeing guides.

I had an amazing time with Adventure Hokkaido


Overall, I had an amazing time with Adventure Hokkaido who were incredibly professional, knowledgeable, and just fun to be with. The 9 day Far East Hokkaido itinerary is an awesome blend of outdoor activity, wildlife viewing, and cultural experiences. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Adventure Hokkaido for anyone looking for a tour operator in Hokkaido.

Will wrote a blog about his 9 day Far East Hokkaido experience with tons of great photos and a video as well.

Will from Canada

Dates & Prices

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    5. October 06, 2024 - October 14, 2024
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Travel Style

This tour includes a series of active experiences that while easygoing will still allow you to experience the great outdoors and work up a bit of a sweat! Although not as active as some of our other tours, you will still need to make sure you have the right clothes and footwear to deal with possible changes in the elements and several hours on your feet. Your luggage will stay in our van, freeing you up to enjoy the day’s adventure with only a light day pack. There is also a focus on the region’s wildlife and you will have multiple chances to catch a glimpse at some of Hokkaido’s incredible creatures.