The cities where most of us live are nature-free zones, concrete habitats suitable only for people and pigeons, crows, feral cats and rats.
While these cities are unarguably the real Japan, there is an alternative far to the north that remains one of the world's great wilderness areas. And it is every bit the real Japan.
Located in northeast Hokkaido, the Shiretoko Peninsula juts out into the Sea of Okhotsk.
Here steep cliffs rise high above crashing seas and thick towering forests grow right to the very edge of the coastline.
This is wild terrain, rough enough to keep most people at a distance and provide sanctuary for large animals, including the brown bear (higuma) and the Yezo deer.
Making their homes in the same neighborhood is an array of smaller animals, birds and wild flowers. Designated a national park, the region is also known for spectacular ice floes in the winter. The ice forms in early November along the coast of Siberia and drifts south until merging in mid-January with ice formed off the coast of Hokkaido. By the end of February, the town of Rausu on the peninsula is surrounded by ice floes.
On a clear day in Rausu, Kunashiri, one of the islands of the Northern Territories, can be seen 20 kilometers away. The territories were taken over by the Soviet Union at the close of World War II and now are under Moscow's control.
Rich in wildlife, peace and solitude, the peninsula tempts you to stay--to say sayonara to office windows that never open, bosses who never smile and traffic that never moves.
But wait, there's more--don't miss the country's largest marshland, the Kushiro shitsugen in east Hokkaido.
Covering an area of about 180 square kilometers, the vast wetland is also a national park and was the first marshland in Japan recognized by the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation of wetlands and their resources.
The marshland is a sanctuary for Japanese cranes called tanchozuru, a bird designated as a protected species by the government.
* * *
To reach eastern Hokkaido, flights to Kushiro, Nemuro-Nakashibetsu and Memanbetsu airports provide easy access to the Shiretoko and Kushiro regions.
Public transportation services are scarce, so rental cars and guided bus tours operating from airports are convenient ways to move around.
Visit (www.kushiro-kankou.or.jp) and (shiretoko.or.jp).
- « Prev
- Next »