The Wonders of Wild Life in the World Natural Heritage, Shiretoko

Shiretoko extends on the northeastern tip of Hokkaido. This thin peninsula stretches for about 70km and is a sanctuary for incredibly diverse wild animals. Visit the animals that live here and their world. Experience the pristine nature of the land as well as the sea and the brilliance of wild life.

Join a cruise to encounter large animals of Shiretoko

Observe brown bears, the symbol of the pristine nature of Shiretoko

The mountains of Shiretoko suddenly rise from the sea, making it difficult for people to enter. Along with this geographical trait, tough weather conditions have helped Shiretoko to maintain its primeval natural state. This untouched natural world heritage site has a precipitous geography where the sea and forests are close to each other. An extremely unique ecosystem where the sea and forests link has developed thanks to the rich minerals that are carried by the waters that run through. For this reason. Shiretoko is able to maintain its incredible natural state where diverse creatures thrive in such a small area.

The brown bear is a symbolic animal of Shiretoko that has been feared and worshipped by the early native people. Shiretoko has one of the most dense population of brown bears in the world, and the “Shiretoko Peninsual Utoro Cruise, Brown Bear Course” of Goziraiwa Sightseeing is a popular tour that allows visitors to search for them from the sea.

Goziraiwa Sightseeing “Shiretoko Peninsual Utoro Cruise, Brown Bear Course” (reservation required)

Address:
51 Utorohigashi, Sharigun, Sharicho, Hokkaido
Fee:
Adults ¥5,500, Elementary school student ¥2,750
Tour dates:
April 29-May 6, June 1-October 31
Start time:
8:30, 15:30 (Only 15:15 after September 26, and only 8:30 after September 26) Open throughout tour date period (Closed in the event of rough weather conditions)
TEL:
+81-152-24-3060

Utoro is the base for tourism of Shiretoko on the side of the Sea of Okhotsk. The cruiser ship leaves from here and runs along the coast of sharp cliffs, goes past Iwa no Nagisa, and heads to Rusha Bay. This is an area where brown bears often gather, and are spotted 90% of the time*.

The brown bears living in Rusha Bay appear to have an air of composure, showing a glimpse of the calm life they live in the primitive forests. Bears and their cubs are also often seen here. Experience the grand nature of Shiretoko as you observe giant brown bears hunting for food and raising their cubs.

* Spotted 96.3% of the time in 2015

Monthly rate of being spotted (2015)

May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct.
75% 95.3% 100% 98.1% 100% 88.9%

Various sea creatures that thrive on the riches of the drifting sea ice

While the god of the mountains is the brown bear, the god of the sea worshipped by the early natives was the killer whale. The Nemuro Channel on the east side of the Shiretoko Peninsula is a famous spot for whale watching where killer whales can also be seen. The base for tourism on the side of the Nemuro Channel is Rausu. Shiretoko Nature Cruise offers tours from here, such as the “Whale & Sea Birds Watching” tour that allows tourists to search for whales and wild birds from the cruiser ship.

Monthly rate of animals being spotted according to animals (2006-2015)

  May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct.
Sperm whale Less than 10% 10~29% 50~69% Over 70% Over 70% 30~49%
Killer whale 30~49% 30~49% 30~49% 10~29% Less than 10% Less than 10%
Dall’s porpoise 50~69% Over 70% Over 70% Over 70% Over 70% Over 70%
Shearwater Over 70% Over 70% Over 70% 30~49% 10~29% 10~29%

The operating period of cruises in the Nemuro Channel is between May and October, and during this time various animals come and go through the area. Apart from killer whales and Dall’s porpoises, massive flocks of shearwaters migrate from Australia and cover the seas in May. Dall’s porpoises can be seen in June, and from July there is a high chance of being able to observe the incredible dives of sperm whales, which are known to be one of the largest animals on earth with teeth. If you’re extremely lucky you may spot fur seals, Baird’s beaked whales, and even minke whales.

The diversity of the creatures that gather in the seas of Shiretoko is due to the rich minerals of the Amur River of Russia, brought by drifting ice and also come from the rivers of the primitive forests. The natural world heritage site of Shiretoko extends from the forests to its seas that display the magnificence of the wild life existing here.

Shiretoko Nature Cruise “Whale & Sea Birds Watching” (reservation required)

Address:
27-1 Honcho, Menashigun, Rausucho, Hokkaido
Fee:
Adults ¥8,000, Elementary school student ¥4,000
Cruise operating period:
May-mid October
Start time:
Around 9:00, around 13:00 (may change during peak seasons) Open throughout tour date period (Closed in the event of rough weather conditions)
TEL:
+81-153-87-4001

Experience the forests where wild animals live

Search for traces of animals in the primeval forests of the Shiretoko Goko Lakes

The Shiretoko Goko Lakes are a group of mystical lakes located within the surrounding primeval forests, offering one of the most magnificent sceneries of Shiretoko. The ground pathway runs through the forest, allowing people to hike in the world of the animals that live here. Visitors must be accompanied by a registered guide when entering the ground pathways during the active season of brown bears, which is from May 10 to July 31. Since it is difficult to find traces of animals or spot them, it is highly recommended to hike with an experienced guide during other periods as well.

Shiretoko Nature Guide, Star Hours offers guidance in English. In the “Shiretoko Goko Five Lakes Hiking” tour, an experienced guide takes visitors through the forests to find traces of animals and provides explanations about their habitat and nature. Experience the circle of life in the woods of Shiretoko as you hike in search for signs of brown bears, Hokkaido deer, and north foxes.

Based on experience and data collected over the years, this tour predicts the activities of animals on the day. Therefore it offers tours with a high probability of being able to encounter wild animals. Hokkaido deer are spotted about 90% of the time, while wild birds, north foxes, and Hokkaido squirrels can also be spotted. On some days, brown bears can be observed from the safe elevated pathways.

Shiretoko Nature Guide, Star Hours “Shiretoko Goko Five Lakes Hiking” (reservation required)

Address:
56-A104 Utoro Kogen, Sharigun, Sharicho, Hokkaido
Fee:
Adults ¥5,000, Below the age of 11 ¥2,500
Tour dates:
May 10-November (until closing of the Shiretoko Koen Line)
Time:
Please contact Holidays not fixed
TEL:
+81-152-24-3315

Go on night tours when the animals are still active

Many animals of Shiretoko are active during the night. SHINRA Shiretoko Naturalist Association offers the “Shiretoko Night Theater” tour that searches for wild animals while driving and includes stargazing. North foxes are nocturnal, and so this tour is definitely recommended for those who wish to see them. Hokkaido deers are also spotted 90% of the time as they are still active at dusk. You may even come across brown bears or owls if you’re lucky. Experience life in the deep forests covered in natural darkness.

SHINRA Shiretoko Naturalist Association “Shiretoko Night Theater” (reservation required)

Address:
284 Utorohigashi, Sharigun, Sharicho, Hokkaido
Fee:
Middle school students and older ¥3,100, Elementary school students ¥1,500
Tour dates:
End of April-Mid November
Start time:
20:00 Open throughout tour date period
TEL:
+81-152-22-5522

Salmons, the symbol of the circle of life of Shiretoko and their struggle to reach the upper stream of the rivers

In the fall of Shiretoko, salmons and trouts return to their homes in the rivers and swim up the streams after spending 4 years of their lives in the ocean. When they come back, they are preyed upon by brown bears or raptors, and their remains return to the soil of the forests. This is a symbol of the circle of life of the sea and forests, which was a factor that led to the recognition of Shiretoko as a natural world heritage. The “Salmon Run-Up Watching Tour” of SHINRA Shiretoko Naturalist Association shows the story of the lives of salmons and trouts that swim up the streams to lay their eggs and finally rest.

SHINRA Shiretoko Naturalist Association “Salmon Run-Up Watching Tour” (reservation required)

Address:
284 Utorohigashi, Sharigun, Sharicho, Hokkaido
Fee:
Middle school students and older ¥3,100, Elementary school students ¥1,500 (tours held with more than 2 people)
Tour dates:
Early September-Mid November
Start time:
9:00, 14:00 Open throughout tour date period
TEL:
+81-152-22-5522

* Mentioned animals are wild creatures, therefore the tours introduced cannot guarantee they can be observed 100% of the time

Okhotsk Monbetsu Airport

From Tokyo Haneda Airport

105 minutes

Number of departures per day: Approx. 1※

Nakashibetsu Airport

From Tokyo Haneda Airport

100 minutes

Number of departures per day: Approx. 1※

Kushiro Airport

from Tokyo Haneda Airport

95 minutes

Number of departures per day: Approx. 3※

Osaka Itami Airport

115 minutes

direct flights during July 15-August 31

Memanbetsu Airport

From Tokyo Haneda Airport

105 minutes

Number of departures per day: Approx. 2※

From Nagoya Chubu Airport

115 minutes

Number of departures per day: Approx. 1※

From Osaka Kansai Airport

125 minutes

Direct flights between mid July and September

*Information correct as of March 24 2016

Displayed information is as of late February 2016.