Winter in Eastern Hokkaido
Stand on drifting ice and experience the stark beauty of Eastern Hokkaido.
There are many events held during winter in Eastern Hokkaido to enjoy its beautiful nature. In February, when drift ice from the Sea of Okhotsk washes ashore, Monbetsu and Abashiri ports offer “drift ice cruises.” These icebreaker cruise boats travel through and break the one-meter-thick drifting ice with dramatic sound and impact. There is also the popular “drift ice walk,” where you can actually step out on to the drift ice and experience just how cold it is! For those that want to experience the remarkable 360-degree panorama of ice, there is the “frozen horizon walking tour” in Notsuke Bay as well.
Another unique experience is soaking in a hot spring on the ice at the frozen village of Shikaribetsu Kotan. Enjoy the snowy scenery while sitting in an outdoor hot tub on Lake Shikaribetsu.
Eastern Hokkaido showcases some of the most beautiful natural wonders that occur only during winter. Perhaps most remarkable is the formation of ice crystals, known as “diamond dust.” This natural phenomenon occurs on cold sunny days, when the temperature drops below negative 15ºC, and the moisture in the air crystallizes and sparkles. The reflections of sunlight off these ice crystals create spectacular pillars of light known as “sun pillars.” On windless mornings, clusters of ice crystals form on Lake Akan, creating a field of “frost flowers” blooming on the surface of the lake. In Toyokoro (Tokachi Subprefecture), ice forms near the mouth of the Tokachi River and floats into the sea before being washed up on shore. The tossing by waves and rubbing with other ice creates a round, smooth, diamond-like ice, called “jewelry ice.” The light shining through the clear ice looks like jewels scattered across the shore.