Shiretoko is a Natural World Heritage Site (#1193) located in at the north eastern peninsula on Hokkaido in Japan. The area is rather inaccessable, but makes up for a good exploration of Hokkaido as well. Shiretoko is rich in animal wildlife, including the Japanese Brown Bear - The bear activity peaks in the period from May to July.
Shiretoko have different attractions in its different season and so does the rest of Hokkaido, so depending on what you are looking to combine your trip with, you'll be looking to go in a specific time during the year. In July the lavender and flower fields in Furano are very beautiful, while in the Winter you can combine the trip with snow sports activities which are very popular in Hokkaido.
1. Drift ice (Februay-March)
Shiretoko is famous for the drift ice occouring from late-January to early April. The peninsula is the southernmost region of the northern hemisphere to experience drift ice.
2. Killer Whales (April-June)
During the month of May there is a high chance (>50%) to see Killer whales from boat cruises on the eastern coast of the Shiretoko peninsula.
3. Japanese Brown Bear (May-July)
If you are a wildlife enthusiast and would like to see a wild Japanese Brown Bear, the peak period is between May through July - Be aware though that many other attractions might be closed for activities if the bears are spotted in the area.
The fastest and cheapest way getting from Tokyo to Hokkaido is by taking a flight from either Haneda or Narita airport to New Chitose airport in Sapporo. The flight is about two hours and from the New Chitose airport you can rent a car for your trip through Hokkaido. Exploring Hokkaido and Shiretoko is basically impossible if you plan to rely on public transportation. However, there are busses which serves between New Chitose airport and Utoro in Shiretoko.
japanese alps from flight
The Japanese alps Flying from Narita to New Chitose
Depending on what you want to see the duration of your trip can vary greatly. If you are up for exploring Hokkaido and Shiretoko, it will require at least a week, as the distances between attractions are long and takes several hours of driving. In my suggested itinerary below, I strongly recommend to put in an additionally day in Shiretoko and go on a boat tour for Whale watching (let it be Dolphins, Humpback whales, Sperm whales, or Killer whales) from Rausu.
15.00PM - Flight from Nartia to New Chitose
17.30PM - Pick up rented car in the airport
19.30PM - Arrive at accommodation at Bear Mt.
08.00AM - Breakfast
09.30AM - Bear Mt. bus safari and highrise walk
13.00PM - Furano and lunch
14.00PM - Furano lavender and flower fields
17.00PM - Drive to Chubetsu Lake accommodation
19.00PM - Dinner
20.30PM - Onsen
08.00AM - Breakfast
09.00AM - Trekking in Daisetsuzan with views to Mt. Asahidake
11.00AM - Onsen
12.00PM - Drive to Mt. Kurodake
14.00PM - Lunch
19.00PM - Dinner
20.00PM - Onsen
08.00AM - Breakfast
09.00AM - Hike to the summit of Mt. Kurodake
14.00PM - Lunch and onsen
16.00PM - Drive to Shiretoko
20.30PM - Dinner
22.00PM - Onsen
08.00AM - Breakfast
09.00AM - Brown Bear Boat Cruise from Utoro
12.00PM - Lunch
13.00PM - Furepe Waterfall
15.00PM - Self-driven safai and Kamuiwakkayu Falls
20.00PM - Dinner
22.00PM - Onsen
08.00AM - Breakfast
10.00AM - Secret natural open hotspring, Iwaobetsu Onsen Rotenburo
12.00PM - Lunch
14.00PM - Shiretoko 5 lakes tour
18.00PM - Dinner
20.00PM - Night wildlife safari
22.00PM - Onsen
08.00AM - Breakfast
09.00AM - Drive to New Chitose airport
16.00PM - Arrive airport and deliver back rented car
18.00PM - Flight from New Chitose to Narita
20.00PM - Arrive Narita
21.30PM - Arrive Tokyo
The cost of going to Hokkaido largely depend on the cost of your flight and how many people you are going together to share the cost for the rented car.
JPY 30,000 - Return flight ticket, Narita - New Chitose
JPY 62,000 - Rented car for six days, including full insurance, fuel and toll roads
JPY 12,000 - Bear Mt. entrance and accommodation
JPY 20,000 - 2 nights accommodation, including dinner and breakfast in Daisetsuzan area
JPY 30,000 - 3 nights accommodation, including breakfast, dinner and two tours in Shiretoko
JPY 6,000 - Boat cruise along Shiretoko peninsula
Approximately JPY 160,000 if you are going to do this trip alone. JPY 130,000 if you are a two friends or a couple.
1. Bear Mountain
The Sahoro Resort Hotel provides easy access by a 2 min drive to the Bear Mountain and the entrance fee is included in the accommodation price.
2. Furano, Daisetsuzan, Lake Chubetsu
About 1.5 hours drive from Furano, near the beautiful Chubetsu lake, you'll find the Tenninkyo Hot Spring, located at the western foot of the Daisetsuzan volcanic area.
View over Chubetsu Lake View to Mt. Asahi-dake Indoor onsen at Tenninkyo Hot Spring Outdoor onsen at Tenninkyo Hot Spring
Chubetsu Lake, Mt. Asahidake, and Hot spring at Tenninkyo
3. Daisetsuzan, Mt. Kurodake
The small village near Mt. Kurodake offers many hotels and accommodation, the Sounkyo Choyotei hotel have really great indoor onsen and sauna.
4. Shiretoko, Utoro
The Yuhinoataruie is an inexpensive hotel, but still featuring rooms with sea view. Additionally, they collaborate with the luxury Shiretoko Grand Hotel Kita kobushi to serve the meals. The breakfast and dinner served here are truely amazing. 
Sea view from the room at Yuhinoataruie Wildlife just outside the room window View from the dinner and breakfast area at Shiretoko Grand Hotel Kita kobushi
Hotel views in Shiretoko
1. Experience the Japanese Brown Bear at Bear Mt.
 While I don't at all consider the Bear Mountain as the real deal to experience the Japanese Brown Bear, it still gives you an opportunity to experience the bear up close from the Safari bus or the High-rise walkway. I must admit that I feel sorry to see the big GPS-modules around the neck of the bears being so tight that it leaves deep bleeding spots on some of them.
Brown bear from the bear watching bus Brown bear cooling down in a muddy pool Brown bear from High-rise walkway
Bear safari at the Bear Mountain
2. Furano Flower and Lavender Fields
Enjoy the different Flower Fields / Lavender Fields in and around Furano. This is how they look like in mid-July.
Lavender Field in Furano Flower Field in Furano
Lavender and Flower fields in Furano
3. Hike to the summit of Mt. Kurodake
Take the cable car to reach the near summit of Mt. Kurodake, and from there make a trek around one of the loops. At the first cable car station, two signs are found not far into the trails; always goes with the mentallity of the second sign while being out in the nature.
"What you can take are only pictures, and what you can leave are only your footmarks"
The forest is the sweetheart of the sea What you can take are only pictures, and what you can leave are only your footmarks Closed cable car for Mt. Kurodake Emergency shelter at the Mt. Kurodake summit Summit of Mt. Kurodake
Poem and ethical code of hiking, summit of Mt. Kurodake
4. Brown Bear boat cruise along west coast of Shiretoko peninsula
Looking at the statistics, in the period of start to mid-July, all boat cruises spots the Japanese Brown Bear on the shore.
Furepe Waterfall from the sightseeing boat Shiretoko west coast line
Views over Shiretoko peninsula from boat tour
4. Do a self-driven Safari and explore the Furepe waterfall and Kamuiwakkayu waterfall
Driving from Utoro to Kamuiwakkayu Falls will take you along the coast up the peninsula and deeper into Shiretoko national park. At this time of the year, you'll certainly encounter the Ezo Red Fox and the Yezo Deer. On two occocians I was lucky enough to be at the tight place at the right time to encounter the Japanese Black Bear crossing the road. My encounter with the Japanese Brown Bear from the car reminded me of when I went to Kenya for Safari and finally spotted the shy Leopard (I'll write about this trip in my post about the World Heritage Site: Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley).
Ezo Red Fox in Shiretoko Yezo Deer in Shiretoko Brown bear cub (1 year old) Brown bear cubs (few months old)
Wildlife in Shiretoko national park, Ezo Red Fox, Yezo Deer, and the Japanese Brown Bear
5. Relax in the open air "hidden" hotspring - Iwaobetsu Onsen
Try out the hidden outdoor onsen, Iwaobetsu Onsen Rotenburo. It is a great little onsen, where you can dig in at no cost.
Iwaobetsu Onsen Rotenburo Iwaobetsu Onsen Rotenburo
Hidden secret open air hot spring
6. Take a tour around the Shiretoko five lakes
In the bear peak period, the Shiretoko Goko Lake Walk is often closed due to nearby bear activity. However, in any case you can still enjoy the Elevated Wooden Path out to the first lake which is protected from bears.
View at the elevated wooden path and Shiretoko At the end of the elevated wooden path and view of the 1st lake
Shiretoko Goko Lakes and its wooden path
7. Night Safari Wildlife Watching Excursion
Take a tour with one of the many operators, which will take you on a 2 hour tour in the dark to spot the wildlife by night.
1. Cheese Fondue
In Furano, you should enjoy Cheese Fondue and the magnificent views from the Furano Wine House.
2. Lavender icecream
Be sure to try the Lavender softice in one of the fields in Furano, they are really tasty.
1. Binocular
When the Japanese Brown Bear was spotted in the bushes on the shore during the boat cruise it was impossible to see properly without a binocular.
2. Bring WARM clothes
Even during the hottest period in the summer in July, the boat cruises for whale watching and brown bears are still very cold.


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