Japan 09.09.2016 TransIndus
Japan’s most northerly island boasts an array of spectacular landforms and wildlife spotting opportunities. The following are the pick of the crop:
The Red-Crowned Cranes of Kushiro
Regarded by Japanese as a symbol of longevity, these giant birds thrive amid the marshes of the Kushiro Wetlands National Park, in southeastern Hokkaido, where in late-winter you can enjoy the spectacle of entire flocks ‘dancing’ in the snow – one of Asia’s great natural shows.
The view over Lake Mashu from the rim of its encircling caldera is regarded as among the finest panoramas in all Japan, and with good reason. Framed by soaring cliffs and the graceful slopes of Mount Shari, the lake is at the centrepiece of the Akan National Park in eastern Hokkaido.
Whereas the waters of Mashu are famed for their exceptional clarity, Akan is renowned for the balls of green marima algae that form on its bed. In the distance, the smoking summit of an active volcano forms an epic backdrop for boat cruises and canoe trips on the lake.
Kamuiwaka Falls and Shiretoko National Park
Among the most remote and unspoiled parts of the Japanese archipelago, the rugged Shiretoko National Park in Hokkaido’s far east is formed by a long chain of volcanic peaks extending into the Sea of Othosk. Most of the region remains accessible only on foot or by boat. Off-shore, orcas and sperm whales number among several species of cetacean regularly seen on spotting cruises.
The surreal Jigokudani, ‘Hell Valley’, in southwest Hokkaido, takes its name from the hot springs and many steam vents erupting from its bare, sulphurous flanks. Paved paths wind up the valley to the much-photographed Onyunuma pond, whose waters drain through a tract of broadleaf woodland.
‘Sounkyo Gorge’ is the collective name for a group of awesome ravines in the Daisetsu-zan National Park, at the centre of Hokkaido. Soaring cliffs, crashing waterfalls and acres of virgin forest combine to create some of the most dramatic views on the island.