The most populous city in Eastern Hokkaido, Kushiro is great for the outdoors and good seafood. It is ranked among the world’s top three for beautiful sunsets.
With nearby lake Akan, Kushiro Shitsugen National Park, two Crane preserves, and a lively fisherman’s wharf, this area could take up your entire vacation.
Every fall the killer whales known by the Ainu people as Repunkamui – “Gods of the sea” migrate just off shore of the Kushiro town. Just up the road at lake Akan you can see the large Marimo, green ball algae. In the Kushiro area there are so many outdoor activities that you will have to come back again and again to experience them all.
Upon our arrival in the city we walked three blocks from the station to Washo Fish Market. You purchase a bowl of rice with vinegar and then walk to different vendors to select your choice of fresh fish. Kushiro is known for the largest fish catch in Japan and the prices were very reasonable.
In the early evening we boarded a train for Kushiro National Park, which includes the Kushiro Marsh, the largest wetland in Japan at 28,000 ha. There are several boardwalks, an observatory, and excellent viewpoints. The marsh area is a habitat for the Japanese Red-Crowned Crane.
We went to the Hokuto viewpoint to watch the sunset over the marshland. It was fun observing the people who were patiently waiting with us. As the sun set all you could hear were hundreds of camera clicks breaking the evening silence. It was worth the trip, but I would recommend you bring plenty of bug spray as the mosquitos were out in full force.
In the morning we took a bus to Tancho Crane Reserve. The Red-Crowned Crane (Japanese Crane) is designated as a Japan National Monument. In the early 1920’s the Japanese Crane was almost extinct. This preserve was opened in 1958 with a goal to help restore the bird population. Today there are over 1200 Japanese Cranes in Eastern Hokkaido. An interesting fact about the Japanese crane, known as the lovebird, they mate for life and the male helps with the raising of the offspring.
Our next stop was a 45 minute train ride to the small coastal town of Akkeshi and a roadside rest area called Gourmet Park, which has the number one rated oyster restaurant in all of Hokkaido.
What a dining experience. Miwa ordered a combination dish and I had pasta covered with oysters. Even though it was crowded there were many restaurants to choose from and the wait time was short. Save some room for desert, because downstairs they have oyster soft cream. Yes, you heard that right, plus a couple of gift shops with all oyster themed souvenirs. The rest area building sits on top of a hill and you can take an elevator to the top floor for a panoramic view of Akkeshi harbor.
Back in Kushiro it was almost time for the Kushiro Tairyo Donpaku (Harvest and Fishing Festival). After a nice healthy walk from Kushiro station to the port area we were rewarded with a spectacular sunset near Fisherman’s Wharf. Today was the opening ceremonies and was mainly about the food booths. When visiting Japan you will notice that the people love their festivals and really get into the food. I have attended a multitude of festivals throughout the country and in everyone special food was part of the experience.I really enjoyed our time in Kushiro, with so many outdoor activities and excellent fresh seafood, it is a place you can spend a quality vacation. We plan on coming back for two or more weeks to use as a base for exploring the rest of eastern Hokkaido.