Top 10 Awesome Experiences In Japan: Hokkaido Sea Ice


Time for the next in the series of Top 10 Awesome Experiences in Japan. Previously, we were stunned and amazed by the beauty of autumnal Aomori. Now, we travel even further north, to the uppermost edge of Hokkaido, during the most frigid weeks of winter, in order to witness an ocean more chunky than usual…

Hokkaido’s Sea Ice

Unlike lonely, distant-from-all-Aomori, Hokkaido has many attractions to tempt the tourists. In summer, there are endless fields of wildflowers. In winter, piles of powder snow for skiers and boarders to fall happily into. There is crab, fresh scallops and strawberries coated in white chocolate. The snow festival in Sapporo itself brings in over 2 million visitor every year.

But what about further north? Though the crowds are less, and the winds colder, in late February, visitors who take the time to come to Utoro, a small settlement on the Shiretoko Peninsula, can witness what is certain to become an increasingly rare phenomena.

Floes of ice make it difficult to determine where the snowy beach ends and the ocean begins.

Floes of ice make it difficult to determine where the snowy beach ends and the ocean begins.

Sea ice, floating in from Russia, along with hungry flocks of Steller’s Sea Eagles, is hypnotically beautiful on its own, and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.

Tempting hypothermia.

Tempting hypothermia – brave tourists don dry suits and hop across the ice floes, trying to find a calm spot to float.

Along with the sea eagles, Clione limacin, or Sea Angels, swim under the ice. While technically, these delicate, pink sea creatures live in Hokkaido year round, there is just something more… exciting about searching for them in the icy sea. The bulky dry suits may not be flattering, even ridiculous looking, but more than canceled out by the awesome of surviving swimming in the frozen ocean.

For those still unwilling to try the full immersion experience, there are ice-breaker boat tours, and short, wildlife hikes that take trips up to the sweet, lookout spots.


The view from up high.

The view from up high.

Those with good timing can enjoy the snow festival at Abeshiri, the town nearby to Utoro, held on the surface of a frozen lake, and fish through holes in the ice, or scoot down the ice-cube slide. These are all side-shows to the main event however: the quiet, undulating vista of Hokkaido’s frozen sea.


7 thoughts on “Top 10 Awesome Experiences In Japan: Hokkaido Sea Ice

  1. This is beautiful! I’m really enjoying this series; I can’t wait to see where we’re going next!

    Are you sticking with seasonal things? I notice we’ve had an autumn and winter post. Can I expect another winter one, then a shift to Spring?



    • Thanks Gem, I really happy to hear you like it ^^ I have a Spring one in mind, but it still features a lot of snow, so hopefully that will be an interesting post.

      What have been your most awesome experiences here so far?


  2. I had live in Obihiro city for four years. I remember that I visited at Abashiri prison and saw sea ice. I was amazing. I thought it was interested at traveling foreign country, but it is better to do travel in Japan more, I think.


  3. Wow this is amazing. I would love to do this someday, but I have yet to muster up the courage to visit Japan in the winter time, even in the Southern regions. I simply can’t stand cold weather, anything less than 70 degrees and I am in extreme discomfort. Thanks so much for this blog post, I really enjoyed reading it.


  4. Have/did you try swimming? Did they find a good spot? Japan gets more and more alluring every time I read your blog! I either need to stop reading it or buy a ticket…. 😉


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