- February 14th, 2017
[Drift Ice Cruise in Abashiri] Tourists Can Enjoy Drift Ice Cruise by Aurorago and Aurorago2
Drift Ice Sightseeing in Abashiri
There are 2 sightseeing spots that tourists can enjoy the scheduled drift ice cruising in Japan. Abashiri in the northeast of the Hokkaido faces the Sea of Okhotsk, and is one of the sightseeing spots for drift ice cruising. Drift ice drifts to the offing of Abashiri around mid January. If common ships collide with the drift ice, those are broken, but Drift Ice Icebreaker Aurorago (流氷観光砕氷船おーろら号) and Aurorago2 (おーろらⅡ号) that can break the drift ice zone with the weight of themselves go into service. A lot of tourists visit here to see the drift ice from mid January to early April. The drift ice icebreaker Aurorago and Aurorago2 go into service from 2 to 5 each day, and cruising time is around 60 minutes. The tourists can get aboard a ship at the roadside station "Ryuhyo Kaido Abashiri (流氷街道網走)".
Drift Ice Spots and Drift Ice Cruise
In Japan, Drift ice appears only from January to March, and can be enjoyed only along the Sea of Okhotsk and a part of Pacific Ocean. The sea is covered with the drift ice from the shoreline of Monbetsu to Shiretoko Peninsula, and it is amazing view! It may be said that you must see the amazing view once. Hokkaido has 3 towns called "Monbetsu", Monbetsu (紋別) along the sea of the Okhotsk, Date Monbetsu (伊達紋別) along the Pacific Ocean and Monbetsu (門別) along the Pacific Ocean. In those Monbetsu, a place to view the drift ice is the Monbetsu (紋別) along the sea of the Okhotsk, and the Monbetsu, Abashiri (網走), Koshimizu (小清水), Shari (斜里) and Rausu (羅臼) have some drift ice spots. Tourists can enjoy the drift ice on the shore, and also enjoy it as the drift ice cruise on the sea. Unfortunately, global warming cause decreasing the drift ice recently, but you may see wild animals such as Earless Seal and Steller's Sea-eagle on the drift ice if you are lucky. Read More
In addition, Okhotsk Ryuhyo Museum (オホーツク流氷館) that introduces about the drift ice on Mt. Tento (天都山) throughout the year is in the Abashiri, too. Abashiri-kohan Onsen (網走湖畔温泉) is at the foot of the Mt. Tento, so it is suitable for warming cold body with hot springs. Speaking of specialty foods in the Abashiri, Abashiri Zanki Rice Bowl (網走ザンギ丼) and Abashiri Zanki Rice Bowl are served by some local restaurants.
Abashiri Okhotsk Ryuhyo Festival
Abashiri Okhotsk Ryuhyo Festival (あばしりオホーツク流氷まつり * The Ryuhyo means "Drift Ice" in Japanese) is a winter event held in Abashiri city located in the northeastern part of Kitami city, and has started since 1966. The festival is held at Abashiri Port Event Site (網走商港埠頭特設会場) during 3-4 days in mid February, and about 55,000 tourists come. It takes about 10 minutes on foot from Roadside Station "Ryuhyo kaido Abashiri (流氷街道網走)" to there. There are ice sculptures, snow sculptures, ice slides, food stalls, a public restroom at the site, and some events such as concerts are held, too. It is very cold, so you had better wear a warm outfit. Admission free. A parking lot is free of charge. By the way, the roadside staion is a ferry terminal of Icebreaking Ship Aurora2 (流氷砕氷船オーロラ2), so it is crowded with tourists in a winter. A lot of sightseeing buses park at a parking lot. Read More
Abashiri Zanki Rice Bowl
Kinemakan (キネマ館) is a restaurant in Abashiri city located in the northeast part of Kitami city. There is a restaurant on second floor of roadside station "Drift Ice Highway Abashiri (流氷街道網走)". I visited here to eat Abashiri Zanki Rice Bowl (網走ザンギ丼). The Abashiri Zanki Rice Bowl is a rice bowl topped with fishery products and vegetables harvested in Abashiri and is served at about 9 restaurants in Abashiri city. I did not know why interior decoration of a building was a movie theater style with the Showa period. I bought a meal ticket of the Abashiri zanki rice bowl via a ticket vendor at once. The price was JPY 880. Read More
By the way, "Dreamint Okhotsk-go (ドリーミントオホーツク号)", an express bus, runs between the Sapporo and the Abashiri. Besides, Rent-a-car can be rented around Abashiri Station.
Abashiri (網走) that about 40,000 people live is the 20th largest tourist city in Hokkaido, and is one of regional hub cities of the Northeastern Hokkaido area. It is also a fisheries city facing the Sea of Okhotsk, and Crab, Idiot Fish, Whale and Salmon are famous as a local specialty. As for a climate, it is chilly that temperature rises to nearly 25 degrees in a summer, and it is cold that temperature falls to nearly -5 degrees in a winter, and it does not snow hard, too. It may be said that the Abashiri is relativelly warm climate in the Hokkaido. The Abashiri is well-known for drift ice reaching to the coast, and is famous as a winter tourist spot, too, and is roughly divided into 2 areas, a old city area (a neighborhood of Abashiri River mouth) and a new suburbs area. The new suburbs area is more developed than the old city area, and has more restaurants than the old city area. Read More
Aurorago Drift Ice Tour
The Aurorago and the Aurorago2 are relatively big ships, and a characteristic of those ships is that its bow push down the drift ice with the weight of themselves and break the drift ice by a technique of the continuous breaking ice (連続粉氷) or the ramming breaking ice (チャージング粉氷). In addition, those ships are large with reduced shake. The seating capacity of this ship is 450. Those ships do not make a small turn, but it is comfortable that the ships break the drift ice powerfully. By the way, those ships are used as Shiretoko cruising ship (知床クルーズ船) in a summer.
Because 2 ships have a chance to go into service together depending on the number of the passengers, it is a unusual spot that tourists can enjoy a view with a combination of the drift ice and the ship. The ships are crowded very much during Abashiri Okhotsk Ryuhyo Festival (あばしり流氷まつり), so you would better make a reservation beforehand. Refer to following websites for the activity company. You can get information regarding online reviews and photos.
As for the drift ice, a cold front with a low of -40 C blows from the Siberia (シベリア) to the Hokkaido, and ice born in the Amur River (アムール川) drifts to the Sea of the Okhotsk (オホーツク海) by the wind. Shiretoko Peninsula (知床半島) just plays a role as the net, and the sea is covered with the drift ice closely from the offing Of Abashiri to the Shiretoko peninsula.
I thought that all the drift ice was born in Russia. But a chief engineer of the Garinkogo2 in Monbetsu said "Water of the Amur river flows into the Sea of the Okhotsk, and sea water keeps on separating from freshwater for a period of time, and the concentration of salt in a part of the freshwater lowers. Therefore, the seawater of the Sea of the Okhotsk freezes at -1.8 C, and the drift ice forms ice in the Okhotsk. Until about 30 years ago, the drift ice seemed to be seen until June, but now it seems to be seen from late March to April because of influences of global warming".
In addition, earless seals, white-tailed eagles and steller's sea eagles can be seen on the dirft ice, if you are lucky. By the way, there is not always the drift ice. If you are unlucky, it is just crusing. Because it is considerably cold on the ship, Please make sure you will protect yourself against cold weather. You had better bring disposable heating pads (使い捨てカイロ).
Atmosphere of Drift Ice and Aurorago Cruising Can Be Watched on Youtube
|Admission fee||Free of charge|
|Parking lot||Free parking is provided (400 cars)|
|Regular closing day||From late February to early February|
|Home page||Home page is here|
|Mapcode||305 678 311*83|
List of Accommodations
Refer to following websites for the accommodations in the Abashiri. You can get information regarding online reviews and photos.
Abashiri Kohan Onsen
A page of Abashiri is here
By the way, Club Tourism (クラブツーリズム), a Japanese tour travel agency, provides various types of tours such as day trip tours or ordinary tours. In the case of bus tours, tourists do not drive their cars themselves, so they can savor alcohol. Choosen tourist attractions are national parks such as Rishiri and Rebun, Shiretoko, and popular tourist places such as Furano and Biei, and some activities such as hiking and fruit picking are also enjoyed depending on seasons. If you are interested in tour trips, you should visit the club tourism's website for details.
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