- April 19th, 2014
[Lake Utonai in Tomakomai] Paradise for Waterfowls Close to New Chitose Airport
Lake Utonai (ウトナイ湖) between National Route 36 and railway is a freshwater lake in the northeastern part of Tomakomai city. The Utonai means "A place that small streams gather" in Ainu language. The lake is located in the northwestern part of Yufutsu Plain (勇払原野), and the perimeter of the lake is about 9.5 km. The maximum water depth is 1.5 m, so it is not large. The lake is well-known for beeing designed as the first bird sanctuary in Japan by Wild Bird Society of Japan in 1981, and More than 260 kinds of waterfowls such as Whooper Swan and Whistling Swan inhabit, and the lake is called "Paradise for Wild Birds". In addition, 500 kinds of plants such as Quercus Crispula and Haskap grow, and 3,900 kinds of insecta inhabit. It is called "Natural Treasury", too. The lake has rich nature, and has been designed as the Ramsar Convention since 1991. Tens of thousands wild gooses fly home to roost or fly away the roost in March, and the view is popular.
It takes about 20 minutes from New Chitose Airport to here by car. A highway junction is very close to here, too, so here is easily accessible by the car. In addition, Aji-no-Daio Tomakomai head office (味の大王総本店) that is famous for curry ramen and Roadside station "Utonaiko" (道の駅"ウトナイ湖") are near here, so here is a good palce as a tourist attraction. The Roadside station with a restraunt, a souvenir shop, a public restroom opens all year round. By the way, canoe is popular along Bibi River (美々川) linked to the lake, and the river has 3 canoeports. Canoe tours are held, too. However, canoeing on the lake is prohibited.
Bibi River Canoe Guideline in Japanese
Aji-no-Daio Tomakomai Head Office
Aji-no-Daio Tomakomai head office (味の大王総本店) is a popular ramen restraunt in Uenae, Tomakomai city. There is a building near Lake Utonai. It is founded in 1965 and is known as an ancestor ramen restraunt that has begun to cook curry ramen in Hokkaido. Originally it was founded in Iwamizawa and was divided into Tomakomai and Muroran. Aji-no-Daio Muroran is famous, too, but it has no capital ties. Read More
Express Tomakomai-go (高速とまこまい号) or Hascup-go (ハスカップ号), express buses, run between Sapporo and the Tomakomai. Besides, Rent-a-car can be rented around Tomakomai Station.
Tomakomai (苫小牧) that 170,000 people live along Pacific Ocean is the fourth largest industrial city in Hokkaido, and is located in the central part of the Hokkaido. There are Oji Paper factory (王子製紙), petrochemical complexes and Tomato-Atsuma Thermal Power Plant, the largest thermal power plant in the Hokkaido. As for a climate, it is warmer than other places in Hokkaido in a summer or in a winter, and it features that the Tomakomai has less snow than other placess in the Hokkaido. Therefore skating as one of famous winter sports is prosperous, so ASIA LEAGUE ICE HOCKEY Team "Oji Eagles" is based in the Tomakomai. Because the Tomakomai is close to New Chitose Airport, and Tomakomai Ferry terminal is built, so the Tomakomai has traffic convenience. Read More
Around Lake Utonai
Lake Utonai Sanctuary Nature Center (ウトナイ湖サンクチュアリ), Lake Utonai Wildlife Conservation Center (ウトナイ湖野生鳥獣保護センター) and the Roadside station "Utonaiko" are at the northwest side of the lake, those are open to the general public. Admission free. Parking lots are free of charge. At the Lake Utonai Wildlife Conservation Center, some telescopes are set to observe wild birds freely on the 1st floor. In addition, documents and objects about Lake Utonai and the wild birds are displayed. A photo gallery is on the 2nd floor. Their regular closing day is Monday, and that is a facility that beginners can enjoy, too.
The Lake Utonai Sanctuary Nature Center run by the Wild Bird Society of Japan opens only on Saturdays, Sundays, and National holidays. At the Lake Utonai Sanctuary Nature Center, 3 telescopes are set to observe wild birds on the 1st floor, and a renger explains visitors about the lake or the wild birds. The renger was well informed, so I had an amusing conversation with her. In addition, professional documents, various objects and photo books about the wild birds are displayed, too, so here is suitable for experts, too. 2 telescopes are set to observe wild birds on the 2nd floor, too, so the lake can be viewed at high position. A handmade sugoroku is provided on the 2nd floor, too.
Around the Lake Utonai Sanctuary Nature Center and the Lake Utonai Wildlife Conservation Center, 8 walks, Round Short Trail (自然観察一周コース), Haskap Trail (ハスカップの小径), Swan Trail (ハクチョウの小径), Gray Heron Road (アオサギ通り), Woodpecker Trail (キツツキの小径), Red Fox Trail (キタキツネの小径), Yellow-Breasted Bunting Trail (シマアオジの小径) and Common Sandpiper Trail (イソシギの小径), are built, and 2 wooden observation huts for wild birds, Grassland Wooden Hut (草原の観察小屋) and Lakefront Wooden Hut (湖岸の観察小屋), are built, too. The time it takes to go around is defferent depending on the walks. The time it takes to head the longest walk and to observe nature to the full is over 2 hours. 345 m length of the Round Short Trail is the shortest walk, and is universal design. By the way, the length of the Haskap Trail is 1,245 m, and the length of the Common Sandpiper Trail is 510 m and the length of the Red Fox Trail is 695 m. The visitors can enjoy rich nature.
When I visited here, I saw a squirrel biting a mashroom at the side of the wooden path and a natural stream snaking its way across a field, and those were really interesting. The visitors can go in and out the observation huts freely, and can observe the wild birds without scaring those. The relation between nature and a person is just right, and it is the comfortable place. By the way, the trails are sometimes muddy, so you had better wear shoes that can get dirty.
Atmosphere of Lake Utonai Can Be Watched on Youtube
|Admission fee||Free of charge|
|Parking lot||Lake Utonai Sanctuary Nature Center: Free parking is provided (30 Cars), Lake Utonai Wildlife Conservation Center: Free parking is provided (30 Cars), Road station: Free parking is provided (93 Cars)|
|Business hours||Open 24 hours * Lake Utonai Sanctuary Nature Center 09:00-17:00, Lake Utonai Wildlife Conservation Center 09:00-17:00|
|Regular closing day||Winter season * Lake Utonai Sanctuary Nature Center: Weekday and Year-end and New Year holidays, Lake utonai-ko wildlife sanctuary and visitor's center: Monday and Year-end and New Year holidays|
|Home page||Home page of Lake Utonai Sanctuary Nature Center is here, Home page of Lake Utonai Wildlife Conservation Center is here|
|Mapcode||113 413 623*44|
List of Accommodations
Refer to following websites for the accommodations in the Tomakomai. You can get information regarding online reviews and photos.
A page of Tomakomai 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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