Tag Archive: Shiretoko



The very first activity we had upon arrival in Memanbetsu in the Shiretoko Peninsula is a short walk towards the Oshinkoshin Waterfalls. Hard to miss as it’s right by the coastal road if you’re driving towards Utoro. Short climb but slippery, as the snow has started to melt and grown icy. Like an old lady, I held on to the railing as I gingerly climbed, and then slid down. πŸ™„ I can imagine the gushing waters during Spring but I certainly didn’t mind seeing my very first frozen waterfall.

Oshinkoshin Falls

The next day, we did the drift ice-walking (yass!) followed by snow walking in the nature park after a lunch where we shucked our own uni (sea urchin) and then some. We did away with the snow shoes and simply walked a good half hour towards a promontory where the frozen Furepe Waterfalls looks majestic even in its frozen form against an unusual panorama of ice slabs floating off the Sea of Okhotsk. These ice floes drifting from Siberia and Sakhalin Island look so surreal and the frozen Furepe Falls is a bonus after a half hour walk from the Center. The park is home to deer, foxes and other wildlife. Walking it is the best way to appreciate the stillness of the “white beauty” surrounding us. Just had to remind ourselves not to stray from the path as some areas are thick with snow as deep as 2 meters. Certainly deeper in other areas. Now, you wouldn’t want to sink your shoes, your lower limbs or worse, your entire body, in there!

Best to come here to walk off a hearty lunch. The time we visited, we skipped wearing the snow shoes since the weather improved (from negative temps to zero Celsius 😜) and the walkways looked manageable. Also, our guides reminded us to wrap up good to stay warm. The forest trees, snow-covered Mountains, the frozen waterfalls and if you’re in luck, a deer or two, are waiting for those who love Nature. The stillness makes you feel warm and fuzzy. Yes, even in the dead of winter. You can’t take it home, but this scenery sparks joy 😊 The image clings to your memory and claims a spot in your heart ❀️

Spring here must look so cheery! All green, lush trees and flowers abloom. In winter, it offers an entirely different landscape. Not exactly gloomy, but the “stillness” is what will hit you. All in a good way. Walking in the forest bathed in white powder while snow flurries gently hit your cheeks is not your everyday activity. Still and quiet, but for those snowflakes landing on your face and the birds crowing as if reminding you to mind your steps.

The ice floes drifting in the Sea of Okhotsk which spills out to the Pacific Ocean is just mesmerizing. There are no dry suits to protect us now from this harsh weather. Just our 4 layers of clothing, fur-lined boots and warm company to keep us dry and cozy. Unlike other vistas, we don’t have the privilege of lingering to enjoy the beauty around us. Spending an hour is enough without risking frostbite. I wonder how Nature makes it possible for deer and foxes to stay out here. Even my brain won’t function properly. A case of brain freeze? For obvious reasons, the park grounds look so Christmas-y to me, pine trees and all. Only thing lacking is Santa πŸŽ…πŸΌ and a snowman ⛄️.


In Russia, it’s called Okhotsk Sea. In Japan, it is called the Ohōtsuku- Kai. Among the many adventures in Shiretoko Peninsula is “drift-ice walking” where you’re suited into this swimming gear that feels like a mini-sauna but absolutely keeps you dry while you are flailing about off this marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean. Best time is from January to March but peak season for drift ice is February. The week before we arrive, temps were hovering around double-digit negatives but this group of adventurous foodies from the Tropics brought sunshine with them. Temp was at zero Celsius which the locals compare to “spring weather” and “too warm” for winter. Luckily too, it wasn’t windy at all! How’s that for an auspicious morning for water adventure?

Ready to Rumble!!!

Those ice floes! No, we didn’t do the ice walk here. 😜

Before we set out to do “the walk”, we struggled putting on these suits. Oh, how we struggled! I had to go on my back, lift my legs to get our guide pull the suit up my legs and thighs. It doesn’t stop there. Getting my head through the “hole” and finally zipping me up was another struggle. And just when I was getting the hang of walking in this suit out in the open, frozen sea, I slipped! But slipping in and out of water in between drift-ice walking was really this morning’s activity. The guides made us walk towards a certain area off the frozen Sea, by the breakwater I think, then challenged us to jump while saying “I love Japan”. Jumping together on what our hindsight tells us must be thin ice was all it took to break the ice. We floated for a while, then some of us climbed over the floating ice slab. Then there were those who quickly gained the confidence, jumping here and there, breaking more ice! At some point, one of the boys jumped in and went down body limbs, head and all!

Getting into it is an adventure by itself!

We’ve met others who went ice diving. I cannot imagine how they put on their more complicated gear and what nerves of steel they must have. What we did was nothing compared with their adventure. But I’m sure we drew more laughs as we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves lying down on the icy sea and floating among the ice floes. Some of the pictures and videos are simply too funny to be posted. For sure, we’d talk about this adventure for many years to come. πŸ₯ΆπŸ˜œπŸ™„πŸ˜Š

Check this out:

https://youtu.be/ooAfed1M7ZY


Late last year, this same group trooped to Vienna and Bologna and braved winter for the love of food. You bet we’re at it again. This time to Hokkaido for a taste of its “cruel winter”. Call us insane but we have very specific reasons for being here. Beyond the freezing temps and snow flakes, we’re here to spot some very rare species of birds like the red-crowned cranes, Blakiston’s Fish Owl, some whooper swans, the rare Steller’s sea eagles and white-tailed eagles. Many of these birds have chosen Hokkaido as their home and hopefully, we can spot them as we walk on the drift ice. Yes, that’s what we plan to do. Walk on drift ice! Yup, that’s the plan. So go ahead. Call us insane πŸ™„.

Packing for this trip was a real struggle. I pack my stuff on a day by day basis. This way, I need not have to decide which shirt to pair with which pants or skirt. With previous trips, one packing cube is typically good for 3-4 days of clothing. Not this time. One day’s wardrobe fills an entire packing cube! An inner/thermal shirt, a wool shirt, a fleece vest, a winter jacket. Four layers. Paired with winter pants and fleece leggings. Warm enough? Throw in those mufflers, beanie and gloves. And an extra pair of socks for good measure. Phew! And don’t start asking me for my nighttime wardrobe. You bet I feel like a grandma in wools and a bonnet.

All packed and ready for snow adventures? Temps have risen but are still in the negatives. Early this morning of our arrival, I can almost feel those ice crystals landing on my cheeks and forehead as the wind blows. Yay, can we actually walk on drift ice tomorrow? It’s our first activity on this trip and my nerves are going haywire. Hmmm…. go ahead. Call us insane. πŸ₯Ά