Shiretoko National Park
Shiretoko National Park (知床国立公園 Shiretoko-kokuritsukōen) covers the entirety of the Shiretoko Peninsula (知床半島 Shiretoko-hantō), a remote northeastern corner of the Japan island of Hokkaido. In 2005, the park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
address: 臼町湯ノ沢町６−２７This is one of two visitor centers for Shiretoko National Park. There is a small museum-like display, and some information on the park. Rangers can help visitors plan out hikes or find campgrounds. There's also a small store selling post cards and bear bells.
Shiretoko Five LakesThese lakes are Shiretoko's best-known and most easily accessible attraction. The five lakes are located within walking distance of each other and well-maintained trails connect them — a quick circuit won't take more than an hour. Watch out for bears.
Kamuiwakka FallsThese falls are one of Japan's more amazing natural wonders, and indeed the Ainu name means "river of the gods". The road to the falls is closed to private traffic, so you have to take the shuttle bus from the Shiretoko Shizen Center. The bus goes 11 km up a bumpy dirt road and takes about 40 minutes. At the end of the track, slip on a pair of sturdy sandals. If you didn't bring your own, Japanese waraji bamboo-straw sandals can be rented for a few hundred yen at the Shizen Center. Socks or running shoes are OK too, but will get wet. Then commence a thirty minute clamber up the river, in water that gets gradually warmer as you ascend ... and the rocks more slippery as algae celebrate a field day. Tread carefully and leave the cameras behind. The payoff awaits at the end, where waterfalls cascade into a free natural hot spring pool large enough for half a dozen people. Since August 2006, only the very first part of the river up from the bus terminal at the road bridge has been open to the public due to falling rocks danger. Nevertheless, even that lukewarm pool is a great experience.
Shiretoko PassAt the highest point of the road connecting the western and eastern coasts is a popular stop on the tour bus circuit, offering views of Mt. Rausu and, on a good day, the disputed Kunashiri Island controlled by Russia but claimed by Japan.
Mt. RausuA climb to the summit of this 1665m mountain is a tough but popular day trip. In bad weather, Mt. Rausu can be quite dangerous.
Iwaobetsu CourseThis is the most popular and less-rugged course.
Rausu Onsen CourseThis course is around 14.6 km roundtrip and, because of the large elevation gain, takes 9-12 hours. It is best to carry water from the bottom or use (properly treated) snow melt — there are some steam vents and sulfurous areas that might make the stream water undrinkable.
Iwaobetsu OnsenAfter a hard day's climbing, reward yourself with a dip in this basic but pleasant open-air hot springs. Free and mixed, so be sure you are comfortable with that.
Kuma no Yu
- The gift shop at the Five Lakes is the usual place for stocking up on bear bells and souvenir T-shirts for the folks back home.
Rausu Nature and Green Campgroundaddress: 臼町幌萌町This campground has tent sites and RV sites. It overlooks the Pacific Ocean to the east, leading to good views of the sunrise. The mountains of Shiretoko are also visible to the NW. There are bathrooms with electricity and running water, and clean covered cooking areas. It is next to a park golf course. The caretaker closes reception at 6PM, so latecomers should pay in the morning.
Rausu Onsen Campgroundaddress: 臼町湯ノ沢町This campground is well situated for people seeking to climb Mt. Rausu. It's also across the highway from a free onsen. Deer are frequently seen in and near the campground, so food must be properly stored.
Shiretoko-Iwaobetsu Youth HostelAn excellent HI-affiliated hostel run by knowledgeable staff. This is the place to meet with fellow hikers and gather information about hiking in the nightly briefing sessions.
On the trail from the summit of Rausudake to Rausu, on the first major flat spot below the summit, there is a stream from which you may be tempted to drink. The water is heavily laden with sulfur and will make you very sick if you drink it. There is a spring with drinkable water a short distance off the trail. Follow the arrow on the boulder with the Kanji character for "water" 水.