Discovering the Shiretoko National Park

The untouched beauty of Shiretoko National Park is located on Shiretoko Peninsula, in Hokkaido island. The Shiretoko National Park consists of snowy mountains, clear water lakes, and a variety of wildlife roaming through the park freely. Thanks to the Shiretoko National Park’s ecosystem and biodiversity back in 2005 it was included in the list of world heritage sites. The best time to visit this Japanese paradise is from late Spring through late Autumn, it is when you can comfortably hike or take a boat trip and enjoy the bright colors and peace that unspoiled Shiretoko National Park has to offer.

Shiretoko National Park information

Make sure to visit one of the Shiretoko National Park visitor information points, where you will be able to get some tips and ideas on what to see, where to go, how to get there and where to stay. Moreover, the information centers will provide you with maps for the area, relevant information regarding the animals and plants that grow in the park. You will be advised about the current weather conditions and safety measures to make your visit not only unforgettable but also safe. Do not worry if you do not speak Japanese the information in the centers is also provided in English.

Take into consideration that the Shiretoko peninsula has a large population of Brown bears, the attacks are not common, however, it is important to check the latest sightings and warnings at any of the park information centers.

Consider boiling the running water, that was found during the hike, before drinking it. Local foxes carry Echinococcus multilocularis.

Before coming to the park make sure to check weather conditions and dress properly, according to the season, wear comfortable footwear.

What to see there?

Stretching out into the blue ocean, the Shiretoko National Park hosts secret untouched waterfalls, pristine lakes, ancient forests, and diverse wildlife. The park is open all year long, different activities and sightseeing are available depending on the season.

During the Spring season visitors may expect to see:

  • Shiretoko Five Lakes are open in the second part of April.
  • Bear season starts in the middle of May till the end of July.
  • Deer crossings may be common while driving.
  • You may spot a killer whale.
  • Mizu-basho blooms around the Shiretoko Five Lakes.

Summer at the Shiretoko National Park offers:

  • Sea kayaking. 
  • Japanese roses and Amur daylilies bloom around the seaside.
  • A variety of whales, as well as dolphins, can be spotted.

In Autumn you can expect to:

  • See the leaves change to bright colors.
  • Experience the season of salmon, salmon roe and rare species of salmon Sakeji.

Winter in the Shiretoko National Park:

  • Lakes and National Route 334 are closing till spring.
  • Waterfalls freeze and the park is covered in snow.
  • Winter sports (skiing and snowboarding) are available.
  • Drift ice tours are available.

What to do there?

The Shiretoko National Park is considered to be one of the last remaining places of true wilderness in Japan. Shiretoko is popular for hiking, cycling, and boating. The park mostly attracts hiking enthusiasts, however, Shiretoko also offers some tracks for beginner hikers. You can choose from hiking around lakes to waterfalls, cruise up the coast, and secret hot springs in the woods. Beware that such wild animals as bears, deer, foxes, and eagles are common to be spotted around the area.

 While in the Shiretoko National Park make sure to:

  • Hike through the scenic Shiretoko Five Lakes;
  • Relax in Kamuiwakka Hot waterfall;
  • Go on a whale-watching cruise;
  • Catch a boat tour to the tip of the peninsula;
  • Take photos of untouched nature and wild animals of the Shiretoko National Park;
  • Visit Utoro – a fishing village located at the entrance to the park;
  • Take a tour to Oshinkoshin falls;
  • Visit the town of Rausu and look for two free, completely open onsen on the beach;
  • Cycle through one of many scenic highways;
  • Visit Cape Puyuni to enjoy the sunset;
  • Check out Furepe Falls that flow right into the ocean;
  • Take a photo at Shiretoko Pass.

How to get there

The main points to enter the Shiretoko National Park are Rausu (Nemuro Strait) or Utoro (Okhotsk Sea).

The closest domestic Memanbetsu Airport or Nakashibetsu Airport is located around 100 km from the park and is around 1,5 hrs drive from Utoro or 2 hrs by bus from Memanbetsu Airport or Abashiri. It has direct flights from Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Sapporo. There are few busses that will take you from the airport and Utoro, the fee is 3300 yen.

The town of Rausu is a 60-minute drive from Nakashibetsu Airport or 100 minutes by public transport.

The closest train station to the park is JR Shiretoko Shari Station in the center of Shari Town, about 40 kilometers southwest of the national park. The station can be reached in 40 minutes from Abashiri or in 2.5 hrs from Kushiro

It is strongly recommended to rent a vehicle at the Airport or one of the nearby cities, as the park is located on a remote east part of Hokkaido and the public transportation service is limited and infrequent especially during the low season.