Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost and least developed island is often considered by the Japanese to be the country’s last frontier and is a world away from the traditional view of Japan. Only colonised by Japan in the past 150 years, we won’t find a land of ancient temples and shrines or developed cities with skyscrapers during our visit, but what the island lacks in regard to 21st century development, it more than makes up for in natural wonders with large swathes of wild, open spaces, primeval forests, crystal clear lakes, active volcanoes and bubbling hot springs.
Our exploration begins with the bright neon lights of Tokyo where the cityscape of skyscrapers is interspersed with ancient temples and scenic gardens. Before reaching the enchanting island of Hokkaido we spend some time on the north coast of Honshu island visiting the Feudal town of Hirosaki and the spectacular Towada Hachimantai National Park.
Our circumnavigation of Hokkaido then commences and during our time on this remarkable island, we will explore nature trails, watch for wildlife in the national parks, learn more of the indigenous Ainu people and hopefully see the stunning autumnal foliage which should coincide with our visit. More than two million acres on Hokkaido are dedicated to national parkland and we will visit some of the most remarkable including the Shiretoko National Park located on the north eastern tip of the island and which in Ainu means ‘end of the world’. UNESCO has called it one of the richest integrated ecosystems in the world and in 2005 designated it as a World Heritage Site. We will have a full day to explore the national park, home to brown bears, Yezo sika deer and red fox whilst birders can keep an eye out for Steller sea eagles, Blakiston fish owl and white-tailed eagles. Whilst in the Kushiro Marshlands we visit the home of Hokkaido’s resident red-crowned cranes, Japan’s iconic bird, known as the bird of happiness.
Helping us understand all we will see and experience, and travelling with us throughout the voyage, will be our expert naturalist, our knowledgeable Guest Speaker and three Japanese guides, all adding immeasurably to your enjoyment and understanding of this fascinating country. We hope you can join us for this rare circumnavigation of Japan’s most enchanting isle aboard the all-suite MS Island Sky.