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. Every year the island emerges from a bitter Siberian winter into the warmth of spring, when the thaw reveals a glorious landscape littered with wild flowers. 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, beautiful alpine flowers, active volcanoes and bubbling hot springs. During our circumnavigation of this remarkable island, we will visit the outlying Rebun and Rishiri Islands, explore nature trails, watch for wildlife in the national parks, learn more of the indigenous Ainu people and hopefully see the multitude of colourful flowers that should be in bloom to 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 shika 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. We hope you can join us for this rare circumnavigation of Japan’s most enchanting isle.