Shiretoko National Park – Hokkaido’s wildlife paradise

Shiretoko National Park – Hokkaido’s wildlife paradise

Shiretoko National Park

Our last real stop in Hokkaido was a few nights in Shiretoko National Park. A hot spring waterfall, the coastal cliffs, and scenic boardwalk were some of our favorites in this park. But nothing beat the amount of wildlife we saw. 

The route between parks offered a beautiful glimpse into the daily Hokkaido life, which consists largely of various agriculture farms. There are small towns to change up the scenery, but overall you cruising through endless wheat, dairy and melon farms. Then, as you gain altitude, roadside lakes appear with various tourist pit stops that happen to be built next to towering waterfalls! The sweet smell of wheat fades to fresh mountain air mixed with salty winds of the sea. This place really has everything a nature lover could want.

Shiretoko National Park, Japan national park, hot springs, hokkaido wildlife, wheat field

Shiretoko is located on a peninsula, making the park uniquely protected of the human touch. Half way up, the road ends and the only way to venture is to hike through or take a ferry around. Unfortunately, it was at this point Wade started to feel pretty ill. We still enjoyed ourselves but opted to stay closer to the tent in case he needed to rest.

Wildlife of Shiretoko

Shiretoko National Park, Japan national park, hot springs, hokkaido wildlife, hokkaido deer

 

Deer and baby in Japanese grave yard at dawn, hokkaido

It was in Shiretoko that we were able to really see some beautiful animals up close. Deer scattered on the hills by the roads and in various quiet spots throughout the park,eating the abundance of flowers.  You will see signs ALL OVER the park encouraging you not to feed the wildlife, particularly foxes. I completely understand why (dangerous for them and humans) and I wish I saw the sign prior to my fox encounter in Daisetsuzan Park. I still feel guilty thinking about it.  Along the roads, you will certainly see foxes who have used their intelligence to coax tourist out of their snacks from cars in order to take a photo. Foxes have a special place in my heart, I consider them one of my favorite animals. Feisty, sharp and not easily outwitted, I think we would get along well. Plus, orangey red hair calls to me. 

Shiretoko National Park, Japan national park, hot springs, hokkaido wildlife, hokkaido fox

The highlight of my trip was when I finally saw a beautiful Hokkaido Brown bear. I went off on the boardwalk by myself. Poor Wade, he needed a nap and decided to hang back in the car. I entered the walkway with several families as tour groups were exiting. It was dusk and the park would be closing after dark. Or so I thought.

While moving my tripod to get another angle I noticed the quiet that surrounded me. I was completely alone in the park. I didn’t understand why. The sun was setting and over the ocean.; a beautiful time to be there. So I continued to do my thing. It was soon after I was packing up when I heard someone call out to me. From that far away I assumed it was Wade who was signaling me over. My response was a motion of “no no, you come here”. We continued to wave directions at each other when it became clear that this was not actually my husband but rather an irritated park ranger who wanted to go home. Woops!  

So I walk the path, towards him and BAM! A bear was treading through the thick grasses over the hill!  Now, what is a nature loving girl supposed to do? I stopped, began waving. I didn’t want to yell, that would scare the handsome bear away. Thus the park ranger and I began our waving game again. I held my spot, the ranger was walking towards me. I pointed frantically, pulling out my camera, and he walked up. He sympathized and understood my predicament. We chatted while we watched the bear and I snapped as many photos as I could. (Warning, they are more like evidence shots, none really turned out)

Shiretoko National Park, Japan national park, hot springs, hokkaido wildlife, hokkaido brown bear, sunset over grassy hills

Apparently, this bear is about 5 years old and shows up regularly. We watched him for a few more minutes. I had to concentrate on not using my instincts to run and get a better look. I doubt the park ranger would have been so cordial with me after. He ushered me along, as we small talked about the states and Japan. We connected through Boston, he’s been 4 times! I was thankful we could communicate, I don’t think he would have been so patient otherwise. 

The following day we returned, this time with Wade by my side, this time, there was no bear. Still, the scenery was breathtaking. 

Shiretoko National Park, Japan national park, hot springs, hokkaido wildlife, sunset over grassy hills

Camping in Shiretoko

When we arrived at Shiretoko our first goal was to set up the tent so we could explore the park and not worry about losing daylight. This campground was a little different than Daisetsuzan, it had an open area and you could set up camp wherever you pleased. There were three outhouses with no running water and one inside the main building that also held classrooms and information about the park. The fee was ¥500 a night. I loved our campsite here. Sleeping on the grass was far more comfortable than the gravel/dirt in Daisetsuzan.

sunrise campsite, tent, tent camping japan,Shiretoko National Park, Japan national park, hot springs, hokkaido wildlife,

Other sites and things to do

With Wade not feeling his best, hiking/boating wasn’t the best option for us here.  Shiretoko offers plenty of trails both long and short and ferry rides with focuses on bear sightings and nature cruises that show you the hard to reach places in the park. Instead, we filled our time with scenic drives, including one to the other side of the peninsula for a pharmacy run. Up through the mountains and down to the eastern coast. This brought us to Rausu, a fishing village that screams Maine. The sky was gray and the coast was rocky. Buoys and fishing nets covered the restaurants. We stopped to watch the waves crash, something we barely see in Okinawa, and a number of seagulls flying around resembled a Hitchcock movie. There are onsens scattered throughout this little village and there are signs pointing you in the right direction.

Shiretoko National Park, Japan national park, hot springs, hokkaido wildlife, seagulls, coast

 

shiretoko-18

 

Back on the western side of the peninsula, we went for quiet walks to visit a couple steep waterfalls. My favorite, and very popular amongst visitors, is the hot spring waterfall. There, you are able to take off your shoes and walk up the smooth rock with the warm water running under your toes. There is a deep pool towards the top if you wanted to take a dip in.

Shiretoko National Park, Japan national park, hot springs, hokkaido wildlife,

 

On our last night, we took a break from our convenient store bentos, and enjoyed a beautiful meal of fresh veggies and seafood grilled Yakiniku style. A beautiful end to our vacation.

hokkaido grilled seafood during sunset,Shiretoko National Park, Japan national park, hot springs, hokkaido wildlife,

 

Hokkaido easily became one of my favorite trips Wade and I have taken together. I hope to go back this winter and spend some time in Sapporo for the huge winter festival they hold annually, though I know it won’t be the same. Hokkaido in the summer. Nothing beats it.

 

 

 

 

17 Comments
  • Your photos are absolutely breathtaking, Ashley! Shiretoko seems like a wonderful place to be one with nature, I can’t believe how cheap the camping fee is – 500 yen? What a steal!

    • Forever Fernweh says:

      Yes, camping was quite affordable. It was interesting because the campsites were dirt cheap (pun intended!) and the hotel prices were through the roof! Thanks for looking ?

  • Mika says:

    Wow, what an idyllic place! Your pictures are amazing, especially the one with the deer in the graveyard. I’ve never been to Hokkaido before, but now this makes me want to go!

    • Forever Fernweh says:

      Mika, Hokkaido seems to be an overlooked destination for international travelers in Japan, but the Japanese know this place is such a treasure. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

  • Soraya says:

    Ashely, one things I love most about your posts are your photos. They are just stunning! You have made Shiretoko National Park looks magical…it’s like a fairy tale. The hot spring waterfall sounds so interesting…and I can’t believe you spotted a bear! I can imagine that the camping is more comfortable here as the grass would be a bit of a cushion.

    • Forever Fernweh says:

      ? Thank you, Raya! Yes, the grass was a welcome cushion compared to the gravel of our last site and the bear made my whole trip!!

  • Vyjay says:

    The Shiretoko National Park looks lovely and so surreal. The pictures are stunning and bring alive the park and its inhabitants in all their vivid colours. The animals too look in harmony with their surroundings.

  • Those are some really nice pictures.Would love to camp in such a place where one can see wildlife up close.Love the sunset shot the best.

  • JASCHEN says:

    Oh my goodness! Saw the first picture and definitely had to click in. I’ve actually visited Hokkaido when I was little but I remember it being super snowy and freezing cold hence I didn’t enjoy it much. But your shots are so beautiful and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking! I would definitely love to visit again. Thanks for sharing!

    • Forever Fernweh says:

      Yes! Hokkaido is normally covered in several feet of snow. In mid-July is when the mountains are fully thawed and all the flowers are in bloom! Thanks for popping by.

  • Kristina says:

    I’ve been to Hokkaido for Yuki Matsuri, but never during a non-snowy time. It looks so majestic! I should def check it out during the summer time. Wonderful photos 🙂

    • Forever Fernweh says:

      I hope to go to Yuki Maysuri this year. I don’t know if I will love it as much as the summer though. ☺️ I’m not one for snow these days.

  • Tamera says:

    Beautiful picture, Ashley! Which campsite was that in Shiretoko? Was it the National Park one? I’m going to Shiretoko during Obon Week and I’m checking out campsites now.Thanks!

    • Ashley says:

      Hey Tamera,
      We did stay in the park. We went during bear season and felt a little better staying there than out on the trails. The offered a couple eco- bathrooms and during the day the main building bathrooms are open.

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