Kushiro Marsh, the largest marshland in Japan, has the winding Kushiro River and the huge green marshland. There are many kinds of wildlife such as Hokkaido shika deer, a white-tailed eagle and a red-crowned crane which is designated as a special natural monument. Many tourists enjoy not only a panoramic view from the observatories but also canoeing/hiking to explore the marshland enveloped in silence.
Canoeing Down the Kushiro River
There are some guided tours to canoe down the Kushiro River. I was picked up at JR Touro Station and went to Lake Touro by car to start the canoeing trip. While paddling a canoe from Lake Touro to the winding Kushiro River in the marshland, I was so relaxed in silence and felt comfortable to find some wildlife such as cute ducklings swimming in the river, a white-tailed eagle sitting on a tree, and family of Hokkaido sika deer walking along the river. You will also have a chance to find a red-crowned crane, Ezo red fox, and so on.
My recommended tour company is “Healing Canoe KUSHIRO“. Although the guide speaks only in Japanese, he is very good at paddling a canoe and gives all tourists his kind hospitality. The company offers only private tours so that you can enjoy a relaxed time in the marshland. The canoeing tour as well as the hiking tour below is one of the best experiences in my travel around Hokkaido.
Hiking to Cape Kirakotan
Cape Kirakotan located in the heart of Kushiro Marsh may not be well-known among tourists. It is called “Cape” because Kushiro Marsh was once a part of the sea, and now designated as a national natural monument area where anyone is not allowed to enter without permission. That is why you need to find a guide with permission in order to enjoy hiking there. “Healing Canoe KUSHIRO” also offers a guided hiking tour to Cape Kirakotan, and I enjoyed it after the canoeing.
During the drive to the main entrance of hiking course, I found some red-crowned cranes at Tsurui Village which is known as the observation spot for cranes. I also found a variety of plants such as “Yachibouzu” (clumps of luxurious grass), “O-ubayuri” (a giant lily which was food of the Ainu), “Torikabuto” (a poisonous aconite plant) and Mamushi-gusa (a unique shaped plant which seems like a snake) in the forest of Cape Kirakotan. After a hike in the forest for about 30 minutes, I got to the tip of Cape Kirakotan offering an amazing view of the marshland. When I got there, a red-crowned crane was walking in the river whose surface was reflective like a mirror, and I thought it was the best view of Kushiro Marsh! On the way back the guides also took me to Nihonmatsu Observatory. It must be a great experience for you to join the hiking tour to Cape Kirakotan as well as the canoeing tour on the Kushiro River.
Hosooka Observatory offers a panoramic view of Kushiro Marsh which includes the winding Kushiro River and Cape Kirakotan. On a fine day Mt. Oakandake and Mt. Meakandake are also visible in the distance. It is easy to get there by car, and many tourists visit here. Since it is located in the east of the marshland, it is known as the observatory to enjoy the beautiful sunset.
Red-crowned Crane Nature Park and Akan International Crane Centre are the facilities to preserve red-crowned cranes designated as special natural monument, where you will be able to see the cranes closely. I could see not only a baby crane with its parents but also male and female cranes crying together to confirm their love. It is said that the bond of male and female cranes is very strong and they never break up until they die. Since the two facilities are located near Kushiro Airport, I would like to recommend you visit if you have plenty of time.
Tourists usually rent a car at Kushiro Airport to get around the marshland.
Let me introduce my travel route in 2015 for your reference. After staying at Betsukai-cho Fureai Camp Site, I moved to Nijibetsu Auto-camping Ground in order to visit Kushiro Marsh as well as Akan National Park. Please note that the travel route below is a little complicated because I often had to interrupt or change the schedule of a day trip depending on the weather.
|1||around Kushiro (car): rainy||Red-crowned Crane Nature Park
Akan International Crane Centre
|2||Betsukai -> Shibecha (car)
around Lake Kussharo (car)
Lake Kussharo, Sunayu Beach
|3||around Mt. Iou (car): rainy||Mt. Iou||Shibecha (Nijibetsu)|
|4||around Lake Akan (car)||Lake Akan
|5||around Kushiro (car)||Hosooka Observatory in Kushiro
Kawayu Hot Spring
|6||around Kushiro and Lake Mashu (car)||Canoeing through Kushiro Marshland
Hiking to Cape Kirakotan
|7||Shibecha -> Next (car)|