"Hokkaido Heritage" - The Notsuke Peninsula and Utase Boat - (Betsukai-cho, Shibetsu-cho)
The Notsuke Peninsula is Japan's largest sandbank, stretching 26 kilometers into the ocean and overlooking the Shiretoko Mountain Range. Fishing inside this unique terrain, being rocked back and forth by the waves of Notsuke Gulf, are Utase fishing boats with their characteristic triangle sales. This beautiful landscape can be found in Eastern Hokkaido. The Notsuke Peninsula sandbank is formed from sediment deposits carried into the ocean by the rivers of the surrounding Shiretoko Peninsula. During the Edo period it is said that samurai took advantage of this area as a defensive position.
The wild feeling of the "Todowara" (a plain filled with fallen and dead Todomatsu trees), as well as the "Narawara" scenery, draw many tourists to the area.
(Photograph Selected from the Hokkaido Heritage Photo Contest)
One event, which has become a spring and autumn tradition in the area, is fishing for Hokkaishi Shrimp. This is carried out using a special kind of boat, the Utase boat. This year the fishing began on October 19th.
The waters of the Notsuke Gulf are quite shallow and filled with seaweed, meaning that regular boats can't sail the waters. The unique boats used are especially shallow bellied, and rely on wind and the gentle rocking of the waters to propel them across the water. The view of these boats in this fog is magical.
Hokkaishima Shrimp can only be fished for a short time and are intimately known as "Hokkaido's secret ingredient" at local restaurants where you can find "Hokkaishima Shrimp Rice Bowl" on the menus.
Another attractive point of the Notsuke Peninsula and Gulf are the many birds that come to the area. Several hundred species of plants and birds have been identified, and in 2005 the area was registered under the Ramsar Convention.
You can find calendars detailing the local birds and flowers among other things on the Notsuke Peninsula Nature Center's homepage, so give it a visit if you're interested!
＜野付半島ネイチャーセンター＞ (Notsuke Peninsula Nature Center)
http://www.aurens.or.jp/~todowara/ (English link on bottom left!)
＜別海町観光協会＞ (Betsukai-cho Tourism Organization)
http://betsukai-kanko.jp/ (Japanese Only)
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - T・H)
(Photographs provided by NPO法人北海道遺産協議会, 別海町）