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Release | Fumiko Magota

Experience winter Hokkaido in Sarobetsu wilderness area! Wear a pair of snowshoe and explore the snow land

50 minutes drive from Wakkanai, the northernmost town in Hokkaido. I enjoyed a snowshoes hiking tour in the vast Sarobetsu wilderness area. The day was cloudy and windy, so it was the best day to experience winter Hokkaido! I will deliver freezing sceneries!


The third largest wetland in Japan, “Sarobetsu Wetland”

“Sarobetsu wilderness area” is about 20,000 hectares and extends from Wakkanai City, Toyotomi Town, to Horonobe Town. This vertically long land is about five to eight kilometers from east to west and about 27 kilometers from south to north. In the center of Sarobetsu wilderness area, there are about 6,700 hectares large “Sarobetsu Wetland”. 

Sarobetsu Wetland is the third largest wetland in Japan. From spring to autumn, various plants and flowers grow, but in winter, the land is covered with snow and changes to the white world. 

サロベツ原野の遠景▲The wood brick promenade is disappeared. The building far away is the observation deck. 

“Forest and wetland snowshoes hiking” is operated by “Sarobetsu Wetland Center” to walk around forest and wetland with snow shoes. 

雪に沈むサロベツ湿原センター▲Sarobetsu Wetland Center covered in snow. 


Many findings are interesting in the forest

The temperature was minus five degrees Celsius. It is common to be minus ten or fifteen degrees in the area, so the day was rather warm? The snow was piled up about 30 centimeters. Snowshoes make you able to walk around places where you will be buried until the knees with normal shoes and to explore easily.  

サロベツ湿原センター前でスノーシュー装着▲Wearing the snow shoes. Snowshoes rental is included in the fee. 

We started to explore the forests first. 

サロベツ原野の林のなか▲The trees in the forests act as a windbreak, so I did not get wind and snow at all. 

Our guide of the day was Shimazaki, the staff of Sarobetsu Wetland Center. “This tree is an elder tree. In the movie series Harry Potter, the tree was used for the magic wand.” “The flowers of Hydrangea paniculata has the tale of tragic love.” Shimazaki shared us a lot of stories about nature and weather as we walk in the forest.

サロベツ湿原センター学芸員の嶋崎曉啓さん▲Shimazaki with a loving look on trees. “By the way, the largest wetland in Japan is Kushiro Wetland; the second is Bekanbeushi Wetland. Both of them are located in the eastern Hokkaido, which means three largest wetlands are in Hokkaido. Hokkaido is a heaven of wetland.” 

As we kept walking, we found a tree trumped over from the root underground!  

サロベツ原野の根からひっくり返った木▲The tree was frozen with the roots underground. 

This is the power spot in Sarobetsu wilderness area! The tunnel created by water oak tree and swamp ash is said to have luck in love and good relationship of couples. 

サロベツ原野の恋愛成就の木▲There was a couple who got married after they walked the tunnel together! 

There were trees with buds and waiting for spring even the weather is still freezing. 

サロベツ原野の木を観賞▲I was moved by the strength of nature. 

The area without trees are where water is stored, and we found water when we dug! 

サロベツ原野の雪の下▲It came out from the ground when we dug! I found it very interesting to see water in this frozen world. 

Snow was heavy around the exit of the forest.

サロベツ原野を歩く▲I got buried a little bit even I was wearing snowshoes. 


You can see Mt. Rishiri if you are lucky

When I got to the snowfield, it was a monochrome world continuing forever. Weather of the day was as in the picture so I could not get good sights.

風雪激しいサロベツ原野▲An icy wind was blowing hard. 

On sunny days, you can encounter these beautiful sceneries! 

サロベツ原野からみる利尻山▲Snowfield and Mount Rishiri floating on the ocean. (Mt. Rishiri is located on Rishiri Island!) (Photo provided by / NPO Sarobetsu Eco Network) 

サロベツ原野のゆうけい▲Sunset. (Photo provided by / NPO Sarobetsu Eco Network)

サロベツ原野の樹氷▲Air frost on the trees are extremely beautiful! (Photo provided by / NPO Sarobetsu Eco Network) 

青空のサロベツ原野▲The blue sky is so bright on a sunny day in winter.  (Photo provided by / NPO Sarobetsu Eco Network) 

By the way, sunny days are very rare in winter. It is about 1/3 of the month we can get the sight of Mount. Rishiri. 


Tea time and snow play time are also fun

During the tea time, the guide gave us a cup of warm drink.

サロベツ原野でティータイム▲It looks like he is pouring sake but we had hot chocolate! I wonder why it feels a lot more delicious than usual. 

Also, we could play with snow freely on the way, such as diving into fluffy snow. It was like as if I was a kid again! 

サロベツ原野の雪上で寝転ぶ▲It feels very nice to lay down on snow! I could see naked trees and gray sky. 

The fee for snowshoes hiking tour is 4,000 yen per person for two hours. (Includes snowshoes rental fee, as of January 2017) However, the tour is adjustable if you want it shorter or longer by consulting with the guide in advance. (The fee changes) They also have rentals of ski wears, snow boots, stocks, and binocular glasses! (With additional fee)

The tour is also great for a workout during winter. If you have a plan to travel in the northern part of Hokkaido, this is definitely a recommended to activity. You can experience unknown winter world in the north, like “coldness changes to pain when it exceeds”! 

  • Experience winter Hokkaido in Sarobetsu wilderness area! Wear a pair of snowshoe and explore the snow land

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Fumiko Magota