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Release | Akiko Miyanaga

Possibly the only phenomenon in Japan, “Jewelry Ice” in Toyokoro Town


“Jewelry Ice” is miraculously shiny pieces of ice washed up on the Otsu shore in Tokachi Toyokoro-cho in the severe cold season. It has been gaining attention in the past few years, not only from photography enthusiasts in Tokachi but also in other parts of Japan and even in the world. Do you know how this phenomenon happen? I will introduce about this phenomenon and tips to view the beautiful ice pieces. 

The attraction of “Jewelry Ice” is that it is like discovering different pieces of jewelry        

“Jewelry Ice” is ice pieces washed up on the Otsu Shore in the severe cold season. There are various sizes, and the name won’t change depending on the size; small ones are about the size of hands and big ones are about the size of a tatami mat. According to Toyokoro-cho Sightseeing Association, “We cannot say for sure because it is a natural phenomenon, but approximately the best season is from the middle of January to late February. In 2017, ices started to be washed up on the shore from around January 6.”

豊頃町ジュエリーアイス(2017.1.29.撮影:S.H.)▲Jewelry Ice shines in gold colors with the morning sunlight. The photo was taken on January 29, 2017. 

Mr. Urashima from Toyokoro-cho, who gave the name “Jewelry Ice” and also the ambassador of sightseeing, told us. “The attraction of Jewelry Ice is that the color changes every second and there is no single piece that has the same shape. The color starts from dark blue before the sunrise. It turns red when the sun starts to rise, then changes the color to orange, yellow, and finally white. This all happens in only an hour. I felt as if I was discovering different pieces of jewelry here and came up with the name Jewelry Ice.”


How do Jewelry Ice happen? 

How does this attractive natural phenomenon happen?
“Jewelry Ice” starts from the ice in Tokachi River. The ice flows into the sea, and when it was carried by a tidal current with a storm, those pieces of ice would be washed up on the shore. 

​海岸に打ち上げられた氷塊「ジュエリーアイス」(写真提供:十勝観光連盟)▲The ices are cracked with tides, so no single piece has the same shape, which is an attraction of Jewelry Ice. (The photo is provided by Tokachi Tourism Federation)

Tokachi’s harsh coldness resulting from geographical and climate characteristics strongly relates to the process.
The first characteristic is that Tokachi has a high fine weather rate which makes radiative cooling happen. Another characteristic is that Tokachi area is a plain which makes the area cool down effectively because cold air is widespread in the flat land. Naturally, the area around the shore does not get cold easily because the sea preserves heat. However in Toyokoro-cho Otsu, Tokachi River flows in the plain carries cold air to the mouth of the river, making the temperature under -20 degrees, stimulating the growth of ices. 

豊頃町大津海岸の砂浜に打ち上げられた氷塊「ジュエリーアイス」(写真提供:十勝観光連盟)▲The sound of ices bumping into each other feels very nice, too. The photo was taken on January 17, 2017. (The photo is provided by Tokachi Tourism Federation)


The only phenomenon in Japan which makes pieces of ice turn into jewelry

Also, the direction of sunrise strongly relates to the conditions to observe this phenomenon. The shore faces to southeast direction, so the sunlight comes nearly at the right angle to the shore when the sun rises. When people see the jewelry ice from the shore, it receives the sunlight and shines brightly.
For example, the azimuthal angle of sunrise on February 3, 2017, is 112° in the southeast direction. Otsu shore is the only place in Japan where the sunlight directly comes to us from the sea! It can be called as the only phenomenon in Japan. 

 豊頃町大津海岸の2017年2月3日の日の出方位角112度(「とかちであそぶ観光MAP」を活用)▲The arrow above indicates the azimuthal angle of sunrise, 112°, on February 3, 2017. It is clear that the sunlight comes at the right angle to the shore. (The map above is “Tokachi de Asobu Kanko Map”)

Tokachi Tourism Federation told me: “NY times was introducing comments from Peter Wadhams, the professor of Ocean Physics at the University of Cambridge. He said ‘I have never seen this type of ocean ice. Similar ice can be seen in glaciers of south Chile or Alaska, but Toyokoro-cho might be the only place to view the river ice.’ I thought Jewelry Ice was the only phenomenon in Japan, but it might be very rare in the world as well. I hope we get visitors to Toyokoro-cho from all over the world.”

豊頃町ジュエリーアイス(2017.1.29.撮影:S.H.)▲It is also fun to find different colors depending on which height you gaze from. The photo was taken on January 29, 2017. 


The best time is definitely early morning! 

It was a hidden shooting spot within photo enthusiast in Tokachi before, but it gradually became to be known from around 2015, when the town started to put “Jewelry Ice Information” on the official website. Now, a few dozens of people come to view and shoot from all over Japan, even in the early morning on weekdays. The town staff built temporary lavatories with consideration. 

豊頃町大津海岸のジュエリーアイスを撮影する全国各地から来た写真愛好家(撮影:S.H.)▲Photo enthusiasts shooting Jewelry Ice are putting up with harsh coldness. The photo was taken on January 29, 2017.  

If you want to observe this phenomenon, the best time is early morning or evening. Especially in the morning, you can see both colors of ice; the ice colored with the sunrise and the sun went up. You may also be able to encounter “steam fog”. You will surely be amazed at mysterious sceneries. 

豊頃町大津海岸のジュエリーアイスを観に来た北海道観光PRキャラクターキュンちゃん(撮影:S.H.)▲Hokkaido sightseeing promotion character Kyun-chan waited for this! Kyun-chan in a steam fog! The photo was taken on February 3, 2017. 
The temperature on January 29 was -5 degrees, but on February 3 it became -26 degrees, and it was unable to stay at the shore for 5 minutes. The sense of fingers paralyzed. It is a harsh environment to do a photo shooting, so be well prepared to the coldness with heavy outfits and body warmers. Also, batteries of mobile phones and cameras may be unable to use because of the cold, so I recommend to keep spare batteries warm. 

It would be so nice to soak into onsen to warm your body after viewing the Jewelry Ice!  

豊頃町ジュエリーアイス(2017.1.29.撮影:S.H.)▲Playing with ice, the object is a natural and artificial product. There were winds, so it was quite a work to stuck on the pointy ice piece. The photo was taken on January 29, 2017. 

The best season of Jewelry Ice is from the middle of January to end of February. However, the days to observe transparent ice freshly washed up on the shore may be limited. The latest information is put on “Jewelry Ice Information” on Toyokoro-cho website. Why don’t you check the information and witness the beautiful moment when a piece of ice turns into jewelry? 


Related Links

- Toyokoro-cho “Jewelry Ice Information”
- Tokachi Tourism Federation “Tokachi Bare”

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