The natural paradise of eastern Hokkaido [PR]

Eastern Hokkaido is a slice of untouched natural paradise. Comprising the areas of Kushiro, Teshikaga and Akan, the region is full of primeval natural wonders to explore. The area has an abundance of water, from the wetlands of Kushiro to a variety of beautiful lakes. Not only do these water sources nourish the area’s diverse flora and fauna, they are stunning sights in themselves, with a beauty that changes with the seasons.

Unsurprisingly, eastern Hokkaido is the place to go for adventure tourism in Japan, with local companies offering a smorgasbord of experiences including canoeing on the Kushiro River, horse trekking around Lake Kussharo and fishing for trout in Lake Akan.

The largest wetland in Japan, with captivating wildlife

Did you know that the easternmost area of Hokkaido used to be part of the ocean floor? The waters receded gradually between 6,000 and 4,000 years ago, but the land remains a marsh to this day, with water pooling in mud and sand. This is Kushiro Wetland.

Several types of guided tours are operated

Covering an area of around 28,000 hectares, the wetland has immense ecological value, earning it designations as a national park and Japan’s first Ramsar Wetland of International Importance.

Kushiro Wetland is home to the red-crowned crane, a bird cherished in both Japanese and Ainu cultures and designated as a Special Natural Monument by the Japanese government. The crane is revered as sarorun kamuy, or “god of the wetland”, in Ainu spirituality, and has been captured in centuries of Japanese art.

Red-crowned crane

And that’s just one of the diverse species you might see here—eastern Hokkaido is home to around 1,300 species of fauna, including the Ezo red fox, Ezo deer and rare birds such as the Steller’s sea eagle.

Ezo deer
Steller’s sea eagle

Stroll along the Kushiro River, which feeds the wetland, and you’ll notice something unusual about it—it makes no sound. With no stones at the bottom, there’s nothing for the water to ricochet off, creating a peaceful scene where all you’ll hear is the wind ruffling the birds’ feathers.

You can enjoy canoeing on the Kushiro River

A hot spring village where you can feel the earth’s heartbeat

There’s really nothing like seeing plumes of sulfur from a smoking volcano—you’ll feel like you’re witnessing the beating of the earth’s heart. And of course the natural paradise of eastern Hokkaido has a place where you can see this fascinating sight up close: Mt. Io.


Japanese for “sulfur mountain”, the mountain’s geothermal activity creates a natural hot spring (Kawayu Hot Springs) where you can enjoy the fragrance of sulfur as you relax in one of the area’s baths. The spring is formed by groundwater that flows from Lake Mashu, one of the clearest lakes in the world, into a river, where it is heated by the volcanic activity of Mt. Io. The indoor and outdoor baths of Kawayu Hot Springs offer incredible views of the river, with each season bringing its own beauty.

Lake Mashu in summer

A people who understand the importance of nature

The beautiful, unspoiled nature of eastern Hokkaido is an important part of the culture of Hokkaido’s indigenous Ainu people. The Ainu people have an animist tradition, where elements of nature are revered as spiritual beings, and place importance on coexisting with nature and being grateful for the life that animals, plants and fish give to people.

Local Ainu people share their culture with visitors in areas such as the Akan Ainu Kotan, a traditional Ainu settlement. Here you can try traditional Ainu cuisine in restaurants such as Poronno, where diner after diner raves about the delicious venison bowl. Ainu cuisine has subtle flavors that accentuate the fresh natural ingredients—the fruit teas are a must-try.

Akan Ainu Kotan
Venison bowl

Another unmissable experience is listening to local Ainu people’s spellbinding performances on the mukkur, a traditional instrument similar to a jaw harp. Mukkur players make music on the fly, expressing their feelings or capturing sounds from the natural world. You might even get to try playing it yourself!

These are just a few of the incredible sights and experiences that eastern Hokkaido has to offer. For more information on the area’s wealth of flora and fauna, breathtaking natural landscapes, exciting adventures and cultural experiences, visit Explore East Hokkaido: Untouched Hokkaido.


Kushiro & Hokkaido East | Japan Travel | JNTO

Kushiro Wetland

Access: around 10 minutes’ walk from JR Kushiro-Shitsugen Station

Mt. Io

Access: around 5 minutes by bus from JR Kawayu-Onsen Station

Akan Ainu Kotan

Address: 7-19, Akankoonsen 4-chome, Akancho, Kushiro City, Hokkaido

Access: 1 hour and 45 minues by bus from JR Kushiro Station


Address: 7-8, Akankoonsen 4-chome, Akancho, Kushiro City, Hokkaido

Access: 1 hour and 45 minues by bus from JR Kushiro Station