For the slightly less adventurous Hokkaido vacationer, a drift ice cruise off the north shore of the island provides stunning views above the massive flows without the tangible threat of hypothermia.
From the end of January to mid-March, hour-long tours depart five to eight times a day from Abashiri and Monbetsu. The cost is usually around 3,000 for adults and ¥1,500 for children, with pre-schoolers riding free.
Sunrise and sunset cruises are especially recommended. The first morning boat departs at about 5:45 a.m. and the last evening boat near 3:30 p.m. (times vary slightly depending on the day and conditions).
Despite frequent runs and ship capacity of several hundred, spots fill up quick, so make reservations soon. Some warm clothing and a camera are advised.
On a clear day, watching the huge bergs float down from the northern coast of Hokkaido off the lip of Shiretoko to warmer Pacific waters is spectacular. But even in less ideal conditions the experience of navigating through ice that would rip a lesser vessel to shreds is worth the trip—so don’t miss it.
Doutou Kantou Kahatsu
Tel: (01524) 3-6000
Okhotsk Garinko & Tower Co. Ltd
Tel: (01582) 4-8000