You and I canoeing down the river while the rest of the world sleeps
This winter, I headed to Kushiro, a coastal town on the eastern side of Hokkaido to experience a bit of proper cold for a couple of days in February. While winter temperatures closer to the coast are fairly mild, places further inland can get as cold as minus 20 degrees Celsius! Compared to other well visited cities in Hokkaido like Sapporo, Hakodate and Furano, Kushiro gets considerably fewer visitors and consequently, retains an idyllic and rural atmosphere.
The sky feels really far away in Kushiro
The marshland doesn't get that much snow
Looking over the marshland with Mount Meakan range (Akan-Fuji on the left for its shape)
Still river in the morning
Visitors enjoying local seafood at Washo Ichiba, the fish market near the Kushiro Station
To get around this trip, I decided on getting a rental car instead of relying on public transport. Note that it is advisable for those not used to snowy winter driving to opt for public transport instead. Kushiro City is walkable and day tour companies often offer pick up from hotels or the nearest train station.
The snow started off light, then got heavier as the day went on
I love snow and following animal tracks!
Looking over the snow covered lake beside the museum
The Kushiro City Museum standing tall
Learning about the Ainu people and their history
The livelihood of people living in Kushiro
Zero bears were spotted on this trip
Inside Washo Ichiba
No part of the fish gets wasted, in the middle are the eggs and milt of different seafood
Time to pick my toppings for my donburi
My lunch selection
These looked really delicious though
Japanese cranes in action
Flying in to join the brood
It started getting too snowy to see the cranes at the far end of the river
Nevertheless, it felt like a different world out in the marshland on the canoe. We floated downstream in the quiet of the morning, listening to the sounds of birds as they got about their day, ice breaking and our oars splashing. As it snowed the previous day, there was lots of snow on the branches of the trees which according to my guide, would all be melted by the end of the day. The early bird does catch the worms and in my case, views.
After canoeing for a little more than an hour, my guide and I went wildlife hunting. Not to kill because that's illegal, but to see with our eyes and shoot with my camera. We passed a number of other fellow wildlife hunters including a television crew, and despite seeing lots of animal tracks, most of them eluded our sights.
Fishing on the frozen lake is a thing here. I saw tents set up at the other end of the lake
Frozen surface, liquid surface
A species of tonbi (black kite) bird eyeing me as I passed
My first Owashi eagle!
Guide doing the heavy rowing
This is a good spot to take pictures of the infrequent trains
Saw this motley crew just digging away
Ezo-shika, native Hokkaido deer
While I didn't get to ride the train, I managed to get pictures of it as it passed. I was not the only crazy train photographer that day as there were about ten people with me, and apparently, there are also those who hike up the nearby snow-covered hills to get their money shot of the SL train. All I could think as the train passed was how seeing such a retro train did not look out of place in Kushiro but instead this was where it was always meant to be.
SL Fuyu no Shitsugen train
Choo-choo said the train as it rushed by, bringing up clouds of snow and steam
Winding snow covered roads
Running waters never freeze
Knee deep in snow and almost getting stuck
Because of heavy snowfall, many Hokkaido roads have arrows that point out where the road shoulders are
That simple, peaceful life out there