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JAPAN


Animal magic


Hokkaido’s Shiretoko


Peninsula is one of the most sparsely populated areas in Japan — at least by humans. The area’s woods, rivers and mountains are home to an impressive roster of fauna. Guide Tyler Palma, from InsideJapan Tours, explains more


BROWN BEARS The best time to see brown bears — which number around 3,000 on Hokkaido — is during summer. Perhaps surprisingly, the safest way to view them is by boat. When hiking in areas with bears, you’ll hear the constant jangling of bear bells coming from the rucksacks of Japanese hikers since brown bears can be aggressive. HOW TO DO IT: Take a bear cruise in Utoro with operator Gojiraiwa Kanko. Alternatively, guided walks through bear country are available at Goko Lakes Trail, Shiretoko National Park. kamuiwakka.jp/cruising goko.go.jp


EZO ANIMALS Ezo is a term with its roots in Japan’s feudal history; it’s used to refer to the lands north of Honshu, Japan’s mainland. Hokkaido is home to Ezo deer and Ezo red fox. Also look out for are Ezo momonga (fl ying squirrel) and the Ezo crying rabbit, a type of pika that’s said to have provided inspiration for the Pokemon character, Pikachu. HOW TO DO IT: The conservationists at Picchio Wildlife Research Center in Utoro off er educational wildlife tours. shiretoko-picchio.com


Komorebi The way sunshine


streams through the leaves of a tree


BLAKISTON’S FISH OWL While the iconic Japanese cranes get a lot of attention in winter, for any birdwatcher, Blakiston’s fi sh owl is reason enough to journey to the wilds of Hokkaido. Not only is this the largest species of owl in the world, it can regularly be seen on the Shiretoko Peninsula despite the fact that only about 150 owls currently remain in the wild. HOW TO DO IT: Head to the small Washi no Yado (Eagle Inn) guesthouse near Rausu, which the owls visit nightly. fi showl-observatory.org


WHALES & DOLPHINS Orcas, sperm whales and Baird’s beaked whales are all attracted by the nutrient-rich waters around Hokkaido and can regularly be seen on summertime cruises. HOW TO DO IT: Whale-watching boats, such as those operated by tour company Shiretoko Rausu Lincle, depart daily from Rausu. shiretoko-rausu-lincle.com JL


For more information about InsideJapan Tour’s wildlife tours, visit insidejapantours.com


CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Skiing in Niseko, Hokkaido; Blakiston’s fi sh owl, an endangered species of which just 150 live in Hokkaido; a mother Ezo deer and her fawn, in Kamuiwakka Falls in Shiretoko National Park; Ezo foxes near Mount Tokachi, Hokkaido


May/Jun 2020 59


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