Surrounded by spectacular national parks - and sheltered from the majority of winter’s ice, Kushiro is one of northern Japan’s most important cities. A deep-sea fishing port that specialises in Pacific saury, Kushiro hugs the coastline of the most northerly of Japan’s major islands. See the riches plundered from the ocean at the busy Washo Fish Market, dive into the native Ainu culture, or head out to explore the immersive beauty of Japan’s largest wetlands.
Kushiro City Museum is an imposing, castle-like structure, but there’s a warm welcome waiting inside, where exhibitions showcase the area’s history, and the extraordinary animals that you can meet on your adventures here. Explore Japan’s wilder side at the vast wildlife oasis that is Kushiro Marshland. A world away from the country’s urban metropolises, look out for the tanchō-zuru red-crowned cranes, which are some of the world’s rarest, and a revered symbol of luck and longevity. Spot pairs of the elegant birds, as they dance together on the plains of the wetlands.
Head out to Lake Akan – in Akan National park - to see another side to the area’s landscapes and encounter the bizarre marimo moss. Growing here only, it forms large, perfectly manicured bowling balls. Hot mud pools also burble, while the cone of the volcanic Mount Oakan watches over the area, echoing Mount Fuji’s symmetrical splendour. Ainu Kotan is close by, and you can visit to experience the authentic culture of northern Japan’s native people.