Drift ice is a natural phenomenon that occurs in the middle of winter from late January to early March. It is caused by ice from the Amur River in Russia flowing southward across the ocean to the Sea of Okhotsk. The Shiretoko Peninsula in Northeastern Hokkaido is said to be the southernmost point where you can see drift ice. While most people go on icebreaker cruises or just see the ice from the shore, a unique and exciting way to experience this winter occurrence is to go on a drift ice walk. One tour operator who offers this kind of tour is MEPS (Marine Enterprise Project Shiretoko). Their tour guides are all local fishermen or divers, and they will show you how to enjoy the drift ice safely. First you wear a rubber dry suit that keeps your body warm and dry. You then follow the tour guides as they traverse around 1 kilometer across the drift ice, making sure to avoid the dangerous areas. The most exciting part of the tour is lying down on top of the ice floes or jumping into the water to float with them in the sea. Since drift ice is a natural phenomenon, its amount and condition varies by the day and even by the hour, so no two tour sessions are exactly the same. But one thing’s for sure, a walk across the drift ice will be one of your most memorable winter experiences in Hokkaido.
Shiretoko Drift Ice Walk
Address: Utoro Higashi 117, Shari Town, Hokkaido
Website: http://meps.biz/ (Website available only in Japanese)
Phone: +81-152-22-5288 (Japanese language only)
*For reservations in English, contact your hotel in Shiretoko or use the Shari Tourist Association contact form at https://www.shiretoko.asia/world/shiretoko_contact.html
Season: Early February to mid-March
Cost: 5,000 yen
Tour times: ①9:00, ②11:00, ③13:00
Time required: About 1 hour 30 minutes
Requirements: Participants must be at least 140 cm in height and 100 kg or lower in weight
Information about transport passes:
JR Hokkaido Rail Pass
Travelling within Hokkaido
*Information is correct as of January 2019.