Ryuhyo Drift Ice 流氷

Ryuhyo drift ice
Ryuhyo drift ice

Spectacular drift ice at Hokkaido's northern frontier

Stretching all the way to Siberia, the Ryuhyo drift ice of the Okhotsk Sea grips Hokkaido's northern coast in a deep freeze for much of winter. You can see this extraordinary natural phenomenon from many points along the Okhotsk Sea, and experience it up close in a variety of fascinating ways.

Don't Miss

  • The ice at various vantage points at the Okhotsk Sea, from mid-January to late March
  • Ryuhyo drift ice frequently overflows into the adjacent Nemuro Strait in February and March

How to Get There

Monbetsu Airport, Memanbetsu Airport (for Abashiri) and Nakashibetsu Airport (for Rausu) all offer direct flights from Tokyo and Sapporo.

To get to Abashiri, the limousine bus from Memanbetsu Airport to Abashiri Bus Terminal takes 40 minutes. From here it is a 10-minute walk to the Aurora icebreaking ship. For Nakashibetsu, the bus to Rausu takes 75 minutes. Get off at the michi-no-eki (rest station) and the two nature cruise storefronts are right next door. For Monbetsu, take a 15-minute taxi from the bus station or airport to the Garinko 2 icebreaker.

A bus from Sapporo to Monbetsu or Abashiri takes about 6 hours, and 7.5 hours to Nakashibetsu.

Quick Facts

Hokkaido is the southernmost point in the Northern Hemisphere where you can see drift ice

The drift ice begins a 1,000-kilometer journey from the Amur River on the Russian-Chinese border

Freshwater freezes on top of denser seawater then travels south on winds and ocean currents

Catching the drift

One of the best and easiest ways to experience the drift ice is on an icebreaker ship. You can hop on one of these at Abashiri or Monbetsu. An attractive alternative is a sight-seeing cruise from Rausu into the Nemuro Strait. Whichever you choose, take your binoculars and look out for Steller's sea eagles and seals on your journey.

Other angles

If you want to simply admire the beautiful views along the coastline at your leisure, take the Ryuhyo-Monogatari train from Abashiri to Shiretoko-Shari. For the more extreme, try an ice drift walk, swim, or even scuba diving at the town of Utoro. If none of these has sufficiently sated your thirst for drift ice knowledge, go to the Okhotsk Ryuhyo Museum in Abashiri to learn about the fascinating science behind the sea ice.

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