Drift Ice Museums
Besides drift ice festivals, both Abashiri and Monbetsu also house a drift ice museum. Each of the museums, the Okhotsk Drift Ice Museum in Abashiri and Okhotsk Sea Ice Museum of Hokkaido GIZA in Monbetsu, has a subzero exhibition room where you can see and touch the actual drift ice even during summer.
Drift ice museum in Abashiri also housing Mt. Tento Observatory.
There are also hands-on activities, informative displays about drift ice and wildlife associated with it, as well as audio visual hall showing movies related to drift ice and natural beauty of the areas. Don’t miss the opportunity to see the adorable clione or “sea angels”, a type of mollusk that can be found underneath the sea ice.
Clione also known as sea angel
Okhotsk Drift Ice Museum オホーツク流氷館
Opening Hours | 8:30 AM – 6:00 PM (May to Oct), 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM (Nov to Apr)
Website | https://www.ryuhyokan.com/guide/en/home.html
Okhotsk Sea Ice Museum of Hokkaido GIZA 北海道立オホーツク流氷科学センター
Opening Hours | 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (closed on Mondays)
Website | http://giza-ryuhyo.com/eng/index.html (multilingual brochures available)
Extra information that may be useful:
- The amount of drift ice varies every day even in February. It is possible that on some days, you don’t see any ice floating at the sea at all.
- Guided tours and drift ice cruises are popular and tend to fill up quickly during peak season. Always book in advance.
- Still, the trips are subject to change or even cancellation due to weather conditions, the amount of drift ice available on the day, or the minimum participant count is not met. Check with the respective operators when making a reservation or before departure.
- Reservations or inquiries about the tours and cruises can be made at tourist information centres, tour operators’ offices, and also hotels or ryokans. It is also possible to check it online, although some understanding of Japanese might be required.
Visiting Hokkaido in Winter
While Hokkaido in winter offers some of the most heavenly scenery, there are things to take note when traveling around the island during winter.
It gets dark early (around 4 PM) and getting to your destinations may take a longer time than expected. Take into account winter weather conditions when planning your journey. It would be good also to have a backup plan in case your itinerary is affected by bad weather.
Public transport especially bus services tend to be limited or not operating at all during winter. On the other hand, driving rental car in rather outback Eastern Hokkaido during harsh winter could be dangerous and not recommended, unless you have experience in winter driving.
Visitors can make good use of JR trains, guided tours, as well as special bus services such as the East Hokkaido Sightseeing Bus and East Hokkaido Express Bus which connect major winter sightseeing spots including the boarding points for icebreaker ships and areas providing accommodations.
These websites may be useful to you:
Eastern Hokkaido Sightseeing Bus (winter edition)
East Hokkaido Express Bus (available in winter only)