Sponsored by Okhotsk-Monbetsu Airport Photo by Aflo
Selected by ZEKKEI Japan’s editorial department
Introducing the stunning scenery of early summer—let water and greenery soothe your body and soul
At ZEKKEI Japan, we deliver to the globe the very best of scenery and culture from across Japan. Continuing from our collection of beautiful fields of flowers, today we will focus on the healing powers of nature. The vistas of Hokkaido are truly magnificent in scale. This is especially true for the soothing scenery of early summer we recommend in Okhotsk Monbetsu, an area located on the eastern side of Hokkaido. We will focus on two specific scenic destinations today, both of them confidently recommended by the ZEKKEI Japan editorial department.
Yamabiko Falls Engaru
Fantastic water views
Following the walking path that winds along the mossy mountain stream, stroll up the trail for about 10 minutes as the sound of the waterfall in the heart of the primeval forest draws nearer. At last, you’ll arrive to the unusual Yamabiko Falls (“yamabiko” means “echo”), descending from a height of 28 meters and viewable from all sides! This waterfall doesn’t have a basin, so you’re able to go around to the “rear” of the waterfall. If you take photos from “behind” the waterfall, you’ll be able to capture an atmospheric, magical photo like the one shown above. The spray soaring down from the top of the waterfall will leave you feeling cleansed to your very core.
Also, nearby you’ll find Narita Fudo-son (another name for Acala, a Buddhist King of Wisdom) enshrined, and the location is said to be a spiritually beneficial because the waterfall faces it directly from the east. Come, walk along the trail and feel the energy of the forest and the falls.
Lake Saroma Saroma/Yubetsu
Spectacular lakeside scenery
So big you’ll be surprised to discover that it’s not actually the sea, Lake Saroma is the largest lake in Hokkaido and the third-largest in Japan. One of its notable characteristics is the brackish water, brackish water being a mixture of fresh and salt water. Lake Saroma was actually once part of the ocean, formed after sand built up and separated it from the sea. Stand where it connects to the ocean and you’ll be able to enjoy a view where the Sea of Okhotsk spreads out to your left and Lake Saroma to your right. Climb the observation platform to take in the whole of the lake below—you’ll be left speechless at the sheer grandeur of the sight. If luck is with you, you might even be treated to a sea of clouds!
One thing we definitely recommend that you experience first-hand is the setting sun at Lake Saroma. A clear and transparent blue throughout the day, the waters take on a multitude of colors when reflecting the last light of day. The dramatic and shifting shades of the sky together with the encompassing orange light make this one of the most beautiful sites in Japan. It’s no wonder photographers from across the country flock here. If you want to truly savor the scale of Hokkaido, be sure to put Lake Saroma on your itinerary.
Learn from a pro! A photographer’s tips for capturing waterfalls and sunsets
Be sure to set your shutter speed a little slower than usual. A fast shutter speed won’t capture the movement of the waterfall, sometimes leading to pictures that miss out on the allure of the water’s motion. This is also a good time to use a polarizing filter. Depending on the volume of water and other factors, use a shutter speed of 1/4 s as a rough guide. Also, if your exposure is too long, the falling water will end up as a whitish bloom, so moderation is key.
What’s key here is the balance between the land and the sky. It’s not uncommon to end up turning the landscape into a blackish mass when trying to depict the beauty of the sky in photography. Using tools like filters can be very effective in striking a balance between the sky and the other features.
We’ve got more highlights for you yet!・・・
Climb the hills that look down on the town of Okoppe and you’ll be greeted with a vision of green pastures stretching out to the horizon. This idyllic area has many large-scale grazing lands that make excellent use of Hokkaido’s spaciousness. Take a leisurely afternoon to enjoy the landscape, watching the cattle as they graze. You can also buy a number of different dairy products in town, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.
Lake Komuke Monbetsu
A paradise for wild birds and holy land for bird watchers, Lake Komuke is famous as a migration landing zone for rare birds like whopper swans and tundra swans. Don’t forget your binoculars when you go! Come the end of the day, revitalize yourself for the coming morrow and gaze out onto the lake as the sun sets peacefully in the west.
Crab Claw Statue Monbetsu
A massive objet d'art towering over the shore, the crab claw statue is a Okhotsk Monbetsu landmark. It may surprise you to hear that this peculiar 12-meter statue once floated on top of ice floes! It is also a photography hotspot, and if you want to boast about your trip out to Okhotsk Monbetsu, be sure to snap a photo and share it!
Hinode Cape Omu
“Hinode” means “sunrise,” and as you’d expect this is the place to go if you want to see the sun rising over the Sea of Okhotsk—delight in the shifting colors of the ocean’s horizon, the breadth and nearness of the sea, and the fishing boats leaving harbor toward the rising sun. The sight of the sunrise from Hinode Cape is sure to be a memory that’ll stay with you forever. On a side note, the sunrise in June and July is around 4 AM, so make sure to wake up early to get out to the cape in time!
What to eat in Okhotsk Monbetsu
While in Okhotsk Monbetsu, you’ll be able to enjoy the triple-crown of crab dining: horsehair crab, red king crab, and snow crab, all at once! Shell-baked crab is a delectable, lavish dish of crab meat and kani-miso (crab innards) served on the shell. Stir then savor one of the world’s finest flavor compositions. Traditionally, a little of the kani-miso is left to then be savored together with sake poured into the shell.
Thriving in the ice-floe waters of the Sea of Okhotsk, the scallops of the Okhotsk coast are fresh, firm, and nutritious. They’re known for making a filling and substantial meal. Try them raw as sashimi, of course, but don’t miss out on the other tasty ways to enjoy them, such as deep-fried or pan fried with butter.
The asparagus of Engaru is sweet and packed with nutrients. The secret of its delicate sweetness lies with the pronounced difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures in this mountainous region. At the beginning of summer, Engaru asparagus has tender skin—just cook it to bring out its delectable fragrance and enjoy the flavors of the season unadorned. It’s also popular as a special gift!
Kamaboko (fish cake)
If there’s one edible souvenir that’s truly Okhotsk Monbetsu, it’s kamaboko crab cake, made by hand using techniques passed down the generations. There are many types available, including deluxe kamaboko with crab and scallop as well as cakes you can prepare at home. You’ll also be able to taste kamaboko straight out of the deep-fryer at the shops, so be sure to have a bite when you’re shopping for souvenirs.
What kind of destination is Okhotsk Monbetsu?
How do I get there?
Monbetsu Airport is only an hour and 45 minute flight from Haneda Airport in Tokyo. Also, there’s free shuttle service that connects the airport to Monbetsu in a mere 15 minutes! Once you’ve dropped off your luggage at the hotel, you can start exploring right away.
What’s the climate like?
In June, the maximum temperature is around 16°C and the minimum 9°C, with temperatures rising to around a 20°C maximum and 14°C minimum in July. Together with the lack of rainy season in Hokkaido, the climate during these months is very pleasant indeed. However, we still recommend packing a light-weight coat for your travels.
What makes it special?
From January to March, winter boating tours are popular, and you’ll be able to enjoy the sight of ice floes on the Sea of Okhotsk. Throughout almost the entire year, you’ll be able to savor seafood including crabs, scallops and whelks. It’s only here that you’ll find people saying, “Of course seafood’s both cheap and delicious!”
Want to see flower field vistas in Okhotsk Monbetsu?
Get to know Okhotsk Monbetsu
Share the soothing scenery