Hokkaido, Ja­pan

The great north­ern wilder­ness

Action Asia - - ISLANDS -

Ja­pan’s north­ern­most is­land has be­come a hugely pop­u­lar win­ter­time play­ground. Niseko has been the pathfinder thanks to im­mense and re­li­able dumps of pow­der through­out the longish win­ter, mean­ing ski­able con­di­tions from De­cem­ber to April and some­times longer. Com­ing up fast are a raft of smaller re­sorts like Fu­rano, Kiroro and oth­ers, vy­ing for a piece of the com­mer­cial ac­tion, while more ad­ven­tur­ous skiers and rid­ers are ex­plor­ing the back­coun­try at for­got­ten smaller fields across the is­land, and in wild Daiset­suzan Na­tional Park at its heart. There are other, con­trast­ing ex­pe­ri­ences to be had too. Head north to the coast at the right time and you’ll find sea ice that has been blown down across the Sea of Okhotsk from Siberia to bob pic­turesquely in the bays. In the lit­tle towns of Shari and Rausu in the Shire­toko Penin­sula, you can rent dry suits to go out and float among it. If you’re lucky you might be joined by some of the im­pres­sive lo­cal rap­tors in­clud­ing the ma­jes­tic Steller’s Sea Ea­gle. Hik­ing tours al­low ac­cess to the forested spine of the penin­sula, guides ex­plain­ing the tricks of sur­vival for man and beast in the bit­ter con­di­tions. Shire­toko has one of the dens­est pop­u­la­tions of brown bears any­where but they are deep in hi­ber­na­tion at this time. That great op­por­tunist, the fox though, is of­ten seen.

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