Abashiri (網走) is the historical and cultural heart of Okhotsk Region. In 1890 the town has set up the prison for dissidents, political prisoners and criminals. They spent in the solitary confinement and worked for the road construction. The town has varied museums, lakes and places to stay, which makes it an ideal place for explore.
Highlights Abashiri Prison Museum, View from Tento-zan, Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples
Tourist Information Abashiri Station Tourist Information Center (網走駅観光案内所): Noon-5pm, from 9am Sat & Sun / www.abakanko.jp
01 LOCAL HISTORY
Abashiri Prison Museum
博物館網走監獄 / Abashiri Kangoku / 1-1 Yobito; 8.30am-6pm May-Sep, 9am-5pm Oct-Apr / Adult ¥1110, student ¥770, child ¥550 / www.kangoku.jp
This open-air museum has 25 historical and reconstructed buildings from Abashiri Prison, that includes wooden prison houses, a courthouse, administration building, lecture hall and bathhouse. The penological museum shows a virtual movie, with old artefacts and a reproduced present isolation cell.
02 HISTORIC BUILDING
網走刑務所 / Abashiri Keimusho / Sancho / Direct sales office 10am-3.45pm Apr-Nov (from 9am Sat & Sun), 10am-2.45pm Feb-Mar (9am-3.15pm Sat & Sun) / Dawn-dusk / Bus to the Keimusho-mae (Abashiri Prison)
Dating back to 1890, this working prison is closed to the public (of course), but the most of the outside grounds are open to all. The red brick walls and its main gate were the setting for the film Abashiri Prison (1965) played by Takakura Ken.
Opposite the main gate, the direct sales office sells wood crafts and dolls produced by prison inmates.
03 SCIENCE MUSEUM & SCENIC VIEWPOINT
オホーツク流氷館 / 244 Tentozan / 8.30am-6pm May-Oct, 9am-4pm Nov-Apr, 10am-3pm 29 Dec-5 Jan / Exhibition adult ¥770, child 550 / Wi-Fi / Bus to Okhotsk Ryuhyokan / www.ryuhyokan.com
On the summit of Tento-zan (天都山), the Okhotsk Ryuhokan offers informative exhibits of real sea ice and local fishes, with a dramatic film. There is an observation deck on the top floor with breathtaking views over the ocean. There is also a scenic cafe-restaurant.
04 OKHOTSK CULTURE
Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples
北海道立北方民族博物館 / Hoppo Minzoku Hakubutsukan / 309-1 Shiomi / 9am-5pm Jul-Sep, 9.30am-4.30pm Oct-Jun / Closed Mon except holiday & Jul-Sep / ¥550 / Wi-Fi / hoppohm.org
About a 10-minute walk from the Ryuhyokan, this well-presented museum focuses on native northern people around the world, including Ainu, Nivkh, Russia, Scandinavia and Alaska. Exhibits include cloths, artefacts, languages, hunting tools and the Okhotsk Culture. You can rent a free audio guide.
05 LOCAL HISTORY
Abashiri Municipal Museum
網走市立郷土博物館 / 1-1-3 Katsura-machi / 9am-5pm, to 4pm Nov-Apr / Closed Mon & holiday / ¥120 / www.city.abashiri.hokkaido.jp/270kyoiku
Located in an imposing 1936 building (designed by Tanoue Yoshiya) on the old Ainu fort, this municipal museum traces local history with an engaging mix of cultural artefacts from the Paleolithic Age, 300 species of birds and staffed local animals.
06 OKHOTSK CULTURE
Moyoro Shell Mound Museum
モヨロ貝塚館 / N1E2 / 9am-5pm, to 4pm Nov-Apr / Closed Mon & holiday except Jul-Sep / ¥300 / moyoro.jp
On the mouth of Abashiri-gawa, Moyoro was a site of fishing settlement about 1300 years ago. This museum has archaeological finds, shell mounds, a cemetery and an exhibit on the history of the Okhotsk Culture (5th- to 9th-century). There are also sites of dwellings and cemeteries on the ground. It is about a 10-minute walk from Abashiri bus terminal.
07 LOCAL ART
Abashiri Municipal Art Museum
網走市立美術館 / S6W1 / 10am-4pm / Closed Mon, holiday, 31 Dec-5 Jan / ¥120
The city’s art museum presents collection of local art and paintings such as Igushi Kaichi (1911-1955). Temporary exhibits change every months.
TRAIN: For Abashiri, there are a couple of direct limited express trains Okhotsk running every day from Sapporo (5.5hrs). The two seasonal limited express trains Taisetsu running every day from Asahikawa (3hrs 40min).
Abashiri is the end of the JR Sekihoku Line and connects to the JR Senmo Line, which runs south to Kushiro (5 daily / 3.5hrs) via Shiretoko-Shari (7 daily / 40min).
BUS: The Dreamint Okhotsk-go services between Sapporo and Abashiri (8 daily incl a night bus / 5hrs 50min). Compulsory reservation.
From Abashiri bus terminal via JR Abashiri Station, the tourist attractions sightseeing bus (1-day pass ¥800) runs to the Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples (18min / ¥420) via the Okhotsk Ryuhyokan.
From 20 July to 8 October, buses continue to the Hana Tento hillside flower garden.
In winter buses run from and to the Michi-no-eki Ryuhyo Kaido Abashiri (道の駅流氷街道網走) at the drift ice cruise terminal.