Between Abashiri and Shari along the Sea of Okhotsk, Koshimizu (小清水) area makes a good stopover on the way to Shiretoko or Kushiro. The photogenic highlights are dotted around the pleasant brackish lake Tofutsu-ko (濤沸湖).
01 LAKE & BIRDWATCHING
濤沸湖 / 203-3 Kitahama, Abashiri-shi / www.tofutsu-ko.jp
Located between Abashiri and Shari along the Sea of Okhotsk, this pleasant lagoon is visited by many birds, including whooper swan (in winter), gadwall, white-tailed eagle and gray heron.
Birdwatchers should head for the Tofutsu-ko Waterfowl and Wetland Center (濤沸湖水鳥・湿地センター / 9am-5pm / Closed Mon, 29 Dec-3 Jan / FREE) on the western shore of the lake. It has useful brochures (in English) and a limited number of free rental bike.
The center is a 10-minute walk east of JR Kitahama Station. Buses from Abashiri stop at Hakucho Koen-iriguchi (白鳥公園入口).
02 NATURAL FLOWER GARDEN
小清水原生花園 / Hama-Koshimizu / 24hrs / FREE / Wi-Fi except the off-season
Hokkaido’s most easily accesible wildflower garden by public transport, Koshimizu Genseikaen on a 8km-long sandbank is sandwiched between the Sea of Okohotsk and Tofutsu-ko, with over 40 species of flowers bloom from June to July.
From May to October, trains from Abashiri and Kushiro on the JR Senmo Line stop at Genseikaen Station (原生花園駅). Regular buses from Abashiri also stop here.
03 SCENIC VIEWPOINT
フレトイ展望台 / Hama-Koshimizu / 9am-5pm / FREE
This pyramid-shaped observatory on the coastal dunes feature scenic views of the sea, lake and the Shiretoko Peninsula. In winter you might be able to see drift ice. It is a short walk from JR Hama-Koshimizu Station.
原生亭 / 137-1 Hama-Koshimizu / 1-9pm / Closed none scheduled / ¥300
On the pleasant eastern shore of Tofutsu-ko, onsen enthusiasts should detour to Genseitei. Bathing rooms are very small but the waters are full of botanical minerals (hot!). It is 2km south of JR Hama-Koshimizu Station.
Koshimizu & Tofutsu-ko Map
There are seven trains daily between Abashiri and Shiretoko-Shari on the JR Senmo Line. Genseikaen Station, between Kitahama and Hama-Koshimizu, is open from May to October each year.
Abashiri Bus (www.abashiribus.com) runs from Abashiri bus terminal stop 5 to Koshimizu (小清水: 5-7 daily / 53min), stopping at Hakucho Koen-iriguchi near Tofutsu-ko, Genseikaen and JR Hama-Koshimizu Station. About half of buses leave and arrive at JR Abashiri Station.
During the high-seasons (mid Jun-early Oct & late Jan-mid Mar), Shari Bus (sharibus.co.jp) operates Shiretoko Airport Liner between Utoro Onsen and Memanbetsu Airport via JR Abashiri Station and Shari bus terminal, stopping at Genseikaen (summer season) or Hakucho-koen-iriguchi (winter season).