Kushiro (釧路) is Eastern Hokkaido’s largest port town (population 169,000) and one of Japan’s premier fishing bases facing the Pacific Ocean. Summer is often cool and grey, but a foggy night on the river bank is fantastic. A wide variety of tasty seafood and sushi fascinates many travelers. Kushiro is predominantly transit point for the national parks in Eastern Hokkaido, such as Kushiro Shitsugen and Akan-Mashu.
幣舞橋 / Kita-Odori
Hokkaido’s most well-known bridge across Kushiro-gawa, Nusamai-bashi offers dramatic views of both a gorgeous sunset and a foggy night with colorful city lights. The riverside promenade is a favourite for stroll.
02 SHOPPING COMPLEX
Kushiro Fisherman’s Wharf MOO
釧路フィッシャーマンズワーフムー / 2-4 Nishiki-cho / Shopping zone 10am-7pm, from 9am Jul & Aug / Closed 1 Jan / www.moo946.com
Famed local architect Mozuna Kiko designed the striking shopping complex Fisherman’s Wharf MOO in 1989 near Nusamai-bashi. It houses souvenir and seafood shops, eateries and a tourist information counter. There is also an open-air deck facing the river.
和商市場 / 13-25 Kurogane-cho / 8am-6pm Mon-Sat late Apr-Nov & Dec incl Sun, to 5pm Mon-Sat Jan-Mar, to 4pm Sun late Apr-Nov / www.washoichiba.com
Dating back to 1954, Kushiro’s oldest market is two minutes’ walk west of the train station and best known for its katte-don (seafood bowl topped with a wide range of sashimi as you like it). Buy a rice (from ¥100) at deli at first, then choose sashimi (raw fishes: price varies) from the vendors.
04 SCENIC VIEWPOINT
まなぼっと幣舞 / 4-28 Nusamai-cho / 9am-10pm / Closed Mon / FREE / Wi-Fi / www.kushiro-bunka.or.jp/manabo
This hilltop light-brown cultural hub includes the Kushiro Art Gallery (10am-5pm Tue-Sun / ¥140) with frequently changing exhibitions by local artists. On the top floor is an observatory overlooking the town.
05 LOCAL HISTORY
Kushiro City Museum
釧路市立博物館 / 1-7 Shunko-cho / 9.30am-5pm / Closed Mon / ¥470 / Wi-Fi
Located on a lakeside hill of Harutori-ko, the crane-shaped city museum was built in 1983 to a design by Mozuna Kiko. It focuses on Kushiro’s nature and history, with displays on many artefacts of Ainu, finds from local ruins, stuffed animals and specimens. From Kushiro Station stop 11, take bus 12 to the Shiritsu Byoin-mae (市立病院前: twice hourly / 10min / ¥220), from where it is a 3-minute walk to the museum.
Surrounded by the hillside residential areas near the city center, the 36-hectare brackish lake Harutori-ko is an oasis of green and water, with more than 130 species of birds come here. A 5km-long circumference walkway runs along the lake.
On the northern shore, you will find the Lake Harutori Nature Center (春採湖ネイチャーセンター: 10.30am-4pm Apr-Oct, to 3.30pm Oct / Closed Mon / FREE), with displays and photos. Kushiro City Museum is a good starting point for explore the lake.
07 LOCAL HISTORY
港文館 / 2-1-12 O-machi / 10am-6pm, to 5pm Nov-Nov / Closed Mon, 31 Dec-3 Jan / FREE
Kobunkan is a lovely red brick reconstruction of the Meiji period’s Kushiro Shinbun Press building on the south bank of Kushiro-gawa. Inside is a museum with historical collection of poet Ishikawa Takuboku who worked in Kushiro in 1908 (just 76 days).
08 ART MUSEUM
Kushiro Art Museum, Hokkaido
北海道立釧路芸術館 / 4-1-5 Saiwai-cho / 9.30am-5pm / Admission adult ¥460, student ¥200, child FREE / www.kushiro-artmu.jp
This red brick art museum on the river bank presents permanent and frequently changing exhibitions on varied themes. There is a cafe, shop and library.
09 SCIENCE CENTER
Kushiro Children’s Museum Kodomo Yugakukan
釧路市こども遊学館 / 10-2 Saiwai-cho / 9.30am-5pm / Closed Mon / Adult ¥590, child ¥120 / With a planetarium adult ¥960, child ¥220 / www.kodomoyugakukan.jp
If you need a break from the kids, bring them to this glass-covered science museum. It has hands-on interactive exhibits on planets, technologies, playgrounds and a planetarium.
The limited express trains Ozora connect Kushiro with Sapporo (6 daily / 4hrs) via Obihiro (1.5hrs). The scenic JR lines from Kushiro head east for Nemuro (6 daily / 2.5hrs), and north for Abashiri (5 daily / 3.5hrs).
From Kushiro, highway buses run to Sapporo (5 daily incl a night bus / 5hrs 15min), Asahikawa (2 daily / 6.5hrs), Kitami (2 daly / 3hrs) and Nemuro (2-3 daily / 2.5hrs).