Monbetsu (紋別) is the third-largest city in Okhotsk Region and most travelers come here to take an ice breaker cruise and meet the seals in winter. The city’s main attractions are dotted around the center and the Gariya Zone (ガリヤゾーン) waterfront district at the south side of the port. It is also a good base for traveling to Wakkanai by bus or car along the coastal Okhotsk Line (Route 238).
Highlights Drift Icebreaker Garinko-go, Okhotsk Sea Ice Museum of Hokkaido, Okhotsk Tokkari Center Goma-chan Land
Tourist Information Monbetsu Tourism Promotion Corporation (紋別観光案内所): Monbetsu bus terminal, 5-24-1 Saiwai-cho / 9am-5.30pm / mombetsu.net/en/recommend
01 LOCAL HISTORY
Monbetsu City Museum
紋別市立博物館 / 3-1-4 Saiwai-cho / 9.30am-5pm / Closed Mon, day after a holiday, 30 Dec-6 Jan / FREE
This earnest free museum takes a look at the city’s history, models, maritime displays and mining artefacts. Behind the museum, there is an art gallery (geijutsu-kan) exhibitions tend to focus on local artists. It is a few minutes’ walk north from the bus terminal.
02 SCENIC VIEWPOINT
紋別公園 / Monbetsu Koen / 24hrs / FREE
The city center’s pleasant spot for a walk, this hilltop park is about a 10-minute walk north from the bus terminal. At the entrance near Itsukushima Jinja (厳島神社), you will find the Okhotsk Garden (オホーツク庭園) that has three artificial falls.
On the top of the park, there is a small observation tower (8.45am-5.30pm; / Free) with views of town and the Sea of Okhotsk. The park is open in winter, too.
03 SHOPPING & EATING
氷紋の駅 / 4-1-1 Saiwai-cho / 9.30am-8pm, ramen shop 11am-8pm Fri-Wed
Opposite the bus terminal, Hyomon-no-eki (at the site of Old Monbetsu train station) is a convenient shopping mall housing a well-stocked supermarket and a ramen shop.
はまなす通り / 6-3-9 Saiwai-cho / Around 5pm-late / marugoto-m.net
About 300m south of the bus terminal, this street is a good place to look for nostalgic izakaya, pubs and bars after dark. Check out Marugoto Monbetsu for more listings.
05 GARIYA ZONE: SCIENCE MUSEUM
Okhotsk Sea Ice Museum of Hokkaido
北海道立オホーツク流氷科学センター / 11 Moto-Monbetsu / 9am-5pm / Closed Mon, day after a holiday, 29 Dec-3 Jan / Admission adult ¥450, child FREE / With astrovision adult ¥750 / giza-ryuhyo.com
The world’s only scientific sea ice museum has displays on lumps of ryuhyo (drift ice) and frozen local fishes in the -20C ‘cold experience room’. It also has numerous exhibits of sea ice, models and clione (sea slugs). A newly renovated astrovision shows a sea ice film with English subtitles.
The museum houses the michi-no-eki (roadside station) Okhotsk Monbetsu with a cafeteria.
06 GARIYA ZONE: CRUISE
Drift Icebreaker Garinko-go
ガリンコ号 / Tel 0158-24-8000 / 1 Kaiyo-koen / Winter ¥3000, summer ¥1500 / o-tower.co.jp/publics/index/23
The main reason to visit Monbetsu in winter is to take the drift icebreaker Garinko-go into the Sea of Okhotsk. From 10 January to late March, one-hour cruises depart five times a day from the Gariya Zone at the south side of Monbetsu Port. Sunrise (6am) and sunset (4.10pm) cruises are available in February. You need to make reservations by the day before.
07 GARIYA ZONE: AQUARIUM
オホーツクタワー / 1 Kaiyo-koen / 10am-5pm / Closed 29 Dec-3 Jan / ¥800 / www.o-tower.jp
Built at the tip of the breakwater promenade, this offshore tower has an underground observation windows showcasing life under the sea, with live fish in tanks. You will be able to see drift ice in winter. The Okhotsk Theater (¥300) offers a 360 degrees 3D short playing.
08 GARIYA ZONE: PHOTOGENIC MONUMENT
カニの爪 / 2 Moto-Monbetsu
This 12m-high humorous object (called kani-no-tsume in Japanese) staring up on the beach near the Sea Ice Museum. It is a popular spot for photographing to tourists
09 GARIYA ZONE: SEALS
Okhotsk Tokkari Center Goma-chan Land
オホーツクとっかりセンターゴマちゃんランド / 2 Kaiyo-koen / 10am-5pm / ¥200
The Goma-chan Land runs a protective facility of local seals (tokkari in Ainu). Feeding times at the seal pond are five time in a day.
Adjoining the Goma-chan Land, visitors can hand-feed or training experiences at the seal pond of the Azarashi Sea Paradise (アザラシシーパラダイス). Check the website for feeding times.
- Monbetsu Bus Terminal
- 03 Okhotsk Hyomon-no-eki
- 01 Monbetsu City Museum
- 02 Itsukushima Jinja
- 02 Monbetsu Park
- 04 Hamanasu-dori
- Mombetsu Prince Hotel
- Okhotsk Sky Tower & O-yama Ski Area
- 05 Okhotsk Sea Ice Museum of Hokkaido
- 06 Drift Icebreaker Garinko-go Station
- 07 Okhotsk Tower
- 08 Crab Claw
- 09 Okhotsk Tokkari Center Goma-chan Land
The highway bus Ryuhyo Monbetsu-go (流氷もんべつ号) connects Monbetsu with Sapporo Station (4 daily / 4hrs 40min) and Asahikawa Station (4 daily / 3hrs). Some buses stop at Kamikawa Station (2hrs) on the JR Sekihoku Line (at the gateway to Sounkyo).
From Monbetsu bus terminal, local buses run to Engaru (遠軽: 9 daily / 1hr 25min), Takinoue (滝上: 6-9 daily / 70min) and Omu (雄武: 5 daily / 1hr 17min) via Okoppe (興部: 12 daily / 45min) on the coastal Okhotsk Line.
If you visit the Gakiya Zone from Monbetsu bus terminal, take the bus for Engaru (遠軽) and get off at the Okhotsk Tower-iriguchi (オホーツクタワー入口: 9 daily / 7min). From where, it is a few minutes’ walk to the waterfront.
In winter (late Jan-late Feb), the shuttle bus Gariya-go (ガリヤ号: flat ¥200) runs between Monbetsu bus terminal and the Sea Ice Museum, stopping at the hotels and the Garinko-go Station.