The coastal industrial city of Tomakomai (苫小牧) has one of Japan’s vital commercial ports facing the Pacific Ocean. A number of long-distance ferries operate from Honshu. Most travelers skip this city, but Tomakomai offers a somewhat unique attractions such as a skating rink and bird sanctuary.
Location 28km south of Chitose, 65km south of Sapporo
Highlights Utonai-ko, Northern Horse Park
Tourist Information & Bike Rentals Tomakomai Tourism Association (苫小牧観光協会): Friend Building Cocotoma adjoining JR Tomakomai Station south gate / 5-11-5 Omote-machi / 9am-6pm / Closed 29 Dec-3 Jan / www.tomakomai-kanko.jp
01 LAKE & BIRDWATCHING
ウトナイ湖 / 156-26 Uenae
One of Hokkaido’s major landing zones for 260 migratory birds, the 275-hectare shallow lake of Utonai-ko is surrounded by the moor. Birdwatching is best in April and October. A 1.5km-long lakeside promenade connects the wildlife center and the Sanctuary (9am-5pm Sat & Sun / Free).
For the lakeside of Utonai-ko, Donan Bus runs roughly hourly from Tomakomai Station (39min) and New Chitose Airport (24min).
Just a short walk from Utonai-ko bus stop next to the roadside station, the Lake Utonai Wildlife Center (ウトナイ湖野生鳥獣保護センター) has large-scale wildlife paintings, galleries, binoculars and multilingual brochures.
Northern Horse Park
ノーザンホースパーク / 114-7 Misawa / 9am-5pm, to 6pm Jul & Aug (10am-4pm Nov-mid Apr) / ¥800 mid Apr-early Nov / www.northern-horsepark.jp
One of Japan’s big stallions run this scenic horse-themed park. An hourly free shuttle bus runs from New Chitose Airport (15min). No admission after 4pm and in winter.
03 PARK & HIKING
Midorigaoka Park and Takaoka Forest Park
緑ヶ丘公園 · 高丘森林公園 / 9-33 Takaoka / 24hrs
If you have a few hours to kill time on a clear day, take a walk or cycling at this hilltop oasis, about 2km north of JR Tomakomai Station.
The white Observation Tower (9am-9pm 20 Apr-31 Oct except 1st Mon of month, 10am-6pm Tue-Sun / FREE) has good views of the city and active volcano Tarumae-zan.
04 PARK & HIKING
錦大沼公園 / 421-1 Tarumae / FREE
The skirts of active volcano Tarumae-zan, this 236-hectare forest park is a popular spot with locals. It has plenty of attractions around the marshes of Nishiki O-numa (錦大沼) and Ko-numa, such as pleasant footpaths, onsen, campsites and cottages. June is the best forest bathing season.
The park is about 15km west of the city center. Take the Donan Bus 3 to Arten-mae (アルテン前) from JR Tomakomai Station north gate (4 daily / 42min).
TRAIN: All limited express trains connect Tomakomai with Sapporo (45min) and Hakodate (3hrs) on the JR Muroran Line. There are also local trains from Sapporo (1hr), Iwamizawa (1.5hrs), Muroran (80min) and Mukawa on the JR Hidaka Line.
BUS: Tomakomai bus terminal is located at the train station south gate.
Intercity buses run from Sapporo Station (hourly / 1hr 40min).
Airport shuttle buses run to New Chitose Airport (1hr) via Utonai-ko, departing roughly hourly from 6am.
There are also local buses to Biratori (1 daily / 1hr 45min), Shizunai (3 daily / 2.5hrs) and Noboribetsu Onsen (5 daily / 1.5hrs) via Shiraoi.