The coastal industrial city of Tomakomai (苫小牧市) 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.
Points of interests in Tomakomai
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) and Muroran (80min).
Intercity buses run from Sapporo Station (hourly; 1hr 40min).
(ウトナイ湖) 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).
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
For the lakeside of Utonai-ko, Donan Bus runs roughly hourly from Tomakomai Station (39min) and New Chitose Airport (24min).
Midorigaoka Park and Takaoka Forest Park
(緑ヶ丘公園 · 高丘森林公園) 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 overlooking the city and active volcano Tarumae-zan.
(錦大沼公園) 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).
Northern Horse Park
(ノーザンホースパーク) 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.
More info www.northern-horsepark.jp