If you're contemplating a winter escape to Hokkaido, the northeastern portion of the prefecture has some hidden gems that shouldn't be missed. One such gem is the Okhotsk Tokkari Center in Monbetsu, which operates as a conservation facility for earless seals. You're able to see these wonderful animals up close, even having the opportunity to feed them and engage in play with them.
The seals are incredibly intelligent and able to respond to commands - we saw the seals catch hoops around their necks, roll over, and clap their flippers on their bellies. The small entrance fee of 200 yen for adults and 100 yen for children ages 6 to 12 years is used to put towards conservation efforts, food, and rehabilitation for injured seals. Children five years and under are admitted for free.
The Okhotsk Tokkari Center is located in Monbetsu, approximately ten minutes drive from the Okhotsk Monbetsu Airport. Taxis and car rental vehicles are both available from the airport itself.
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I'm an Australian who has lived abroad for almost a decade, including 7 years in Japan - specifically Tokyo and Niigata. I've visited 44 of 47 prefectures, with only Kagoshima, Miyazaki and Kumamoto left to check out. I'm particularly fond of exploring off the beaten path destinations, gardens, and tea houses, and have a real interest in Japan's growing vegan scene.