By Kim B
Japan is a country which is jam-packed full of diverse landscapes. You've got everything from mountain ranges to lush forests, tropical coastlines and even sand dunes. You may not have been aware that in the far north of Hokkaido, the winter months see the landscape turning into something usually more synonymous with the Arctic Circle than Japan, where drift ice accumulates off the coast of Monbetsu.
If you want to see the drift ice phenomenon up close, you're able to do just that by riding the Garinko II Ice Breaker Ship. For the price of 3000 yen for adults and 1500 yen for elementary aged children, you can score yourself a place on the ship and head out on the open water. The ship bores through the ice courtesy of a giant drill system that crushes the ice as it moves along, and is a truly incredible feat of engineering. If you're lucky enough, you even be able to see a variety of bird life and seals out braving the cold whilst you're on the ship.
The amount of ice that accumulates off the coast depends heavily on weather conditions. I visited in February 2018, and the staff said it was one of their better seasons for drift ice. If the conditions are such that there is no drift ice, you can still head out on the Garinko II, and prices are slightly discounted at 2500 yen for adults and 1250 yen for elementary aged children. Be sure to dress appropriately - there is an inside area on the ship, but heading outside on the deck can prove to be very chilly. A thick down jacket, gloves, scarf and beanie are a must!
The boarding point for the Garinko II Icebreaker Ship is located approximately a ten minute drive from the Okhotsk Monbetsu Airport. It's also in close proximity to other local attractions including the Okhotsk Tokkari Center and Bar Ikioi.
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