Enjoy floating icebergs in Monbetsu – Japan’s winter paradise for travelling
As it lies beside the Sea of Okhotsk, the place is famous for floating icebergs stopping by every year. Such laid-back icebergs have become the winter "muse" that everyone wants to admire.
Winter two years ago, I went to Furano for a skiing experience and visited Monbetsu, a city located in the northern part of Hokkaido – the northernmost province of Japan.
I was very excited to take up icebreaker and enjoy the scene of floating icebergs by the Sea of Okhotsk which was like I was exploring the North Pole. Such unforgettable feelings!
Commuting to Monbetsu - the ice city 300km away from Sapporo
In order to save money, I went by bus from Sapporo to Monbetsu, the fee was around 6.000¥ for a 4-hour long one-way ticket.
However, you can choose to fly straight from Tokyo’s airport to Monbetsu in just 1 hour 50 minutes, with the price of 40.000¥-50.000¥ for a one-way ticket depending on the time.
So as to fit with the next schedule, I only stopped here for 2 days and 1 night. Despite the short and hurried time, Monbetsu had definitely left an everlasting impression on me.
2 days and 1 night – What to do in Monbetsu?
1/ Visiting the Crab Claw Statue
Sitting right by the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk, the giant crab craw is up to 12m high, 6m wide and weighs 7 tons.
The statue was created as Monbetsu is one of the biggest fishing grounds in Japan and 4th in the world, specializing in delicious crab.
2/ Eating snow crab in Monbestu
For being the biggest fishing ground in Japan, Monbetsu has various types of fresh seafood but it is most famous for the scrumptious crabs, including king crab, snow crab… You can easily find any restaurants serving various type of crab dishes, such as crab hot pot, rice mixed with crab meat, grilled crab-roe,… Any dish is marvellously delicious.
I tried a snow crab dish at a big restaurant here. As it was steamed just right, the crab meat was very light, juicy yet very firm. One piece in and the sweet flavours just burst happily in your mouth.
One portion at this restaurant is ranged from 5.000-8.000¥/person – a decent price for a renowned seafood party.
3/ Okhotsk Tokkari Center- Home to the seals
This is the centre for caring and aiding wounded seals. Lying by the Sea of Okhotsk, Monbetsu is not only a seafood paradise but also home to the seals.
With only 200¥/adult and 100¥/child from 6 to 12 years old, you can see the beautiful seals up close, play with and feed the animal. The seals here are unfearful and very friendly. Their faces always look like they are smiling, lovingly welcoming the visitors.
4/ Watching sunrise by the Sea of Okhotsk
Though winter in Monbetsu is freezing, I guarantee that the sunrise here is definitely worth the watch.
Stroll along the beach as the cold breeze blowing peacefully, thermos in hand and take a sip of hot tea, enjoy the tranquillity as if time had stopped ticking.
5/ On-boarding the icebreaker, sightseeing the floating icebergs
This was the most exciting experience in this short yet interesting trip of mine to Monbetsu.
This experience featured the Garinko II - "the muse" of the Sea of Okhotsk, with two gigantic 6-meter countersinks at the forward region, strong enough to smash and cross any icebergs, pushing the ship forward.
To go on a tour by this ship, the fee on a day with floating icebergs is 3.000¥/adult and 1.500¥/child, whereas on a day without floating icebergs is 2500¥/adult and ¥/child.
Standing on the deck, though I had kept myself warm with so many layers of clothes, I could still feel cold to the bone with the breeze blowing. The ship sailed quite slowly so as for the tourists to admire the scenery. I found myself so small, surrounded by the endless sea and idle icebergs.
This trip made me feel as if I was exploring the so-far-away North Pole. The more I travelled, the more I felt that I had learned so much. My horizon was broadened and it made me realize I need to work harder so that I could see more of this splendid world!
How beautiful and fascinating Monbetsu is! What are you waiting for? Why don't you come and experience Monbetsu and tell me what you think about this lovely city!
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