What's interesting inside Hokkaido's icebreakers?
There is one special thing that can't be missed when you visit Hokkaido in winter: Travelling on an icebreaker.
A close-up inside the Hokkaido's icebreaker
Coming to Hokkaido during winter, you'll definitely regret it if you miss the special experience of getting on an icebreaker – a marine vessel that sails through ice-covered waters. Icebreakers are designed with a large system of screw shaft that breaks ice layers when they navigate through the ice.
Though having gone on cruises - either by boats or ships - many times, it was my first time navigating through a sea of ice. It was freezing, but super exciting at the same time.
When the ship departed, there was not much ice beneath, but the longer we sailed, the more frozen the sea became. We could see clearly the thickness of icebergs broken apart. During that 1-hour trip, you could enjoy the scenery that was as magnificent as that from European winter. Sometimes, seabirds were gliding across the sky.
Don't forget to put on warm clothes like multi-layered coats, wear gloves, and cover your head with woollen caps before getting on an icebreaker.
You can go outside the main cabin to observe the giant icebergs more closely. When it gets too windy, just get inside for a cup of hot coffee.
Drifting glaciers can be observed from February to April, depending on how weather changes.
There are two types of icebreakers: the Garinko II Icebreaker and the Aurora Sightseeing Icebreaker - a huge-sized tourist vessel with a capacity of 450 people. During summer, you can try going fishing on the Garinko II. There are services that rent fishing rods and sell fish baits, besides selling fish caught from the sea.
Some images inside the icebreaker:
The Aurora Sightseeing Icebreaker departs from Michinoeki Ryuhyo-kaido Abashiri on the mouth of Abashiri River. From JR Sekihoku Main line's Abashiri Station, you can get on Junkai-bus, then get off at Michinoeki Ryuhyo-saihyosen-noriba bus-stop.
Address: 4-5-1, Minami 3 Johigashi, Abashiri-shi, Hokkaido, 093-0003.
Price: 3.300 JPY per adult; 1.650 JPY per child
The Garinko II Icebreaker in Monbetsu departs from Okhotsk Tokkari Center. To reach Okhotsk Tokkari Center, from Engaru Station of JR Sekihoku Main line, you can get on Hokumon-bus heading to Monbetsu, get off at the last bus-stop and then take another 10-minute ride.
If you go by car, after getting off the Kamikawa Tenmaku IC of Asahikawa-Monbetsu Expressway, you should take the Highway no.273 that leads to Takinoue. It usually takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes. There is a parking area free of charge.
Address: 1 Kaiyo-koen, Monbetsu-shi, Hokkaido, "Drifting Icebreaker Garinko II", 094-0031.
Price: 3.000 JPY per adult; 1.500 JPY per child
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