If you are visiting Hokkaido between mid January to early March, I highly recommend you to add Mombetsu as one of your travel stops. The highlight at Mombetsu is to experience an ice breaking cruise just off the Sea of Okhotsk.
Winter in Hokkaido is extremely cold. During daytime, the temperature can drop below -5C and you see powdery snow everywhere. Sometimes just around the corner, Mr. Snowman will pop out, greeting you on the street. Due to the cold condition, a trip out to sea might sound crazy. However it is only during mid January to early March that the drift ice reaches the Sea of Okhotsk after drifting down from the northern hemisphere. Therefore this is an opportunity not to be missed
During my trip to Hokkaido, I got the chance to hop on-board the ice breaking cruiser “Garinko II” to witness the drift ice floating across the Sea of Okhotsk. The bright red ice breaking cruiser is specially designed to navigate and cut through ice covered water. As the boat sets sail, flocks of seagulls started to follow behind. The seagulls seem to know that whenever there’s a boat with loads of tourists on board, food will also come by. The opportunistic sea gulls followed the boat, closely anticipating the special treat thrown up into the air. It’s a beautiful sight watching the sea gulls gliding up in the air and the boat cruising through the floating ice. On one hand, I had fun feeding the sea gulls with bread crumbs; on the other I was silently afraid that they might drop “S-bombs” onto my head.
In the open, the cold breeze is chilling to the face and hands. When I took off my gloves to snap a few shots, I can immediately feel the chill causing numbness to the fingers. A few snaps here and there and the boat is back to shore. The trip lasted barely an hour and it leaves me with so much fun and memories.
While still at Mombetsu, do drop by the 360 observatory deck at Okhotsk Tower to enjoy a panoramic view of the sea. It’s a good spot for photo taking and the Spinner 360 will come in handle here. As you walk down the tower, visit the aquarium museum at the basement to check out the extremely rare sea angel. Before leaving, grab a few cute souvenirs at the gift shops. Winter in Hokkaido might be very cold but the hospitality of the Japanese warms the heart. Have fun snapping away and enjoy your stay!