SHIRETOKO 2006 FALL

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I got up at 4:45 on the next morning. The warm south wind blowed which told me it would be rain that day. I went to an observatory facing to the five lakes while expecting for the morning glow. The parking lot which is noisy in daytime was incredibly quiet. I wanted to enjoy this atmosphere, but a siren of bear attention resounded and disturbed my time. I was disappointed but safety is the most priority. I walked to the observatory through the tree temple which was installed for tourists to go through even if bear appeared. An electric hedge was set up under the tree temple. Shiretoko’s sightseeing posts where people gather are limited. Bear might be watching from deep forest, wondering visitors increased these days. Was it good to become a world heritage for Shiretoko? I don’t know… The sky slightly turned red, but immediately became gray and cloudy.


I returned to the hotel once and ate breakfast. When I was wondering what to do today, some tourists asked me to take them to the superb view point. So I became an instant guide for them. Outrunning the forest and walking a grassy plain, we got to a cliff where we can look down the sea of Okhotsk. The wind was strong and white waves was standing, the bow of big sightseeing ship was swallowed up by a wave. We stood still in the strong wind which smelled rainy. It was not really Japanese scenery, but was like a scenery of Alaska where I went for a trip last year.

We decided to go watching salmon to the river mouth of Horobetsu River, under the sky that seemed to start raining. The exhausted or dead salmons which finished laying eggs gathered in the river mouth. A gull and a crow nudged eyes of dead salmons. The fallen leaves drift in the river and covered it.

Bears come down to the river to get salmons several times a day. While I was in Shiretoko, I came to this bridge sometime, but I finally didn’t see any bears here. The owner of the hotel sees them every time he comes to this bridge. Well, there is only a few rivers that salmon can lay eggs naturally. A dam makes their laying eggs impossibility, and the most of salmon are captured for artificial insemination. Salmons we usually eat are caught in a fixed shore net before entering a river. Shiretoko salmon is expensive in the market, but it’s under the business of the hatchery. Will around fifty dams in Shiretoko be actually removed and natural laying eggs of salmon be seen in the future? The issue was brought when Shiretoko became the World Natural Heritage, but it costs a lot both to make and destroy something. World attention gathers Shiretoko.
At noon, it started raining and also the wind got strong. The excursion ship was cancelled and fishing ships came back too. I thought it would be time to take a nap, but they wanted to go to Rausu side and I came along. The rain made the color of leaves deep. The fall season deepen per rain. The landscape changes per day.
Shiretoko sometimes has completely different weather between Rausu (Pacific Ocean, Nemuro Channel) and Utoro (Okhotsk). The day was also; Utoro had heavy rain but it stopped after passing the Pass.

Rausu side was quiet and had only a few tourists at the roadside station. There was no big popular spots or big hotels, which was really contrasting view. Rausu side has a road along the peninsula, where local people are living around. Most of people are fishermen. They are living in a narrow space in abrupt cliffs, therefore, animals in the mountain come down to the houses or gardens. I saw a big deer eating grasses by a bus stop.

20km away from Rausu, I arrived at ending point of route 87. The sign “DANGER, NO ROAD!” is appropriate for the land named Shiretoko (came from Ainu language Shirietoku, meaning “the utmost ends of the earth”). Several people a day come only to see this sign.

The sea in front of me was the Channel, and 20-30km away was Kunashiri Island of Russia. Unexpectedly, the Channel has more than 10 kinds of whales and dolphins such as a cattail dolphin, a killer whale, a sperm whale, and a minke. Two years ago, a flock of killer whales was surrounded to the drift ice which had begun to move suddenly, and it was this neighborhood.
On the way back, when I was watching the sea expecting dolphins jumping, there was a sheet of spray on the sea! “Appearance of a whale!” I held binoculars in a hurry. Looked hard, and saw the spray again, but it was misleading…
There were many floaters for fixed net for salmons, and the spray was the one made from these blasted by gusty wind. What a pity!
The off coast of Rausu is well known for strong winds. It hit winds of 55.9m/s on December 24th of 2000, and in 1989, the wind meter was broken with winds of 60m/s and more. Went back to Rausu, climbed a mountain pass, and appeared in a street of Utoro side, the rain in the daytime stopped. It became dusky and I went down a mountain while watching a flock of deer.
2 buses was stuck with hazard lamps on a bridge of Horobetsu River when I approached the town area. It was right after a parent and a child of brown bear came out to a river. I was disappointed to missed the bear in Shiretoko, but in fact, it was an omen of a bear rush from the next day.

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