Hokkaido has some of the most incredible scenery not only in Japan but in the whole of Asia. It is a treasure trove of beautiful natural wonders. I was riveted by the way each season brings new beauty, the incremental changes in the natural world, the shining moments when I see our stalwart wildlife, and it inspired me to start snapping photos.
I am always convinced that Hokkaido has a mysterious allure that captivates everyone who visits. Of all the sights I have captured on camera, there is one gift from nature that particularly stands out in my memory.
Jewelry ice on the “miracle beach” (Otsu Beach, Toyokoro)
The first time I visited this area was late January, during the cold winter. I went to the beach…and was amazed by what I saw. The whole of the beach was covered with chunks of ice of all sizes. The shapes were complex, ranging from the size of a rugby ball to big pieces over 3 meters long, and they sparkled in the sunlight. I am not exaggerating when I say that the sight literally took my breath away.
Many looked like beautiful works of art made by a master sculptor – I wondered how ice could possibly form in shapes like this. Apparently, it’s the force of the waves that does it. These “masterpieces” also look different under different light. When the temperature falls to -20℃, There is frost smoke [a mist that rises from the water when the air is much colder than the water] and the pieces of ice glitter like jewelry in the sun. It blew me away.
Dance of the red-crowned crane (Tsurui Ito Red-crowned Crane Sanctuary)
When I went to Ito Sanctuary [Tsurui Ito Red-crowned Crane Sanctuary] around 8 years ago, the sun hadn’t even come up yet and there were already almost 100 people waiting in their cars with their tripods ready to go. They were waiting for the big flock of red-crowned cranes that roosted in a nearby river to arrive at the feeding area. Whether red-crowned cranes are bending their necks with their wings closed or spreading those big wings wide, everything they do is picturesque. From their long neck to their thin legs to the red crown that adds a splash of color to their striking black and white bodies, they are the epitome of elegant birds, and seeing such a beautiful bird up close is a true joy. Their graceful dance, the way the sunset tinges our white breath in orange, the sight of the cranes flying in a flock…all of it is incredible.
Lake Onneto (in nationally owned forest in Moashoro, Ashoro)
Here is a place I visit all year round. Lake Onneto is a photographer’s delight – it can look five different colors depending on the season, the time and the angle you view it from. The lake is off the beaten track, and I’m drawn to the peace and quiet of the place. It’s at its most picturesque on mornings when there’s no breeze. Mt. Meakan and Mt. Akan-Fuji are reflected in perfect relief, and if you think that’s pretty when the trees are resplendent in green leaves in summer, wait until they turn red. Despite its secluded location, it’s easy to reach by car, so I often camp out in my car and start taking pictures early in the morning.
Alongside his work as a commercial photographer, Hideo Kishimoto voraciously photographs the natural scenery, birds and wildlife throughout Hokkaido through techniques such as aerial photography.
He has showcased the beauty of Hokkaido in exhibitions in Tokyo, Beijing in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, raising Hokkaido’s profile both in and outside Japan.
Chunks of ice that wash up on Otsu Beach at the mouth of the Tokachi River. Named after the way they sparkle like jewelry, this spot is hugely popular among photographers.
Tsurui-Ito Tancho Sanctuary
A place where you can see red-crowned cranes up close. During feeding time, you can also see white-tailed eagles and Yezo red foxes coming for some of the food, providing all kinds of dynamic, thrilling photo opportunities. It attracts photographers and birdwatchers from all over the world.
From Kushiro JR train station, ride the Akan Bus bound for Green park Tsurui for 60 minutes. Get off at Tsurui Chugakko bus stop then walk 10 minutes.
One of Hokkaido’s top three secluded lakes, this enchanting lake looks various different colors depending on the season and the position and angle from which it is viewed. Its unique shade of blue is known as “Onneto blue”. It’s also a great spot for viewing majestic mountains such as Mt. Meakan and Mt. Akan-Fuji.