【Hokkaido】 “Ryuhyo,” The View and Sound2016.02.01

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Located on geographical latitude similar to Portland (Oregon) and Venice (Italy), the “Ohotsuku,” sea, bordering the coast of “Hokkaido” is the Northern Hemisphere’s southernmost region to see “Ryuhyo,” drifting sea ice. When frozen seawater is exposed to the severe cold, it changes into needle- Hoor board-shaped ice near the surface. The amount of ice gradually increases, and the ice crystals keep growing and creating large drifts. The “Ryuhyo” season is late January to late March with the best viewing period being late February. “Ryuhyo” can be viewed from the coastal locations stretching from “Wakkanai” to the “Shiretoko Peninsula.” Global warming has reduced the “Ryuhyo,” quantity and drift thickness. “Ryuhyo” is concentrated around “Abashiri.”

Because “Ryuhyo” drifts are not continuously visible from the coast, the best way to observed “Ryuhyo” is by taking the hour long Aurora Sightseeing Boat from the seaport of “Abashiri.” The boat travels into the sea of “Ohotsuku” in search of this dramatic ice spectacle. The ‘Aurora sightseeing Boat’ runs several times a day in during the season. If you listen carefully, you can hear ‘kew’ or ‘goo’ sounds as though the ice had a life of its own. This sound is considered a symbolic sound of the North Sea, so it is included in “100 sounds to keep for posterity” selected by the Japanese Ministry of Environment.

Another way to enjoy “Rhuhyo” is by taking the nostalgic, coastal ‘Rhyhyo Norokko train’ which runs between “Abashiri” and “Shiretoko-Shari” stations. The coastal train has panoramic windows that reveal the vastness and beauty of “Rhuhyo.”

To see “Ryuhyo” take an airplane from Haneda to “Memanbetsu” and then transfer to the local “Abashiri” bus. The trip takes about 2 hours and half.

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