Located on a similar geographical latitude as Venice (Italy) and Portland (Oregon), the Sea of Okhotsk coast of Hokkaido is the northern hemisphere's southernmost region to see drifting sea ice (流氷, ryūhyō). The ice originates from the Amur River in Russia and then drifts through the Sea of Okhotsk to reach Hokkaido typically in mid January to early February before disappearing again around mid March to mid April.

The coast around Abashiri and the western coast of the Shiretoko Peninsula receive the biggest amounts of ice, and in cold winters drift ice can be witnessed as far as Kushiro along the Pacific Coast and Wakkanai at the northern tip of Hokkaido. However, due to global warming, the amount and thickness of the drift ice has decreased considerably since the late 1980s, and it happens increasingly that the ice does not quite reach the Japanese coast during some periods during the ryuhyo season.

Where and how to enjoy ryuhyo?

The following are some ways for tourists to enjoy the seasonal phenomena:

  • Drift Ice Boat Cruises
  • Drift Ice Tours
  • Okhotsk Ryuhyo Museum