Abashiri is a port city in Japan's Okhotsk Subprefecture (on Hokkaido Island) with population around 40,000. The city is served by trains (Abashiri Station) and domestic flights (Memanbetsu Airport, near Ozora). Port Abashiri is located in Okhotsk's eastern part, approx 50 km (31 mi) east of Kitami. The surrounding scenery lacks tall mountains and instead is marked by numerous low hills, Abashiri River (flowing through the town), 3 lakes (Abashiri, Notoro, Tofutsu) inside the city. The lakes and Mt Tento (height 207 m / 680 ft) are part of the Abashiri NP.
Because of the short growing season, crops in the region (oats, potatoes, beans) are required to be hardy. Hay is also grown as fodder for cows, horses, sheep. The city's economy is also heavily dependent on commercial fishing, oysters farming and seaweed.
Despite the reputation for its extremely cold weather, Abashiri is not among Japan's coldest cities. It is actually less cold in the winter months than Obihiro and warmer during the summer than Kushiro or Nemuro. Abashiri obtains less precipitation than any other Japanese city because of its location on the drift-ice-affected Okhotsk Sea. Fogs are common during winter when Lake Abashiri freezes.
On Mt Tento is located the "Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum". The facility offers extensive information and real drift ice experience. The museum's basement level has the "Drift Ice Illusion Gallery" (with 5 large LED screens) featuring 3D drift ice show. The museum's "Drift Ice Experience Terrace" boasts a 100-ton ice pack preserved at temperature -15 C.
From Abashiri as cruise shore excursions are offered bus tours to Shiretoko National Park (on Hokkaido Island's northeastern tip). The National Park (NP) has land area approx 386 km2 (149 mi2), covers most of the Shiretoko Peninsula (one of Japan's most remote regions) and is the home of the country's largest population of brown bears. From the Peninsula can be seen Kunashir Island - part of Russia's Kuril Islands archipelago.
Abashiri cruise terminal
Often in the winter, Abashiri harbour closes due to ice-cover. Aurora 1 and Aurora 2 are Abashiri port-based icebreaker cruise ships offering sightseeing tours.
Tourists can not only see but get closer and even touch the ice on the locally famous "Abashiri Drift Ice Sightseeing" Icebreaker cruises around the city's ice sea. During the icebreaker cruise, passengers can hear the actual cracking of ice. Other option available on these tours are taking break on ice floes (ice floats / large packs of floating ice) and wildlife viewing (seals, Steller's sea eagles). These cruise tours are operated each year in the period late-January through early April.