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Largest City

Abashiri Okhotsk Drift Ice Festival

Abashiri celebrates the arrival of the Siberian Okhotsk drift ice with a range of ice-related activities like drift Ice boat cruising, drift ice tours and smelt fishing.

By Abhijit Sen

February is a special month in Hokkaido as it hosts the spectacular Sapporo Snow Festival, which is renowned worldwide. However, not many people know about the natural wonder of Ryuhyo, also known as drift ice, in the northeast region of Hokkaido. This leads to missing out on an incredible experience that should not be overlooked.

The Abashiri Okhotsk Drift Ice Festival is a one-of-a-kind event that takes place annually in Hokkaido’s small port town of Abashiri in February. Visitors can witness the stunning natural phenomenon of drift ice formed in the Sea of Okhotsk.

The Formation Formula

abashiri drift ice festival

Photo by: Abhijit Sen The seaside venue prepares to host an extravaganza of sculptures of all sizes and shapes.

Located on the northernmost coast of the Sea of Okhotsk, cold air blows and cools down the seawater to -1.8 degrees Celsius, creating ice crystals that grow into a lotus leaf-like shape. The lotus ice is then carried southward by winds and currents, eventually arriving at the coast of Okhotsk in Hokkaido from late January to early February. As the ice crystals stick together, they grow in size, leaving only the hard-to-freeze salt behind.

As the drift ice season begins, the seaside venue prepares to host an extravaganza of sculptures of all sizes and shapes. From the tiniest figures to the towering creations, each sculpture is a work of art, crafted with great detail and skill. Moreover, as the sun sets, the sculptures come alive with spectacular illumination, transforming the atmosphere into a magical world of light and color.

Event Highlights

abashiri drift ice festival

Photo by: Abhijit Sen Check out all the cool ice sculptures at the festival.

The event is free to attend, so anyone can come and enjoy the magnificent sculptures. However, if you’re a music enthusiast, you’ll be thrilled to know that there will also be a music festival on the same premises. Of course, the music festival requires an entry fee, but it promises to be worth every penny for the unforgettable experience it provides.

History and Heritage

abashiri drift ice festival

Photo by: Abhijit Sen Learn more about the town’s history by trying out cultural activities first hand.

While you’re in this area, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy. Try your hand at smelt fishing in Lake Abashiri or take a cruise through the drift ice in the Sea of Okhotsk.

If you’re interested in learning about the local culture, the Hokkaido Museum of Northern Indigenous Peoples is a great place to start. Here, you’ll gain an understanding of the Ainu people’s lifestyle and society. You won’t want to miss the Abashiri Prison Museum either – it provides a glimpse into the atmosphere and conditions of the Meiji-era prison.

Things To Know

Nearby Attractions

Cape Notoro 

At the edge of the Sea of Okhotsk lies a cape adorned with a solitary lighthouse. The cape offers stunning views of both Lake Notoro and the Sea of Okhotsk, as well as the eastern Shiretoko mountain range. During the winter months, visitors can witness the breathtaking beauty of Abashiri town’s finest drift ice from this remarkable vantage point.

Ryuhyo Monogatari-go

Board the Ryuhyo Monogatari-go, a unique train that traverses the picturesque Okhotsk coastline, and embark on a journey unlike any other. With two daily departures between Abashiri and Shiretoko Shari, this train offers a leisurely ride that allows you to take in the stunning scenery at a relaxing pace. During the journey, you’ll have the opportunity to indulge in the breathtaking beauty of the drift ice for about an hour, making it an experience that’s sure to leave a lasting impression.

Hours and Fees

Abashiri Drift Ice Cruise: Adult ¥4,000 and Elementary school student ¥2,000

Lake Abashiri Lake Smelt Fishing: Set fee including recreational fishing fee; Adult ¥1800 / Child ¥1400 

Abashiri Prison Museum: Business hours 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Adults ¥1,500 High school students ¥1,000 Elementary and junior high school students ¥750 

Hokkaido Museum of Northern Indigenous Peoples: Opening hours: Summer May-October 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Winter November-April 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Adults: ¥990 High school students: ¥880 Elementary and junior high school students: ¥770

How To Get There


By train

It is possible to reach here by train. During the drift ice season, you can take the “Ryuhyo Monogatari” sightseeing train between Abashiri and Shiretoko Shari. You can also travel comfortably from Sapporo and Asahikawa by limited express train.

By car

Abashiri is easily accessible by flights from various cities including Tokyo, Sapporo, Kansai, and Chubu. The distance from the nearest airport, Memanbetsu, to downtown Abashiri is 30 minutes by car or 30 minutes by bus to the Abashiri Prefectural office and a walk of 4 minutes to the venue.

Where To Stay

Dormy Inn Abashiri
  • 3-1-1 Minami 2-Jo Nishi, Abashiri-shi, Hokkaido, 093-0012 Japan
  • ¥8,728 - ¥85,856
  • 4.53/5 (1,178 reviews)
  • 0.2 km
Abashiri Royal Hotel
  • 7 Kita 6-Jo Nishi, Abashiri-shi, Hokkaido, 093-0076 Japan
  • ¥6,270 - ¥16,530
  • 3.87/5 (791 reviews)
  • 0.6 km
Abashirikohan Hot Spring Hotel Abashirikoso
  • 78 Yobito, Abashiri-shi, Hokkaido, 099-2421 Japan
  • ¥16,060 - ¥48,070
  • 4.15/5 (902 reviews)
  • 5.8 km

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