The largest wetland area in Japan lies inland from the port city of Kushiro, in eastern Hokkaido. It's famous as the breeding ground for red-crowned cranes, a species that has been designated as a special natural treasure of Japan. About 1,000 of the birds come to spend the winter there. Otowa Bridge in Tsurui Village offers spectacular views of the cranes in the early morning. Visitors can also book canoe tours to view the snow-bound scenery alongside a river that runs through the marshland.
This international resort attracts skiers and snowboarders from around the world who come to enjoy the superb powder snow on the nearby slopes. Besides winter sports, visitors can also join in outdoor programs at a converted elementary school that offers nature tours and a hands-on introduction to Japanese culture.
Looking out over the Tsugaru Strait, Hakodate boasts an excellent natural harbor. This was one of the first places in Hokkaido to be opened to foreign visitors, and many historic buildings still remain from that era. During the winter season, this port city is lit up with illuminations, giving visitors the opportunity to stroll down brilliant corridors of light.
Flights from Tokyo's Haneda Airport to Kushiro take about 90 minutes. From there, a half-hour drive will bring you to the Kushiro Marshland. To reach Niseko from New Chitose Airport, allow 2 and a half hours to get there by bus. Continuing on to Hakodate, the train takes about 3 hours.