Journey in winter Hokkaido! – Pair of NTU JAC students, Day 4

Today, we leave Lake Akan for Abashiri. We had a breakfast buffet at the hotel. Once again, we were spoiled for choice with selections from Western, Chinese and Japanese cuisine.

Male student: “I really enjoyed having such a spread of foods to choose from. Buffets are really the best. The view from the dining was also amazing. I wasn’t able to see it clearly last night during dinner, but the dining hall had a wonderful view of Lake Akan as well as the mountain. The hotel actually has a park that you can view the lake from, but sadly it’s under renovation during the period of our stay.”

View from Tsuruga Wings (Male student)

Breakfast at Tsuruga Wings (Male student)

View of Lake Akan from Tsuruga Wings dining hall (Male student)

After we took one last look at the town, we boarded the bus to Abashiri.

Leaving Lake Akan

After leaving our luggage at the hotel, we first took a bus and shortly arrived at the Abashiri Prison Museum. Walking to the compound, we crossed a bridge. This bridge, in the past, had water that the prisoners would see their reflection on, as if to reflect the prisoners’ sins for them to see. Just outside the gate stood what seemed to be a guard in uniform (although it had turned out to be just a mannequin).

Male student: “Honestly, the entire compound was extremely intimidating.”

Bridge at Abashiri Prison Museum (Male student)

Female student: “As I am currently following the “Golden Kamuy” anime series, I was most excited to visit the Abashiri Prison Museum and to see for myself how much the anime was modelled after the real prison. I was astounded by the stark resemblance for the central guard house between the anime and the actual Abashiri Prison Museum, and this only got me pumped up to explore the other areas more in hopes of finding even more similarities.”

Mannequin guard at the gate (Female student)

Abashiri Prison Museum (Female student)

Abashiri Prison Museum, main compound (Female student)

Entrance to the central guard house (Female student)

Interior of Abashiri Prison Museum

The compound had various different buildings such as a farm, lecture theatre, etc.

Farm at Abashiri Prison Museum

Various sights around Abashiri Prison Museum

Prisoner’s cafeteria at Abashiri Prison Museum

Male student: “What stood out to me the most was the “Brick Punishment Chamber”. From the description, it states that the prisoner would spend a length of time confined in a pitch black chamber with reduced rations. The chamber is extremely small and claustrophobic. I found this to be frightening.”

“Brick Punishment Chamber” at Abashiri Prison Museum (Male student)

There was also a shrine that was relocated here in 2001. In the past, prisoners would pray to this shrine for safety and good harvest.

Shrine at Abashiri Prison Museum (Male student)

We had lunch at the restaurant by the museum. We ordered a Zangi-don (a type of fish rice bowl), Tempura Soba, and potato mochi.

Male student: “I think the potato mochi is becoming my favourite dish because I ordered it again and thoroughly enjoyed it.”

Abashiri Prison Museum restaurant (Male student)

Restaurant menu (Male student)

Zangi-don (Male student)

Tempura Soba (Male student)

Potato mochi (Male student)

Next stop was the Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum, a museum dedicated to drift ice ecosystem in Abashiri. This was definitely a change of mood from the Abashiri Prison Museum. Compared to the dreary prison, this was much prettier. Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum features a number of sea creatures like the clione, fuusen-uo, shima-ebi, and atsumori-uo. These creatures can be found in the sea of drift ice. The staff were very friendly and keen to explain to us the features of these creatures.

Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum

Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum (Female student)

Female student: “My favourite sea creature of the lot is the clione as it is shaped like an angel and looks cute. However, the staff explained that despite its cute appearance the clione splits its head into two and stretches its tentacles to catch food. I was mildly shocked at this revelation, but nonetheless the creature still remained cute to me.”

Clione at Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum (Female student)

Various sea creatures at Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum (Female student)

There was this room where they had set the temperature of it to negative 15°C so that we may experience how cold it is when there are drift ice present. The staff had given us a wet cloth to bring in, and after swinging it in the room, it froze and was able to stand upright! We were shocked!

-15°C room

Swinging and freezing a wet cloth (Male student)

We were also just in time for a show. Projectors would project onto the walls to show magnificent looking patterns and images.

Male student: “It was really pretty. The fact that the projection was not on a flat wall, and that they had use that to create addition effects for the show, really made it feel special.”

Projection show (Male student)

Aside from the exhibits that showcased the different kinds of sea creatures found in the sea of drift ice


, the panoramic view from the observatory was breath-taking. Orange and yellow hues from the setting sun merged with the blue sky, creating a picturesque scene. Perfect for Instagram photos which we took plenty of! We were also able to see the sea from the observatory as well as a lake which seemed to be frozen over.

Male student: “It’s really just awesome that everywhere we went, there will always be picturesque scenery for us to admire. This time was no exception, and its beauty was magnified by the setting sun.”

Various beautiful views from Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum (Male student)

View from the observatory of Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum (Female student)

On the first floor of the museum, we spotted standees of the two main characters from Golden Kamuy. Beside them, there were many drawings of some Golden Kamuy characters. Additionally, there seemed to be an AR app activity for the Golden Kamuy series where people can download an app from the playstore then visit locations like Abashiri and Kushiro to check in. By checking in, one can obtain stamps of the Golden Kamuy characters specific to those locations and then take AR photos with them.

Female student: “Unfortunately, I did not managed to collect any stickers as I was not sure of the Japanese instructions and only after obtaining the translations from my friends did I realised what it was.”

Various drawings of Golden Kamuy characters

Golden Kamuy characters at Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum (Female student)

We then left for a museum about the Ainu, the Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples. Unfortunately closed for that day as it was a holiday.

Male student: “I was quite saddened by it because I was interested to learn more about the Ainu.”

Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples (Male student)

Unfortunately it was closed (Male student)

We ended off our day having dinner at Sukiya.

Male student: “I got the Szechuan Beef Rice Bowl. I really loved it because I was missing having spicy food for some time since we started our trip. This was perfect, I ordered a side of chill oil and added tons of togarashi pepper. I ended up sweating throughout the meal.”

Sukiya for dinner (Male student)

Szechuan Beef Rice Bowl at Sukiya (Male student)

Closing thoughts:

Male student: “I loved the Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum a lot, very friendly staff, lovely scenic views, a view into the diverse ecosystem that the drift ice has. To top it off, the descriptions were detailed in explaining how the drift ice was formed, which I enjoyed learning about.”

Female student: “While it was quite far from the city, I enjoyed all the museums that I visited today and felt that the visits were really fun!”