Jewelry Ice: This Beach in Hokkaido Fills With Glittering Gemstones in Winter



Jewelry Ice: This Beach in Hokkaido Fills With Glittering Gemstones in Winter


Jewelry ice is a unique spectacle that takes place every winter along Otsu Beach in Toyokoro Town, southeast Hokkaido. This stunning natural phenomenon is extremely rare and it's gaining popularity among photographers and travelers.
Jewelry ice along Otsu Beach in Toyokoro Town

The reason why they're called "jewelry ice" is that these clusters of ice resemble beautiful gemstones when they are hit by the sunlight. This phenomenon occurs only on Otsu Beach during the coldest days of winter. It can be seen from mid-January to late February. The lumps of ice are bathed in an orange glow in the early morning light, which changes to a deep blue as the day goes by. They really look like precious jewels. Read on to learn everything you need to see the jewelry ice in Hokkaido.

How Is Jewelry Ice Made?

First let's talk about the origin of this phenomenon. In the winter season when the cold can reach temperatures below -20°C (-4°F), the Tokachi river freezes. Due to the changes of temperature and the tides, lumps of ice from the river break and flow into the Pacific Ocean. The waves make them crash against each other and they become smoother forming these smaller, round lumps of ice that get washed ashore.
 lumps of ice
Jewelry ice 1
Jewelry ice 2
Jewelry ice 3
Jewelry ice 4
Jewelry ice 5
Jewelry ice 6
Jewelry ice 7
Jewelry ice 8
Otsu Beach

The Ice Changes Its Appearance With the Time of the Day

The Tokachi River takes a long time to freeze, and this gives the ice a high transparency as it contains no impurities. Being so clear, the gemstone-like ice glitters in an exquisite backlight when the sun hits it in the morning.
jewelry ice during sunrise

This the only place where you can experience the magic world crafted by the nature of Tokachi.
Jewelry ice in day time


Jewelry Ice
Address: Otsu Beach, Otsu Motomachi, Toyokoro Town, Hokkaido
Access: 45 min. by car from Tokachi Obihiro Airport to Toyokoro Town

Visiting the Jewelry Ice Beach

Since this location is not exactly easy to reach, I recommend you take either the guided tour or the taxi plan.
Participating in the Jewelry Ice Guided Tour

■ Participating in the Jewelry Ice Guided Tour

Different tours are available for the different viewing times. You can choose between the sunrise tour, the day tour and the night tour. The tour includes a visit to the jewelry ice beach and to the mouth of the river where jewelry ice is created. Being accompanied by guides you won't have to worry about disturbing the locals. For an additional fee you can have a professional nature photographer teach you some photographing techniques and take snapshots of you.

Participating in the Jewelry Ice Guided Tour
Tour period: January 11 - March 8, 2020 (subject to change depending on the year).
Tour duration: approx. 4.5 hours (including tea time)
Departure and arrival: Obihiro city and nearby accommodation facilities
Fees: Sunrise tour 8,000 yen / Day tour 8,000 yen
Phone: 0155-66-4006 (Samurai Produce)
Foreign languages available: English

■Using the shared taxi plan

Alternately, you can take a 1 hour tour by taxi. Departures are from Obihiro city, Tokachigawa Onsen and Makubetsu Onsen. You'll leave at about 5:00am, aiming for the sunrise time. After one hour you'll be taken back to your lodging. Hot coffee is also offered after the visit. The return time is at about 8:30.

Using the shared taxi plan
Tour period: January 18 - February 24, 2020
Tour duration: 3 - 3.5 hours
Departure and arrival: Obihiro city, Tokachigawa Onsen, Makubetsu Onsen
Fees: from 5,980 yen (coffee included). Participation is possible starting from 1 person
*There is also a private taxi plan where you can choose the departure time from 5:00am to 2:00pm.
Phone: 155-67-8855 (Tabi no Benriya)
Foreign languages available: English    

Warm Up After the Visit With a Tasty Meal at Kii-Chan's

After hours outside admiring the beauty of the jewelry ice, your body will certainly need some warming up. My recommendation for that is the curry rice from Kii-chan Shokudo, made with local surf clams from Otsu, Hokkaido. This popular dish has been served here since they opened and it's the staple of this restaurant. It's a medium-spicy curry that has been enriched with the broth from boiled surf clam.
Surf clam curry 800 yen
Surf clam curry 800 yen

You can also try this salt flavored ramen with local surf clam and whelk. Added to the menu's regular ramen in 2016, it's filled with fresh seafood. The simple salt broth is what makes it so good.
Surf clam and whelk salt ramen 1,000 yen
Surf clam and whelk salt ramen 1,000 yen

*Kii-chan's special: from 7:00am. Available for reservations (limited availability) 1,200 yen
A tasty breakfast made with local ingredients.

Kii-chan Shokudo just celebrated their 6th year of business in December 2017. The cheerful owner Kimiyo Sugiyama won't let you leave hungry with her lovingly prepared dishes filled with local seafood.
Kii-chan Shokudo


Kii-chan Shokudo
Address: 5-2 Otsukotobukimachi, Toyokoro Town, Hokkaido
Hours: 11:00am - 3:00pm
Closed on Sundays
Access: 1 hour by car from JR Obihiro Station / 1 hour 45 minutes by car from Tokachi Obihiro Airport

Protect Yourself Against the Cold!

Jewelry ice is a phenomenon that only occurs during the most intense cold period. Due to being a natural phenomenon the occurring time may vary depending on the climate. The chances of seeing it are about 70%. On a windy day the apparent temperature can be as low as -30°C (-22°F) so it's necessary to be well protected against the cold. The performance of all batteries drops drastically at low temperatures, so I recommend you keep your electronic devices as warm as possible. In January and February the area is equipped with a parking lot, a shop and toilets.

※Shiomi Bridge (the bridge that leads to Otsu beach) will be closed to traffic to prevent accidents.
※The staff at the shop only speaks Japanese.

Experience the Unique Beauty of Jewelry Ice!

The magic scenery of gemstone-like ice and its mysterious beauty is a rare experience. If you get the chance, definitely try this alternative activity and don't forget to bring your camera!

Special thanks
East Hokkaido Tourism Development Association, Tokachi Tourism Federation, Obihiro Kanko Convention Society, Toyokoro Town, Masako Haraguchi, Takaaki Watanabe


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