I heard about the Steller's Eagle, the heaviest in the world from my friend Mario Nonaka. He told me also about his accommodations in Hokkaido and his pictures were my main driver to start research about Hokkaido.
I booked my Flights with finnair and paid 630 EUR for the flight Munich- Helsinki-Tokyo Narita-Tokyo Haneda- Hokkaido Kushiro and the return Flight via Tokyo Haneda and London Heathrow to Munich. On the long flights from Helsinki to Tokyo and return from Tokyo to London I upgraded to Business Class for 250 EUR each way.
From Tokyo Narita I took a bus transfer to Tokyo Haneda and paid 3000 Yen.
I rented my car by NipponCar. All cars are equipped with English GPS-Navigation and winter tires, you do not need AWD. The Navigation works very well with the phone number of the hotels, so please be sure to have all of them in advance. I took a small car and was very happy.
I downloaded MAPSME for my iPhone and the free-maps for Hokkaido. I found my GPS-coordinates on Google Maps and saved them as favorites in MAPSME
1. Akan International Crane Center ( GPS 43.144023, 144.149713)
2. Otowa Bridge ( GPS 43.187859, 144.334199)
3. Lake Furen, Sunset Lodge (GPS 43.263644, 145.462121)
4. Rausu, Washi no Yado (GPS 44.034113, 145.208462)
5. Rausu, Port (GPS 44.021521, 145.200310)
6. Lake Kussharo (GPS 43.600265, 144.348821)
I took two bodies NIKON D4S and NIKON D3S and my lenses SIGMA 300-800mm f5,6; NIKON 200-500mm f5,6 and NIKON 70-200mm f2,8 + NIKON TC II 1,4. GITZO-Tripod. My iPhone was my best camera for landscapes...
1. two nights in Akan, just opposite the Akan Crane Center there is a hotel (7000 YEN incl. breakfast and dinner)
2. two nights in the Sunset Lodge on Lake Furen (8000 YEN incl. breakfast and dinner)
3. two nights in Rausu, Washi no Yado ( 9000 YEN incl. breakfast and dinner)
4. one night in Lake Kussharo in a SPA-hotel (17000 YEN incl. breakfast and dinner)
Red crowned cranes at dawn Otowa Bridge:
This site is famous for dawn viewing in mid-winter of the ice bound Setsurigawa river where the cranes roost.
Red crowned cranes Akan International Center: a winter feeding ground that is your best chance to see cranes outside of a bird park. The Observation Centre is open from 8.30am to 4.30pm November to March.
At 14:00 is feeding time in Akan. The cranes get fish and a lot of birds of prey (white tailed eagle and black kites) compete for the fish with the cranes.
In Akan you will find also whooper swans.
Lake Furen, Sunset Lodge. The Owner feeds the Birds of prey with fish and charges 500 YEN for a place on the shore.
Prey or Predator??? This story goes this way: To be prey or to be predator is sometimes nothing but only matter of choice. Take this red fox for example. Actually,the red fox is the prey for the eagles, but not this brave little guy. It decided to be a predator and was chasing the Steller's eagles to get their fish... an it succeeded in the end...
In the Port of Hokkaido one was able to observe a lot of ducks and also whooper swans:
Washi no Yado is the famous site to see the biggest fish owl in the world, the Blackinston's fish owl.
The owners are feeding the owls and thy come back night after night for a small fish snake. You need there a fast lens 300mm f2.8 or 400mm f2,8 will be the best, I used my 200mm with a TC1,4, which is 280mm f4.0...
Hokkaido's landscapes are enchanting as well: