The Okhotsk Sea in Hokkaido is famous for drift ice in winter. In the most severe season, 80 percent of the sea is covered with drift ice. In mid-November, drift ice starts forming at points where the Amur River to the north in Sakhalin flows into the sea. This drift ice expands in the north wind and travels with the currents some 2000km south to arrive near Abashiri by mid-January.
Because fresh water runs from the Amur River into the Okhotsk Sea, the surface of the sea here is less salty. Sea water with less salt freezes more easily, thus forming drift ice.
This ice, born in the far north sea, brings rich plankton, which is fed on by sea creatures such as hairy crab, salmon, trout and scallop.
As far as you can see, the drift ice forms a field of white that is completely silent without the sound of waves. Drift ice on the Okhotsk Sea is a poetic world produced by mysterious nature.
Kurokuma Falls are 15m wide and 85m high, and are located in Ajigasawa, Nishitsugaru-gun, Aomori Prefecture. They have been selected as among Japan's top 100 waterfalls.
The waterfall is at the branch of the Akaishi River, which flows down from the Shirakami Mountains, and are classed as a World Heritage site. These are the largest waterfalls in the prefecture.
It is said that the waterfalls were named for a figure that looks like a standing bear. 'Kurokuma' means 'black bear'.
A virgin beech forest surrounds the waterfall and refreshes those who visit it. It is possible to access the waterfall by car as there is parking nearby.
The view of the abundant falling water is dynamic, and becomes a masterpiece when seen in the seasons of spring-green and fall-red leaves. It is a recommended site for those who want to get close to Mother Nature herself.
The waterfall passes through Takinozawa and flows into the Akaishi River, where rare fish like the Golden Ayu and the Ito swim.
Kurokuma Falls make a magnificent, dynamic and powerful display of nature
Designated a National Natural Treasure, the Beni-shidare-jizo is a weeping cherry tree estimated to be approximately 400 years old, and said to be the daughter of the 1000-year-old Miharu Waterfall cherry tree.
The Beni-shidare-jizo tree has a base circumference of 6.3m, a trunk circumference of 4.1m at a point 1.3m above ground, and a height of up to 16m. A giant branch spreads 14m to the west from a point 2.5m above the ground. Some 2m above, 11 more large branches spread out in all directions for 18m.
Many descendants of the Waterfall cherry tree have been comfirmed, but no tree can exceed the Jizo tree due to the exceptional beauty of its branches spreading across the sky like wings.
A Jizo-do is built at the foot of the tree where, in the past, and even now, people come to pray for good health for newborn children and protection from premature mortality.
The blossoms are said to bloom annually from mid through late April. The distinct way the lightly colored blossoms of the Beni-shidare-jizo tree flourish in every which way is definitely a sight to see.
The Ishibe cherry tree is named for Jibudayuu Ishibe, one of the senior statesmen of the Ashina clan, and the feudal lord of the Aizu clan during the medieval era. The cherry tree used to be Ishibe's favorite tree in the private garden of his residence.
Today, Ishibe's residence is no more, but the tree can be seen from far away among rice fields. The tree has eight different trunks branching from a single base trunk, and blossoms faster than the Somei-yoshino cultivar because it is of the Edo-higan variety.
The trees blossom from mid- through late April and the view of the tree in full blossom is truly a sight to see. The Ishibe cherry tree is one of the five great cherry trees in Aizu, which include the Sugi-no-ito cherry, Oshika cherry, Tora-no-o cherry, and Haku-boku cherry, and is said to be around 600 years old. It has been designated a Natural Treasure by the city of Aizu-wakamatsu, and also has been designated a Green Cultural Treasure by the Fukushima Prefecture.
If you pass along Tenjin beach toward the mouth of the Nagase River in midwinter, you will see the phenomenon of natural ice art.
Water from Inawashiro Lake is blown by very strong westerly winds onto trees near the beach where it freezes in splash formations, a phenomenon that is very rare in Japan. This 'splash ice' is as beautiful as 'silver frost' and you will never be tired of seeing it.
The splashes sometimes make ice formations up to five meters long. The wind is so strong that windbreak forests have been planted along Tenjin beach. Strong cold waves sometimes make the splash ice around the trees. You can see this ice along a 100m area where there are no anti-erosion concrete blocks.
Moreover, you can see various other changing ice formations such as drift ice and ice upheavals that are said to mark the passing of deities.
Shishi-Iwa is a lion-like rock, located inside the Yoshino-Kumano National Park near Kumano city in Mie Prefecture.
Shishi-Iwa is a mass of rock, 25m high and 210m round, and is also known as the Japanese Sphinx. It was formed by the upheaval and erosion of the surrounding rock and gets its name from the fact that it looks like a lion roaring at the Pacific Ocean. There seems to be no end to the tourists visiting for the beautiful scenery, which continues from Oniga Castle.
Shishi-Iwa is also highly regarded for its academic value. Along with the Shinsen cave, it is considered as one of the guardian dogs of Oma Shrine, which lies upstream of the nearby Idogawa River.
Shishi-Iwa is illuminated on New Year's Eve and is one of the events relating to the '108 fireworks of the watch-night', creating a fantastic atmosphere. Shishi-Iwa is a national scenic monument made by nature, and stimulates the viewer's imagination.
Ashitsuki Park is located in Takaoka City, Toyama prefecture. It was selected as one of the 100 Homes for Life by the Natural Protection Division of the Environment Agency. This selection is aimed at the protection and recovery of small familiar animals and their living environment.
The protected living things in Ashitsuki Park are the Genji-firefly and the Heike-firefly. Since Showa 46, Nakata Elementary School and the Nakata District Protection Association have carried out protection activities, which have been highly valued.
In olden times, the firefly was loved as a feature of early summer, but as the water quality of the streams that the firefly larvae live in gets dirtier and the waterside environment changes, so the situation gets worse and it becomes more difficult to see fireflies. In this park, however, you can see the fireflies' bright lights in June, which let us know that summer is coming.
The Giant Aphananthe of Mukumoto is located in Geinou-chou, Angei County, Mie Prefecture, and has been designated as a National Natural Monument. As old as 1500 years, the giant aphananthe tree is more than 18 meters high and has a trunk circumference of 8 meters. It is the largest tree in Japan after the Mikazuki-no-muku located in Hyogo Prefecture.
Long ago, there used to be a larger trunk on the northern face of the tree, but it was blown off in strong winds during the Meiji period. Because of this, the trunk is currently only half of what it used to be. The circumference of the trunk at that time is said to have been more than 14 meters.
During the reign of Emperor Saga (809~822), it is said that when Taizen Nozoe and his son, both subjects of the Sei-Taishogun (General) Sakanoue-no-Tamuramaro, were wandering along the Ise Road, they came upon this land, where they found a giant aphananthe tree. They dwelt here temporarily in a tea hut they built right under the tree.
The trunk, which has grown and thickened over many hundreds of years and has its own strong vitality, gives the observer a strong impression and a sense of a mysterious stately presence