National Parks of Japan

Part 2

Kushiroshitsugen National Park

Kushiroshitsugen National Park is a national park located in the east of Hokkaido, Japan. It was designated as a national park on 31 July 1987. The park is known for its wetlands ecosystems. Kushiroshitsugen (Kushiro Wetlands or Kushiro Swamp, Marshland) covers an area of 268.61 square km on the Kushiro Plain and contains the largest tracts of reedbeds in Japan. The Kushiro River (154 km), which originates in Lake Kussharo, meanders through much of the park. During the Ramsar Convention of 1980, in which Japan participated, the park was first registered as a peatland with raised bogs. In 1967, the wetlands themselves had been designated as a national natural monument. For that reason, access is strictly limited and the landscape, most typical of Hokkaido, has been preserved.

Reeds, sedges, peat moss wetlands, black alder thickets, rivers which bend freely back and forth, groups of lakes and marshes, and other wet ecosystems comprise a varied environment. Kushiroshitsugen is home to over 600 species of plants. The park is a valuable haven for wild species such as the Japanese crane (Grus japonensis), huchen (Hucho perryi), Siberian salamander (Salamandrella keyserlingii) and dragonfly (Leucorrhinia intermedia ijimai). Japanese Cranes were thought to be extinct in Japan due to overhunting and habitat destruction. However, in 1926 a group of about 20 birds was discovered in the marshes around Kushiro. With conservation efforts they have since made a dramatic recovery and now number more than 1000 birds.

Daisetsuzan National Park

Daisetsuzan National Park is located in the mountainous center of Hokkaido. At 2,267.64 square km, Daisetsuzan is the largest national park in Japan, and it is larger than some of Japan's smaller prefectures. Daisetsuzan, meaning "great snowy mountains", an apt description of these peaks. There are 16 peaks over 2,000 metres in Daisetsuzan National Park, both with and without trails. The park offers some of the most rugged scenery in Japan. Asahidake (2,290 metres), located in the north of the park, is the highest peak in Hokkaido. Daisetsuzan National Park spans two subprefectures of Hokkaido, Kamikawa and Tokachi. Daisetsuzan National Park was established in 1934.

Daisetsuzan National Park is famous for its wildlife, and the park is home to several rare species. The park is notably home to a population of brown bears. The pika, a small mammal, with short limbs, rounded ears, and no external tail, is also found in the park. The forests of Daisetsuzan National Park are dominated by the Picea jezoensis, the Jezo spruce, and the Abies sachalinensis, the Sakhalin fir. Of the 450 species of alpine plants found in Hokkaido, half are found in Daisetsuzan National Park. The park is famous for the first place in Japan to see autumn colors and snow each year.

Shikotsu-Toya National Park

Shikotsu-Toya National Park is a national park in the western part of Hokkaido, Japan. Named after the volcanic caldera lakes of Lake Shikotsu and Lake Toya, it has a total area of 993.02 square km. The popular hot spring resort of Noboribetsu is also within the park. Its proximity to Sapporo makes it a popular destination for travelers with limited time in Hokkaido. Shikotsu-Toya National Park is one of the the easiest national park to access from the big cities of Japan such as Sapporo.

Shikotsu Toya National Park offers a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, hot springs and some of the Japan's best ski resorts of Niseko around its caldera lakes and a perfectly shaped volcano called Mt. Yotei. At the foot of Mount Tarumae on the north-west side of thepark, one can find the impressive moss-covered cavern called Koke-no-domon.

Towada-Hachimantai National Park

Towada-Hachimantai National Park is a national park comprising two separate areas of Aomori, Iwate, and Akita Prefectures, Japan. The park has a wealth of attractive forests, mountains, hiking trails and rustic hot springs, and is one of Japan's best spots for autumn colors during the month of October. The Towada-Hakkōda area encompasses Lake Towada, Mount Hakkōda, and most of the Oirase River valley. The Hachimantai area includes Mount Hachimantai, Mount Iwate, Tamagawa Onsen, and Akita Komagatake. The two areas are 50 km apart, and cover 854 square km.

The vegetation in the park area consists mainly of broad-leaved deciduous forests of beeches (Fagus crenata) and Japanese oaks (Quercus crispula). Coniferous forests of Maries firs (Abies mariesii) and other kinds of trees can be seen in the upper part of the Hakkoda Mountains and Hachimantai Plateau, and around the top of high mountains, there are communities of alpine and swamp plants. In winter, trees in the coniferous forests in Hakkoda and Hachimantai are covered with juhyo, silver frost, that makes mysterious landscapes. Juhyo are ice layers that form on trees when mist is blown by the wind and hits trees and other objects. It is formed when the temperature is lower than five degrees below zero. Trees covered with juhyo look exquisite. Both the ice layer and the trees covered with silver frost are called juhyo in Japanese.

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See Also
Encyclopedia of Japan