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Bear With It in Japan

By Linda Tancs

Located in eastern Hokkaido in Japan, Shiretoko’s unspoiled nature is epitomized by the five lakes, Shiretoko Goko. Formed long ago by the eruption of nearby Mount Io and fed by underground springs, the lakes are accessible via an elevated wooden path (leading to the first lake) or a ground pathway (offering views of all five lakes). Visitors are free to walk along the elevated wooden path to the first lake throughout the season (which opens in late April and closes in November). The ground pathway, however, is subject to guided tours during bear season, which is generally May 10 to July 31. But bears live in the lakes region all year, so bear encounters are always possible and may result in path closures. Further regulations apply during this time of year (ecosystem aware season), when tourist traffic threatens the tender vegetation in the area. For the privilege of viewing the pristine lakes and surrounding mountains, you’ll need to attend a lecture and wait your turn to hike because there’s an hourly limit to the number of visitors allowed on the trails. So just grin and (ahem) bear it.

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