The Ghost Forest: Notsuke-hanto
Notsuke-hanto is an L-shaped peninsula that separates Notsuke-wan (Notsuke Bay) from the Okhotsk Sea. The peninsula is a key stopover point for numerous species of birds, including geese, ducks and swans, during their spring and autumn migrations. If you take a boat ride over Notsuke-wan (4.3 km wide) it is relatively easy to spot playful herds of earless seals. However, you have to be careful to avoid becoming trapped in the extensive, maze like beds of eelgrass. The eelgrass beds are spawning grounds for a variety of aquatic life. Particularly, they are the harvesting area of the popular Hokkaishimaebi (Northern Shrimp Pandalus latirostris), which is a special product of the Notsuke-hanto region.
Notsuke-hanto boasts a large tidal flat that can easily be accessed from the Notsuke Peninsula Nature Center. You can walk to the boardwalk installed over the tidal flat in about 15 minutes, or, if you want to keep the sand out of your shoes, you can take the ‘tractor bus’ (A small, covered wagon pulled by a tractor engine).
The tidal flat has a barren, bleached appearance due to salt deposits from the ocean tides. During high tide the tidal flat is completely submerged in water, making it nearly indistinguishable from the bay. Small clumps of colorful flowers are scattered throughout the tidal flat, but the main attraction of Notsuke-hanto is the Todowara, trees that have withered due to the high salt content and have a white, ghostly appearance. If you want to view the Todowara you had better hurry! Unfortunately, storms and strong winds are gradually reducing the number of Todowara trees, so it is likely the ‘ghost forest’ will one day disappear.