The Daily Manila Shimbun


FEATURE: ‘Nature concierge’ introduces nature, wildlife of Shiretoko Peninsula

January 6, 2017

Kobe, Kyodo - The Shiretoko Peninsula in Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido is considered to be the last unspoiled region of Japan, home to a vibrant diversity of wildlife. At a hotel on the peninsula, which is located on the northeastern tip of the island, guests coming to see the region's remarkable natural beauty can take advantage of a special service. Masako Sato, 53, works as a "nature concierge" at Shiretoko Grand Hotel Kitakobushi. Her mission is to provide guests with a 
wealth of information about the Shiretoko Peninsula, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that juts into the Sea of Okhotsk and consists of steep mountain peaks covered with virgin forests. The region is known as one of the few places in the world where bears have an undisturbed 
natural habitat. She recommends scenic-beauty and wildlife spots as well as nature-oriented adventure tours offered by local travel companies in line with each guest's interest. About 40 seats prepared on the first floor of the hotel lobby for her daily nature session are booked instantly. "I want people to know much more about the region, home to such wildlife as bears, deer and foxes," said Sato, who calls herself 
"Masako the Nature." One day in mid-November, she showed her audience video footage of a flying squirrel she had recorded near the hotel. "I waited for 
hours to capture these images," she said. A 74-year-old male guest from Saitama Prefecture who attended the session said, "I was able to feel Shiretoko's wildlife directly." For older guests who can't walk too far or package-tour visitors who have limited time to stroll in the wild, the videos and pictures that Sato shows are a valuable source of information for deepening their understanding of the Shiretoko region. Hailing from Date, a southern Hokkaido city, Sato visited Shiretoko for the first time when she was in her 30s. Visiting the Shiretoko Pass, she reached an altitude of 738 meters, the highest point on a local mountain road. From this vantage 
point, she was entranced by the wonderful view of the sun rising from nearby Kunashiri Island and decided that day to move to Shiretoko. "Once you step out of the hotel, you discover great nature and encounter wild animals," she said. "This is a place you will never 
get bored with." - Ryutaro Hara, Kyodo News