A satellite image of Shiretoko Peninsula
|Peak||Mount Rausu (Shari and Rausu)|
|Elevation||1,661 m (5,449 ft)|
|Length||70 km (43 mi) SW-NE|
|Width||25 km (16 mi) NW-SE|
|Area||1,230 km2 (470 sq mi)|
|Etymology||Ainu sir etok, the end of the Earth or the place where the Earth protrudes|
|Native name||知床半島, Shiretoko-hantō|
|Regions||Abashiri Subprefecture and Nemuro Subprefecture|
|Districts||Menashi District, Shari District and Shibetsu District|
|Type of rock||Volcanic|
Shiretoko Peninsula (知床半島 Shiretoko-hantō?) is located on the easternmost portion of the Japanese island of Hokkaidō, protruding into the Sea of Okhotsk. It is separated from the Kunashir Island of Russia by the Nemuro Strait. The name Shiretoko is derived from the Ainu language word sir etok, meaning the end of the Earth or the place where the Earth protrudes. The towns of Rausu and Shari cover the peninsula.
On July 14, 2005, in a meeting held in the Republic of South Africa, the Shiretoko Peninsula was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and on July 17 was officially registered as such. The reason is that in the Northern Hemisphere, the peninsula is the southernmost point where sea ice usually forms. 
From Shiretoko Cape at the tip of the peninsula, a series of volcanoes run down the peninsula, including Mount Shiretoko, Mount Unabetsu, and Mount Iō. It is part of the Chishima volcanic zone. The highest peak is Mount Rausu. The peninsula is 70 kilometres (43 mi) long and 25 kilometres (16 mi) wide at its base. It covers some 123,000 hectares (470 sq mi)
The peninsula is bounded on the Northwest side by the Sea of Okhotsk and the Southeast side by the Pacific Ocean. To the east, Kunashir Island runs parallel to the peninsula. The Kunashir can be seen from Shiretoko Peninsula. Kunashir is part of Russia, but disputed by Japan.
The volcanic zone has made several onsen possible, including Seseki Onsen and Iwaobetsu Onsen.
List of peaks
- Mount Poromoi
- Mount Shiretoko
- Mount Dokkarimui
- Mount Rusha
- Mount Higashi
- Mount Chienbetsu
- Mount Minami
- Mount Iō
- Mount Okkabake
- Mount Sashirui
- Mount Rausu
- Mount Chinnishibetsu
- Mount Onnebetsu
- Mount Unabetsu
- Mount Shari
- Mount Samakke Nupuri
- Mount Shibetsu
The Oyashio Current has a profound impact on the weather of the peninsula. Shiretoko Peninsula has short summers and long winters. The current causes fog on the southeastern coast and sea ice in the winter. Snow covers the peaks from September to June, except the very highest peaks, which retain snow all summer long.
Flora and fauna
The Shiretoko Peninsula is home to many species of both conifers and broadleaf trees, including the acorn-bearing Quercus mongolica (Mizunara?). Above 1,000 metres (3,000 ft) grows Siberian Dwarf Pine. Red Foxes and Sika Deer also inhabit the area. There are also a large number of Ussuri Brown Bears. In the upper reaches of Mount Rausu, Mount Onnebetsu, and Mount Shari are the only known breeding areas of Arctic Warblers in Hokkaidō. Sea eagles flourish here, and seals can be often seen on the coast.
Whale watching is a popular attraction in the local tourism. Thirteen or fourteen species of cetaceans species have been recorded in the area. Especially for Orca, Killer Whales, the waters surrounding the peninsula are regarded as one of the most significant habitat areas in the northwestern Pacific. There was a notable mass stranding of 12 animals in February 2005. Nine animals died.
Shiretoko Peninsula is one of the few places where groups of male Sperm Whales and Baird's Beaked Whales can be spotted from the shore. Other frequently seen species include Minke Whales, Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Dall's Porpoises and Harbour Porpoises.
In recent years, both being endangered populations in Sea of Okhotsk, Humpback Whales and Fin Whales are starting to recover in the area. Some White Whales or Belugas that are thought to be vagrants from endangered population in northern Sea of Okhotsk do occur especially a sub-adult individual continuously appeared at the town of Shibetsu for several years in 2000s. North Pacific Right Whales, the most endangered of all the great whales have been observed close to the shore mainly on Sea of Okhotsk side of the peninsula. Blue Whales were known to harpooned and landed on Abashiri port from several records in whaling days, though this species normally do not enter adjacent seas and are now thought to be almost extinct in Japan´s waters. As being a deep, productive water, some species of Beaked Whales favor the area including Cuvier's Beaked Whales, Stejneger's beaked whales and so on. Baird's Beaked Whales, the largest of this group are most frequently observed close to shores and unidentified, poorly known form or subspecies of this are known to inhabit off Shiretoko Peninsula and Abashiri. Long-Finned Pilot Whales which once distributed along Hokkaido are thought to became extinct in 12th century, but unconfirmed sighting of Short-Finned Pilot Whales have been reported in Nemuro Strait though the area is out of their normal range.
To protect the wild animals and pristine natural beauty of the Shiretoko Peninsula, in 1964 a great portion of the peninsula was designated Shiretoko National Park. Since then, the park has been subject to strict regulation as a nature preserve, and entering is prohibited.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Shiretoko Peninsula.|
- Hunt, Paul (1988). "33. Shiretoko". Hiking in Japan: An Adventurer's Guide to the Mountain Trails (First edition ed.). Tokyo and New York: Kodansha International Ltd. pp. 200–205. ISBN 0-87011-893-5.
- "Shiretoko Peninsula". NASA Earth Observatory. Retrieved 2008-07-09.
- "JP010Shiretoko, Mount Syari-dake". Important Bird Areas of Japan. Wild Bird Society of Japan. Retrieved 12 January 2010.
- "シャチ１２頭、流氷で動けず 羅臼の海". Yomiuri Online (in Japanese). 8 Feb 2005. Retrieved 2009-09-21.
- "流氷で遭難、羅臼のシャチ １頭、自力で沖へ 残る１１頭は力尽きる？". Yomiuri Online (in Japanese). 8 Feb 2005. Retrieved 2009-09-21.
- Sato, Hal. "The Whale View Park: Observation Deck". The SeaLife Watch (in self-published). Retrieved 2009-09-21.
- 知床では珍しいクジラ -知床世界遺産クルーズFOX号. Youtube.com (2013-07-07). Retrieved on 2013-09-16.