The Nopporo Forest Park (野幌森林公園) is a sprawling 20-square kilometer forest park on the eastern fringes of Sapporo City. It is well known as a birdwatcher’s paradise, and in winter, a pair of snowshoes will allow visitors to wander as they please through un-tracked areas. Haidee recently got a new Hokkaido birdwatching information book that shows the general areas that owls are known to be seen, so we headed out with a birdwatching-master friend to take a look.
Route GPS File
- Location: Nopporo Forest Park (野幌森林公園) is a 10 minute walk southeast from the Shinrin-koen JR Station (森林公園駅), on the JR Hakodate Line.
- General notes: The world is your oyster at this large park. There are official tracks which should be kept to as much as possible, but with snowshoes, taking care not to fall into creeks or gullies, it is possible roam free. There is a nature center here, which is a great place to stop and warm up – the nature center allows the public to bring food into their large indoor free-space area.
- Route markers: There are plenty of signs to point you in all directions, but they are all in Japanese.
- Transport: If arriving by public transport, you can access the start of the route with a 10 minute walk from the JR Shinrin-koen station on the Hakodate Line; about 15 minutes from central Sapporo station. If arriving by car, there is plenty of parking at the trailhead marked in this route.
- Paper topographical maps: For topographical maps, you can either print out what you want from the Geospacial Information Authority of Japan here (the Memorial Tower is in the cross-hairs), or buy the following 1/25000 paper topo maps (for 350yen) from a bookstore in Sapporo (such as Kinokuniya next to Sapporo Station).
- Snow and route safety: As mentioned above, this is a large park, with few defining features once you are in the woods. That said, by my reckoning the absolute farthest you could possibly walk in a straight line before hitting a track or road is about 3.2km. There are tracks crisscrossing the park fairly regularly, so it is unlikely you’ll be away from civilization for long.
- Weather forecast: A Google search for the park’s weather is here.
- Other resources
- See the birding map (in Japanese) in the book A Guide to Bird Watching in Hokkaido (ISBN: 978-4894535572) from page 72-73.
- Onsen neaby: The closest onsen is the Kiyora Forest Park Onsen (here), just a 10 minute walk from the beginning of the route outlined on this page.
- Date visited for this report: 21st January, 2018
We didn’t have anything special planned for Sunday, so on a whim in the morning we decided to bike from our place to Nopporo Forest Park – only 10 minutes away by bike. We also invited Rick to come along. Not only is he great company, but he is a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm for birdwatching in Hokkaido.
While Haidee and I had just intended to wander along the well-trodden paths, Rick was having nothing of it, and before long we were tramping through untracked snow on our snowshoes.
We continued on a round-about route to the northeast, trying to stay off the paths as much as possible.
By the time we had made it to the Nature Center, it wasn’t quite time for a break, so we pushed on into the forest proper. We were on hardpacked trails for a while that did not require the use of snowshoes. Then we decided to break our own trail into the woods to see if we could spot any owls. This was the area, so said the guidebook, so we had our eyes peeled.
Alas, no owls were spotted. We did see a black woodpecker, as well as a couple of great spotted woodpeckers. With no luck in this area, we made our way back to the Nature Center to have some lunch and warm up.
With renewed energy, we took another quick look at an area where Rick had spotted owls previously, but to no avail. Back to the trailhead it was, via a vague route through the woods.
We were following our noses back to the Memorial Tower (or the “Tower of Mordor” as I like to call it). So we were happy to see it emerge in front of us as we finally exited the woods.
Thus ended out great owl hunt. No owls seen, but a great workout in the winter wonderland that is Nopporo Forest Park.