Jewelers routes

01 March 2024

In Toyokoro, the Jewelry Ice Beach

I’ll come clean: one of the reasons I wanted to go to Toyokoro (Hokkaido, Japan) were these gorgeous photos of the Jewelry Ice Beach posted on Instagram.

By Sandrine Merle.



On this beach in Otsu, Hokkaido, shards of ice glisten in the sunlight like precious stones. This natural phenomenon can be observed from January to February: it’s caused by the frozen ice of the Tokachi River, which flows into the Pacific Ocean. This transparent, flowing ice is tossed, broken and polished by the strong waves, before washing up on the beach. There, depending on the time of day, they turn from blue to red to white, evoking in turn the beauty of sapphire, rose quartz, opal or diamond.


A rare phenomenon

It’s at dawn that this phenomenon comes into its own. So I set my alarm for 05:00, put on my Eskimo outfit and drove an hour through the snow to reach this jewel-like itinerary. But all these wonderful images fail to mention that this phenomenon is not 100% guaranteed. Far from it… Nature being complex, a number of conditions have to come together: namely, clear skies, bright sunshine and polar temperatures approaching -20°C. It’s also best if the ice has been washed ashore shortly beforehand.


Beautiful but disappointing

That day, I had a completely different version of Jewelry Ice Beach. The atmosphere in Toyokoro was cinematic: in the total absence of light and at only -7°C in the wind, everything was black and white. Few blocks of ice. A powerful, magnificent and, let’s be honest, disappointing spectacle. But in Japan, the land of wisdom, there’s no question of being overwhelmed by such feelings. And there’s no question of fiddling with images, of abusing  the art of retouching to intensify colors and obtain mysterious colored shadows.


The relativity of disappointment

I should have known better, Instagram is not reality. After my initial disappointment, I have to admit that without this desire to discover Jewelry Ice Beach, I probably wouldn’t have gone to Hokkaido; the island is renowned for its extreme cold. In the end, I was delighted to discover the misty winter atmosphere, the snowstorms, the huge frozen lakes, the frosted flowers, the onsens, the flocks of graceful cranes and the walks among the drifting ice of the Sea of Okhotsk. Disappointment only arises if you allow it to.


Related article:

Jewelry and Japan

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