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Cruises to watch killer whales off Hokkaido a hit with tourists

A killer whale is seen from a sightseeing ship off the Hokkaido town of Rausu, on the Shiretoko Peninsula, in this recent photo. (Mainichi/Taichi Kaizuka)

RAUSU, Hokkaido -- Sightseeing cruises to watch killer whales off the Shiretoko Peninsula here in the northeastern part of Japan's northernmost prefecture are proving popular with tourists from home and abroad.

The cruises travel around the Nemuro Strait, which is located between the town of Rausu on the peninsula, designated a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site, and Kunashiri Island, one of the four disputed isles comprising the Northern Territories effectively controlled by Russia.

The area is known as one of the best spots in the world to watch killer whales and visitors have chances to see many marine mammals, including Dall's porpoises and humpback whales. Killer whales are very curious and sometimes come close to the ship to let sightseers take photos of them swimming nearby while spouting water.

According to Nature Cruise, the local operator of the "Ever Green" sightseeing ship, visitors will have chances to encounter killer whales until around July.

(Japanese original by Taichi Kaizuka, Hokkaido Photo Group)

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