Island hop in Japan’s northernmost National Park
Discover why these islands have their own individual charms - despite being neighbours.
This tour is perfect for adventurers who dream of deep exploration into remote corners of Japan that most travellers would never have the opportunity to visit. Mountains meet the ocean on these unique islands.
The tour takes place in the Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park, which sits at the very top of Hokkaido and is the northernmost national park in Japan. The southern tip of Sakhalin Island (Russia) is only 40 kms away - this is as far north in Japan as you can get!
The islands have a distinct ecosystem with striking Siberia-like landscapes in close proximity to the ocean. Leave the sticky summer heat behind and enjoy the refreshing summer hiking in this subarctic region!
Discover why these islands have their own individual charms - despite being neighbours.
See alpine flowers growing along the seashore and search for endemic orchids.
The imposing peak stands at 1721m and is listed as one of Japan's 100 Famous Mountains.
The waters around the islands are teaming with seafood, from scallops to konbu kelp and you won't find it any fresher than at the restaurants in the local fishing ports.
Irankarapte! Welcome to Wakkanai, the northernmost city in Hokkaido, and by extension, Japan!
Should you arrive in Wakkanai in time for lunch, what better than fresh, Hokkaido seafood? As a city by the sea, Wakkanai has a plethora of options for fresh seafood from sushi to robata-yaki - seafood grilled on an open flame.
Dinner is not included in your hotel reservation, but the hotel is located in a district full of local izakaya bars and small restaurants.
This morning you’ll head to the Wakkanai Ferry Terminal to catch the ferry to Rebun Island. “Rebun” means “Island far from Shore” in the native Ainu language, a fitting name as the ferry takes roughly 2 hours.
After you arrive, you'll place your luggage in a coin locker at the ferry terminal and take off for the trails. Today's hike is known as the Momoiwa Trail and takes you across the southern half of the island. There is a brief walk through the town of Kafuka to reach the trailhead at Reika-ji, a buddhist temple at the edge of town.
After about 45 minutes of moderate uphill hiking, you'll reach the lookout point for Momoiwa, which literally translates to “Peach Rock”. The sight of Momoiwa is one of the most popular views on the island due to its unique shape and massive size.
From Momoiwa you'll head south towards Motoji Lighthouse. The trail winds along the clifftops, flanked on one side by rolling hills and by the sea on the other. Depending on visibility, you'll be greeted with panoramic views of Mt. Rishiri and the surrounding ocean. From Motoji Lighthouse, the trail descends to the small settlement of Shiretoko. From here you can catch a local bus back to the ferry terminal or make the journey back to the ferry terminal on foot.
After your first day of hiking in Hokkaido, consider winding down in the hotel's hot spring after dinner.
This morning you will take a local bus bound for the northern tip of Rebun Island to hike the "Misaki-Meguri Trail''. Literally meaning “touring the capes”, this 14.2 km trail starts at Cape Sukoton and winds its way along the coast, over impressive seaside cliffs and through quaint fishing villages.
Before hiking, be sure to take in the view of Todo Island, one of the few breeding grounds of sea lions in Japan - but be careful of Cape Sukoton’s notoriously strong winds!
From Cape Sukoton, the trail briefly follows a paved road before breaking away towards Cape Gorota . From Cape Gorota you have a unique opportunity to see the trail you walked from Cape Sukoton to the north and get a sneak peek of where the trail is heading to the south. From here you’ll be walking amongst a variety of alpine flowers, some of which are found only on Rebun Island.
The trail continues down towards Teppu, a small settlement home to a free restroom and a vending machine. From here it's only one more climb before the descent to the final cape on the trail, Cape Sukai. There is a small shop selling souvenirs and hot foods, which make it the perfect spot to fill up before the walk back to the bus stop.
From Cape Sukai you will follow a paved road to reach the bus stop in the small village of Funadomari . Funadomari is home to a few restaurants and a shop to pick up a drink or snacks before catching a return bus to Kafuka. The bay around Funadomari, as well as Cape Kaneda just north of Funadomari, are popular spots for viewing harbour seals as well.
This morning, you'll depart from Rebun Island and take a short ferry ride over to Rishiri Island. Today you have the flexibility to explore the island in a way that suits you best.
After leaving your luggage at your accommodation, you can explore the town of Oshidomari, including the walk up to Cape Peshi, which looks out over the town. From atop Cape Peshi you'll be greeted by a panorama of the island, with the quaint town of Oshidomari contrasted against Mt. Rishiri in the background.
If you're up for a longer walk, consider taking a local bus to Himenuma , a pond formed in 1917 when 3 smaller lakes were flooded with spring water to form one large lake.
While technically a man-made pond, the area is a treasure trove of plants and wildlife, with a well-maintained walkway surrounding it. If you're blessed with low winds, you'll be able to see Mt. Rishiri reflected perfectly in the pond as well.
To get back to town from Himenuma, you can return via bus or take the roughly 5.5km walk along the elevated cycling path back to town. The elevated cycling path was created as an escape route in case of a tsunami. Thanks to its height, walkers and cyclists can enjoy beautiful ocean views from a number of viaducts built over valleys.
Today you’ll take on the challenge of the 1,721 m Mt. Rishiri, one of the 100 Famous Mountains of Japan. The trail starts off in the pristine (and bear-free!) forests of Rishiri Island. Within 10 minutes of walking from the trailhead, you’ll pass by “Kanro-Sensui” , flowing with natural spring water.
Once you reach the 5th Station, you’ll be above the tree line and greeted by views of the ocean below. From here the trail gets much steeper as you climb towards Mt. Chokan, a sub-peak on the ridge. From Mt. Chokan the trail levels out for a bit, but the ridgeline is exposed and Mt. Chokan is a sensible point to turn around if the weather is bad. As you push on you will pass the shelter hut and start climbing once again. It’s another steep climb to the summit, but once you pull through you’ll be standing atop one of Japan’s northernmost mountains. Enjoy the views from the summit and take your time returning to the trailhead.
For climbing Mt. Rishiri, please allow at least 11 hours, starting at the crack of dawn like local hikers do. It’s best to aim to complete the hike well before sunset, as coming back late from the hike can upset locals or cause them worry. Your accommodation provides a courtesy shuttle at around 5am to the trailhead upon request. A lunch of rice balls (onigiri) can also be arranged with your accommodation as long as you request it the night before.
After your hike, congratulate yourself with a soak in the hot springs back at your inn.
Today is left relatively open-ended to give those who summited Mt. Rishiri a chance to rest and explore the island at a relaxed pace. Having a day in reserve also gives you a second chance to attempt the climb if the weather on the previous day was bad - the weather on the island is notoriously fickle!
If you are up for another morning of hiking, consider hiking up to Mt. Pon , a hike that follows the same trail as yesterday but branches off to a much smaller summit, giving you the chance to enjoy the forests of Rishiri at a much slower pace. Along the way you'll once again pass the Kanro-Sensui spring, where you can fill up your water bottles with the island's famous spring water, known for its unique sweetness.
There is also the option to rent a car or a bicycle near the ferry terminal to loop around the island and visit some of the more remote sights, such as the scenic Otatomari Swamp or the Senboshi-Misaki Park , a breeding ground for Black-tailed Gulls. The southern half of the island is also accessible via local buses, which offer a 1-Day Unlimited Pass to ride the bus as many times as you'd like for a set price.
Congratulations on completing this self-guided tour of Hokkaido! Our tour arrangements end with breakfast at the hotel. Once you’ve eaten, you'll say goodbye to the island of Rishiri and take the earliest ferry back to the mainland. For those flying back to Tokyo, there is a bus that operates between the ferry terminal and Wakkanai Airport, stopping at Wakkanai Station along the way.
For travellers heading to Sapporo, you can take a direct highway bus from Wakkanai to Sapporo.
For those heading toward Asahikawa, you can take an express train from Wakkanai station directly to Asahikawa.
Please check you have left nothing behind in Hokkaido before you depart. Itterasshai!
Going self-guided also means being your own boss– you have complete control over the day’s schedule, from what to eat to how long to spend at a destination. This tour is therefore perfect for independent travellers who love the flexibility that comes with travelling alone. It also makes a great self-guided extension to any of our more involved guided tours!
You will travel by public transport on this tour. Hokkaido is a fairly vast land with most residents relying on cars and much of the infrastructure has been built with this in mind. While this means that more intensive trailheads are a little out of reach of public transport, there are still a number of very accessible, leisurely day and loop hikes that can be reached by train, bus or taxi. Our self-guided tours showcase the very best of these smaller routes.
Being your own boss does of course mean that you must take responsibility for yourself to a certain degree. This includes making sure you have enough funds on you to pay for public transport and meals, getting yourself from A to B in a timely manner, keeping on top of train and bus timetables and looking after your own luggage. A luggage transfer service is not included in this tour, so you will need to carry it with you when travelling. Between hikes, we recommend that you leave your luggage either with your accommodation front desk or at coin lockers in stations. You can also use Yamato’s amazing luggage-forwarding service to send larger, more bulky luggage ahead to other destinations (though note that this is not a same-day service– please allow up to 72 hours for your luggage to arrive).