Trip Report

2019 Shiribeshi-Toshibetsu River – Day 1

Posted on Sep 12, 2019

Posted on Sep 12, 2019

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It took a solid half-day to get ourselves set up and ready for this two-day trip down the Shiribeshi-Toshibetsu River. We drove three hours from Sapporo to Pirika Dam, picked up Dan and co and their bikes, dropped canoes and gear at the dam, drove to the sea, and bussed back to the dam. A lot of fussing about for a two-day trip down the river, but what has to be done has to be done.

Today’s essential details

  Distance: 0km

Onsen: Pirika Onsen (ピリカ温泉) | 400yen | 1.3km from accommodation


Haidee and I made an early start at work on the Friday, with the reward of heading away from Sapporo early in the afternoon. The major aim was to get us, Dan and El, the canoes, and all our gear to the Pirika Dam, in time for me to drive to the end of the river at the Japan Sea coast, in order to catch the last bus for the day back to the dam. On paper it sounded relatively convoluted, but in reality, everything went pretty smoothly. Including cramming two full-sized cycle touring bicycles into Chris’s cavernous car.

The one slight hitch in the plan was that we were on the highway the entire time, expecting to be able to buy tomorrow’s lunch in the sleepy little town of Kunnui, just off the highway before heading up and over the hills to Pirika Dam. Problem was that when we arrived there, the only tiny shop open didn’t have the rice balls we’d hoped for. We bought his entire meager stock of jam-filled white-bread buns and carried on our way. The 20km round-trip to the nearest Lawson may have put us in jeopardy of missing the last bus back from the sea to the dam.

We arrived at the dam at around 4pm. We cleared all the essential gear out of the car, and I left Haidee and co to set up camp while I managed the 50km shuttle to the Shiribeshi-Toshibetsu river mouth at Setana Town on the Japan Sea coast.

Somehow, I’d got into my head that there was a bus at just before 5pm. So I rushed to get there, park the car up at the first convenient location close to the river, and walk the 1km from there to the bus stop (here). After completing all of this, however, the bus stop sign informed me that actually, the next bus was not until 6:34pm. I had at least 1.5 hours to kill. In reality, this was actually a good thing – it gave me time to spend looking for the best take-out location. Where I’d parked was not actually the prime location, so I drove to the very end of the stopbank road, and parked up in a small sandy parking area with good access to the river mouth beach.


With all the take-out location scouting done, and car parked, I was just in time to catch the 6:34pm bus back to the Pirika Onsen, just above the Pirika Dam where we’d agreed to set up camp.

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2019 Shiribeshi-Toshibetsu River – Day 1 Difficulty Rating





Vertical Gain



Time ascending













GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy). Hazards include exposure to avalanche and fall risk. More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.