Ishikari Bay Loop Daytrip Skate/Cycle Tour (Sapporo City)

Posted on Jun 16, 2013
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Posted on Jun 16, 2013

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NOTE: Japan Road and Traffic Law prohibits the use of skateboards on highly trafficked roads and sidewalks. I’ve once been asked to find a less busy place to skate (when skating during commuting hour in central Nagoya), so it pays to be informed and respectful. See our notes on Japan road law regarding skateboards here. The riverside cyclepaths and stopbank roads in this route guide are not likely to be considered highly trafficked. Take care on the inner city sections at the start of the route when getting to the river path.

This cycle route in Sapporo City and Ishikari City follows traffic-free cycleways, riverside paths, and stopbank access roads. Expect birdwatching opportunities, hotsprings, ocean swimming, a chocolate factory, and locations for wharf fishing. We create a loop via the Toyohira River (豊平川), Ishikari River (石狩川), Ishikari Bay beach (石狩湾砂浜), and Shinkawa River (新川). Sometimes the thought of getting out of Sapporo City by human power can be daunting, but this route proves otherwise. The pavement is smooth enough even for keen long-distance skateboarders - two of us did this 70km route on longboards, with the others on a mix of road bikes and mama-chari.

Last updated Nov 23, 2018

Route Map

Need to know details


This cycle daytrip makes a big loop around the northwestern suburbs of Sapporo City via the Toyohira River (here), Ishikari River (here), and Ishikari Bay (here). It starts and finishes at Sapporo Station (here).

General notes

Dedicated cycling infrastructure in Hokkaido is similar to elsewhere in Japan – mostly non-existent anywhere that commuters or heavy cycle users would want it to be. However, there are plenty of recreational paths around, particularly on river banks and stopbanks. In Sapporo, the Toyohira River and Ishikari River are two such rivers that have cycle paths or at least very low-trafficked access roads along them. This routes connects some of those paths together for a mostly traffic-free 65km ride around Sapporo City. There’s a little more traffic in places along the Ishikari Bay waterfront, but it’s all ‘leisure’ traffic, consisting of well-behaved daytrippers and people out fishing.

Swimming in Ishikari Bay: At the northern end of the bay, close to the onsen, the swimming is acceptable. The sea along the Ishikari Bay coast is not as impossibly clear and beautiful as the nearby Shakotan Peninsula, but it is a decent, run-of-the-mill beach. Avoid swimming at the southern end of the beach near the Shinkawa River mouth. I went for a dip there on an overnight walk to Ishikari Bay (story here), but regretted it – the Teine settling ponds run into the Shinkawa River, so the water does have a stale aroma to it.

Highlights of this route include quiet cycleways and paths, Royce Chocolate factory store (here), birdwatching, and the ocean.

Route markers

This is not a marked cycle route. However, it is generally possible to just follow your nose along the banks of the rivers on the paved surfaces.

Route Timing

It’ll depend on how fast you cycle and how much time you spend swimming (or soaking in the onsen), but I would allow a solid 7 hours for this trip. This will allow for a leisurely pace.

Physical maps

Explore the official Japan topomaps online for the area around Ishikari Bay here. Follow these instructions to print out the area you would like as a hardcopy.

Weather forecast weather forecast for Ishikari Bay
Other resources
Do you know of any? Let us know in the comments.
Onsen nearby

The Ban-ya Onsen hotspring (番屋の湯, 650yen) near the Ishikari Beach (here) is fantastic. In addition to outdoor baths with good sunset views, they also have captive capybara rodents that bathe in a special onsen just for them.

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Route Trip Notes

I’d been itching to go for a nice long skate for a while. But the problem was where to do it. So many of the inner city cycle paths (such as the Shiroishi Cycle Road) are not only very busy with pedestrians and bicycles, but the surface on the Sapporo City side is quite rough. After a bit of perusing on Google Earth, I settled on a trip to Ishikari Bay and back via the Toyohira and Ishikari River river-side paths. The initial plan had been to skate there and back on the same route, but half way though the day we decided to make it a loop, coming back via another cycle path along the Shinkawa River.

Joining me on another longboard was Max from the UK. He’d not done any distance skating before, but he was keen to give it a try. By the end of the day he would have skated his first 70km in one go. I was also on a longboard, with the rest of the troupe on bicycles. The weather couldn’t have been better for it, and we had a tailwind the whole way to the beach.

The cycleway along the Toyohira River is a empty dream once past the more central city parts of it. For the most part, we had it to ourselves. After joining with the Ishikari River, the cycleway carries on for a few kilometers before merging with a nicely paved stop-bank road. On occasion Max couldn’t help but catch a ride. 

Rather than head straight for the beach, we carried on north up to the end of the road near the Ishikari River river mouth. There’s a wild hamanasu Japanese rose area here, along with a lighthouse. I’ve not yet been there in the hamanasu  blooming season, but from what I hear it is quite the sight. After a quick walk along the board walks, we headed to the beach. It was a hot day, so we passed on the hotsprings, and opted for a dip in the sea instead. We weren’t the only ones doing so. It seemed like most of Sapporo’s outdoor loving population was at the beach.

It was around here that we decided to push on along the Ishikari Bay waterfront to make it a loop back to Sapporo City. That would add about 20km to the total distance for the day, but we’d had such an easy ride to the beach due to the tailwind that we were feeling confident. Despite being off a skateboard for at least a few years, I still felt strong.

By the end of the trip, as we were rolling through the cool and green Hokkaido University campus in the middle of town, we were feeling the distance. We’d returned to central Sapporo via the Shinkawa River cycle path, a dead-straight river running from just north of Hokkaido University to Ishikari Bay. While the stopbanks on the river gave some respite from the headwind, we were still feeling it.

Still, it was a stellar effort by Max who completed his first ever ‘proper’ distance skateboarding trip. And for me, this was the longest I’d skated in a day since finishing my big trip back in 2008 (details here).

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