Japan Far North plus Rishiri and Rebun Islands

Posted on Oct 9, 2018
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35 2

Posted on Oct 9, 2018

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35 2
Reading time: 3 min
510km

Distance

13 days

Time

4660m

Ascent

100m

Highest point

4/10

Difficulty

100%

Paved

Rishiri and Rebun Island cycle touring has that end-of-the-world, rugged-beauty feeling that makes the effort getting to the islands more than worth it. While the daily distances are short on this two-week sojourn, the vistas are grand. Think massive coastal views and plenty of wild campgrounds. You'll also see Japan's northern-most city, Wakkanai, in all its modest grandeur.

Last updated Jun 3, 2019

Route Map

Route Overview

There isn’t anywhere further north in Japan than the area around Wakkanai City, Cape Soya, Rishiri Island and Rebun Island. The mighty Japan Rail finds its terminus in Wakkanai City, and it is a favourite spot for length-of-Japan cyclists, walkers, and motorcyclists to either start or end their epic journeys. If you’ve made it this far to the tippy-top of Japan, then it would be a shame not to jump on a ferry over to the outlying islands of Rishiri and Rebun. Rishiri is home to a Mt. Fuji lookalike conical mountain, and has a separated cycle path around most of its 60km circumference. Rebun only really has one main road from the top to the bottom. Its the stark, rough-around-the-edges, end-of-the-world, bleak-but-beautiful atmosphere of these islands that make them so appealing.

People who have grown up in Japan, of course, will tell you they’re worth going for one thing only: the seafood. And yes, it is amazing. Fresh fish, roe, sea urchin…

Once you’ve had your fill of these outlying islands, it is back to the mainland. After a quick dash to Cape Soya – Japan’s northern-most point – you’ll make your way down the Rumoi Coast back to Sapporo. The coast between Mashike and Sapporo is a like-it-or-hate-it stretch of coastal road with lots of tunnels. So an inland route from there might be more appealing, but its not far from there to Ishikari Bay, north of Sapporo City.

  • Daily distances: This route guide takes a very leisurely time of covering distance. Stronger riders would easily combine multiple days into one.
  • Ferries: Ferries run daily from Wakkanai to Rishiri and Rebun Islands. See the up to date timetable here. Fares are paid per leg. That is Wakkanai↔Rishiri (2,240yen pp | 1,360yen per bicycle), Wakkanai↔Rebun (2,470yen pp | 1,360yen per bicycle), Rishiri↔Rebun (900yen pp | 690yen per bicycle). So if you went Wakkanai→Rishiri→Rebun with a bicycle, it’d be 9,020yen in total. There are no discounted return tickets or the like (although see this 45° Hopping Pass deal for unlimited ferry rides).
    • How to save money taking bikes to Rishiri/Rebun: The fee for bicycles is only if you roll the bike onto the ferry as a ‘vehicle’. Pack your bike into a bike bag (similar to on trains in Japan) and you won’t be charged the bicycle fee. This would save you 3,410yen.

Daily Route notes

Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route or parts of it? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback or queries here. Thanks!

2 thoughts on “Japan Far North plus Rishiri and Rebun Islands”

  1. Thank you for this excellent and clear bikepacking route. I am planning this for late July.
    I will most likely fly from Osaka to start so my one concern is buying fuel for my MSR stove upon arrival for the length of the trip. I am guessing it should be easy enough to find some in Sapporo at a sporting goods shop. Did you have any experience with buying fuel after leaving Sapporo.

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Japan Far North plus Rishiri and Rebun Islands Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

D

25

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

D

0

Hazards

D

Navigation

D

Totals

25/100

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.