Trip Report

Japan Far North: Day 1 (Sapporo to Wakkanai by train)

Posted on Aug 11, 2013
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Posted on Aug 11, 2013

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In the next series of posts, I’ll be recounting a cycle journey around the very north of Japan last summer (11th – 23rd August, 2013): Wakkanai → Rishiri Island → Rebun Island → Wakkanai → Cape Soya → Sapporo. All in Hokkaido, the northern-most island and prefecture in Japan. It had been a dream of mine for some time to visit the remote volcanic Rishiri and Rebun Islands, only accessible by ferry, off the north-west coast of Hokkaido. Last summer holidays (August in Japan), we made it happen, by train, ferry, and bicycle.

Last updated Oct 14, 2018

We left Sapporo early on the 11th of August, catching a 7am-ish train bound for Wakkanai JR (Japan Rail) station; the northern-most train station in Japan. Like usual on train-trips-with-bicycles in Japan, this required dismantling the bikes and putting them in bike bags (remove pedals, front wheel, and handle-bars). One of these days I must invest in a folding bike.

Bikes packed up to take on the train at Sapporo Station, Sapporo City, Japan. Japan Rail rules stipulate all bikes taken on trains must be covered in some way (even just a big tarp with bunjee cords would suffice).

The train was packed with holiday-makers. We had unwittingly chosen to travel on one of the first days of summer holidays. This included a host of cycle-touring types with bikes. Arriving in Wakkanai around 5 hours (and around US$100 each in tickets) later, we saw why there were so many bikes: Wakkanai, at the northern tip of Japan, is a natural hub for cyclists either finishing or starting length-of-Japan rides.

Northern-most train station in Japan – Wakkanai Station

It wasn’t raining when we arrived, but it started bucketing down as soon as we had reassembled the bikes. It was a wet wide up the steep hill to the Wakkanai Forest Park Campground – a free campground directly above the city. We quickly set up camp, happy we had taken on the extra weight of a tarp (Montbell Minitarp HX) for that extra covered outdoor camping space, and space to hang sodden jackets.

Camping at Wakkanai Forest Park Campground (Wakkanai Shinrin Koen), Wakkanai, Japan

We checked the weather forecast, and saw the next few days were going to be more of the same. We decided there and then we’d stay in Wakkanai for an extra day. Haidee was still officially on term-time (doing a Masters degree in TESOL by distance) so she could cram in some much-needed get-ahead work before heading off to the islands, where Internet access would be much more scarce.

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2 thoughts on “Japan Far North: Day 1 (Sapporo to Wakkanai by train)”

  1. Thanks for the great website, Rob and Haidee. We relied on it when we toured Hokkaido in July.
    The free campsite up the hill is lovely.
    We also spent a memorable night at the Riders’ House in Wakkanai, to clean up and dodge the rain. It was Y1000/person. If you’re a couple, you might be lucky and get a private room. Otherwise it’s segregated dorms. The atmosphere was convivial and smoker-friendly inside. There’s a garage for secure bike parking.
    The sento / bathhouse next door was Y450.
    If you have time to kill, the Wakkanai railway station has free wifi, charging points, couches, and a Seicomart downstairs.

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