Rebun and Rishiri Islands: A Double Dose Of Paradise In Japan

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In the far north of Japan; off the northwest coast of the island of Hokkaido, lie two smaller islands famed for their natural beauty, abundant wildflower and hiking trails. The islands of Rebun and Rishiri form part of a national park, along with the island of Sarobetsu and part of Hokkaido.

Rishiri Island is dominated by Mount Rishiri a 1,721 m (4,170 ft) dormant volcano, an arduous but enjoyable hike which takes about 12 hours. There is a small shrine at the summit, and the views of the neighbouring islands are fantastic. There are many other hiking routes on the island from which you can appreciate the wonderful scenery, including a lovely three-hour trail from the lake at Himenuma, crossing the lower slopes of two smaller peaks.

Another way to the lake at the scenery is to explore by bicycle. A 20-km cycle track follows the northern coast of Rishiri from Hime Pond to Kutsugata, a lovely route offering stunning views of the volcano. Bicycles can be hired or borrowed from your hotel.
Bicycles can be hired or borrowed from your hotel.

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The coast of Rishiri is prepared with small fishing villages and the island is famous for its sea urchins (uni) and konbu seaweed. Near the port of Oshidomari, Rishiri’s largest town, is the picturesque headland of Cape Peshi. There is a walking trail to the top of the headland, from which there are stunning views of Oshidomari and mount Rishiri.

In contrast, Rebun is a low-lying island. It is most famous for its rich flora, particularly its alpine flowers, some of which are not found anywhere else in the world. The flowers bloom between June and August, so this is a good time to visit. Look out, particularly for the Rebun Usuyukiso, rather like an Edelweiss. It is one of several protected, rare plants found on the island and can be seen in the Rebun Usuyukiso Area, a place with a relatively high number of them.

With its breathtaking scenery and views of nearby Rishiri, the island of Rebun is best enjoyed by a network of hiking trails. Among the highlights is Cape Gorota, a beautiful cape in the northern part of the island. Motoki, an area in the southwest of the island, is characterized by its scenic, sheer coastline and rocks which are said to resemble a cat’s head. There is a small village here with ryokan (traditional Japanese inns), which makes a fascinating place to stay. Momoiwas (peach Rock), a roundish hill, is nearby. The flowers here are stunning and lovely views of Mount Rishiri can be enjoyed from the observation deck.

When to visit

June to August when the wildflowers are in bloom.

How to reach

Travel by air or ferry from Wakkanai to Rebun and Rishiri.

Highlights

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  • The Hachi-jikan hiking trail – the trail runs down the whole of the west coast of Rebun, from Sukoton Misaki in the north, through woods and across flower-filled meadows, to Motochi in the south.
  • Rishirifuji Onsen – a hot spring with indoor and outdoor baths in the town of Oshidomari on Rishiri.
  • Otatomari Pond – a beautiful pond in the south of Rishiri Osland. The views of Mount Rishiri reflected in the still water are fantastic.
  • Garota Beach – a sandy beach on the western coast of Rebun, popular with windsurfers. The section of hiking trail between Cape Sukoto and Garota Beach on the island of Rebun

You should know

The islands are known as Rishirito and Rebunto in Japanese.

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