Rishiri Island, 20km off the north west coast of Hokkaido, is along with nearby Rebun Island part of the Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park.
Rishiri Island (meaning “high island” in the Ainu language) covers an area of 183 square kilometres and is 10 kilometres south east of Rebun, separated by the Rebun Channel.
Rishiri is dominated by the 1,721m-high Mt Rishiri, an extinct volcano. Rishiri has a population of just over 5,000 inhabitants and its main industries are tourism and marine products including sea urchins (uni) and seaweed (kombu).
The two main towns on Rishiri are Oshidomari on the northern coast near Rishiri Airport and Cape Peshi and the small town of Kutsugata on the west coast. Both have ferry ports.
Rishiri, along with neighboring Rebun, is one of the most remote places in Japan. Like Rebun, Rishiri Island is best visited in summer and offers tranquility, peace of mind and lovely sea and mountain views.
Alpine flowers on Rishiri are in bloom from June to August.
Cycling and hiking are the main activities on offer. It is possible to cycle the island on the coast road within a summer’s day, though be warned it is a long way (5-7 hours), on the rather basic bicycles on offer from bicycle rental shops and accommodations.
Hiking Mt. Rishiri takes the whole day and is a challenging climb. The mountain can be approached by car from the north or west.
Some of Rishiri’s scenic highlights include Mt Rishiri and the lower peak of Mt Pon at 444m. From the summit of Mt Rishiri there are views of as Sakhalin, Rebun and the main island of Hokkaido.
Rishifuji Onsen just south of Oshidomari has both indoor and outdoor (rotemburo) baths.
Otatomari Pond and Hime Pond are both worth a visit. Hime Pond is an artificial small lake at the foot of Mt Rishiri which reflects the mountain in its waters. Otatomari Pond is a natural body of water in the south of the island.
Access – Getting to Reshiri
The nearest access point to Rebun and Rishiri, Wakkanai, can be reached by road, rail and air. Trains start in Sapporo and take five to five and a half hours to Wakkanai, highway buses take six hours Sapporo-Wakkanai. From Sapporo Station the Limited Express Super Soya 1 is direct to Wakkanai and costs just over 10,000 yen.
There are flights from both Sapporo and Tokyo to Wakkanai Airport. Wakkanai Airport is just over 30 minutes by bus to Wakkanai. There are flights from Sapporo New Chitose Airport to Rishiri Airport (1 hour).
From Wakkanai, Heart Land Ferry operates car ferries to Rishiri and Rebun and between the two islands. Heart Land Ferry presently operates ferries from Wakkanai to Sakhalin in Russia and between Esashi and Okushiri Island and Setana and Okushiri Island in the south west of Hokkaido.
A range of hotels can be found in Wakkanai. On Rishiri the main accommodation options of minshuku, ryokan and hotels are in the ferry ports and main towns of Oshidomari and Kutsugata. Some recommendations are the 2-star Rishiri Marine Hotel and the Hotel Uni Goten both in the north of the island and offering shuttle buses from Oshidomari ferry port.
Buses run between Oshidomari and Kutsugata (50 mins; 730 yen) and an infrequent bus service runs around the coast in a loop of around two hours.