Hokkaido’s north is one of Japan’s most unexplored and underrated areas. This course will take you across the entire region, and thus includes Sarobetsu, Wakkanai as well as the remote islands of Rishiri and Rebun. You will be able to enjoy spectacular views that include the majestic cone-shaped Mount Rishiri （called Rishirifuji ）and views of Sakhalin in Eastern Russia, hot springs with natural properties that can be found almost nowhere else, and a myriad of opportunities to enjoy the beautiful alpine flowers the area is known for.
Alpine flowers and beautiful scenery in the northernmost marshland of Japan
The Sarobetsu Plain is a registered wetland under the Ramsar Convention and spreads across Wakkanai City, Toyotomi Town, and Horonobe Town in Northern Hokkaido. It is an absolutely massive area, stretching between 5-8 kilometers from east to west and about 27 kilometers north to south, covering a total area of 20,000-24,000 hectares. At its entrance you will find the Sarobetsu Wetland Center. As the chief point for information about the Sarobetsu National Park, the center has all the facts you could possibly need on the marsh, the flowers you can see there, the animals that inhabit it as well as the area’s unique history. Additionally, you can take a leisurely stroll while enjoying the scenery on a wooden path that stretches from the center into the marsh. If you go in summer, you will also be able to marvel at the beautiful alpine plants in full bloom.
8662 Kamisarobetsu, Toyotomi-cho, Teshio-gun, Hokkaido
Enjoy hot springs like no other in Hokkaido’s northern enclave
Toyotomi Onsen is the northernmost hot spring in Japan and is in Toyotomi Town, which is close to Wakkanai. The hot springs here initially sprang up in 1918 and have a faint petroleum property. The oily water is said to have a high heat-retaining and moisturizing effect, refreshing you through its natural properties. Additionally, the hot spring is weak in alkaline and thus gentle on the skin. If you want to spend a night here, we recommend Hotel Toyotomi, a classic large-scale Japanese-style hot spring resort featuring 78 rooms. Featuring a history that reaches back all the way to 1926, the spa here is complete with both indoor and outdoor baths, as well as a sauna for your pleasure. In addition to the numerous hot spring offerings, the hotel features a souvenir shop, large dining areas, with the rooms making ample use of traditional tatami mats. The food is decadent as well, with the highlight being “tobanyaki”, which literally translates to grilling on a ceramic plate. Overall, the hotel makes for the perfect base to explore the Sarobetsu area.
1510-2 Kamisarobetsu, Toyotomi-cho, Teshio-gun, Hokkaido
Visit one of Japan’s most famous peaks on Rishiri Island
Rishiri Island is one of Hokkaido’s (and Japan’s) most remote islands. It’s symbol is without a doubt Mount Rishiri, which is also known as Rishirifuji. At an altitude of 1,721 meters, the majestic conical peak has been identified as one of Japan’s 100 famous mountains. If you want to tackle this mountain, there are two hiking routes, the Oshidomari course and the Kutsugata course. Both take about 11 to 12 hours for a round trip. As these courses are quite difficult, we recommend you have appropriate equipment on hand, and to be accompanied by a local guide. There are also numerous lighter hiking courses on the island, including a guided tour that has been especially recommended by the Japan Ecotourism Association. As there are plenty of options, pick and choose a course based on your physical strength and mountaineering experience!
Rebun Island is a trekking paradise for flower lovers
Rebun Island is Japan’s most northern island. It is known primarily for its beautiful alpine flowers, which you can enjoy during the summer months from May to August. Indeed, in Japanese it is known as “Hana no Ukishima”, which translates to “the floating island of flowers”. If you do visit, we highly recommend enlisting the help of a local guide to get the most out of the trekking experience. There are two guide services covering six separate courses and whichever you choose, you will be sure to have stunning views!
Relax while bathing in hot springs and enjoying the spectacular views of Rishiri Island from afar
“Rebunjima Onsen Usuyuki no Yu” is a hot spring located on Rebun Island. It is conveniently located near the Kafuka Port Ferry Terminal, the gateway to the remote island. Equipped with an indoor bath, an open-air bath, a jacuzzi, a sauna, and a private family bath, it has everything you need to relax. The water itself features a unique quality, sodium chloride-sulfuric acid, making for a hot spring that warms the body for a long time. Another attraction is the view of nearby Rishiri Island, as you will be able to marvel at Mt. Rishiri while enjoying a bath. The fee is 600 yen for adults and free for elementary school students and younger.
Betsushu-961-1 Kafukamura, Rebun, Rebun District, Hokkaido
A historic dome that reminds of Wakkanai’s bustling past
The North Breakwater Dome is a long arched semi-domical structure located in the port of Wakkanai. It was built in 1936 and has long served as a symbol of Japan’s northernmost port. At 14 meters high and 427 meters long, it is a reminder of the times when Wakkanai was a popular gateway to travelers crossing over to nearby Sakhalin. Completely renovated in 1980, its unique architectural properties have earned it a designation as a Hokkaido Heritage Site in 2001. Today, both locals and tourists alike enjoy feeling Wakkanai’s history through a visit to the dome.
1 Chome Kaiun, Wakkanai, Hokkaido
Cape Soya: Japan’s most northern point
At 45 degrees 31’ north, Cape Soya is Japan’s northernmost point. Easily accessible from downtown Wakkanai, visitors flock to the cape not only because of its unique geography, but also to enjoy the spectacular views the locale offers. Indeed, Sakhalin in Russia is only 43km away, meaning that the island is easily visible on a clear day. In addition to a monument designating its status as the northernmost spot, there is also the Tower of Prayer (in memorial to Korean Air Lines Flight 007) and the Monument of Peace (a memorial to sunken submarines) on site. While the views are best enjoyed on a crisp winter’s day, summer brings a multitude of blooming flowers for a great spectacle. In recent years, the nearby “white path” – a road covered with crashed white scallop shells – has also been attracting attention as a popular photo spot.
Soyamisaki, Wakkanai, Hokkaido