We have long maintained that the northern tip of Hokkaido, served by Wakkanai Airport, is one of the most underrated areas to explore in Japan. Featuring breathtakingly spectacular views that include the majestic cone-shaped Mount Rishiri（called Rishiri Fuji） and views of Sakhalin in Eastern Russia, as well as hot springs with natural properties that can be found almost nowhere else, this area features ample offerings to reset, relax and gain a new perspective. To get you started on a trip that will be sure to serve as a break from your daily life, we have compiled some of our favorite things to do and some ideas on where to stay in the Wakkanai region.
The newest spot on the remote Rebun Island is the Kanaria Café, which opened just in time for the 2021 summer season. Featuring an open patio, the space is perfect to take in the beautiful nature of the island while recharging with some coffee or a snack. The original menu features curated coffee, a sandwich made with homemade chiffon and, for dessert, a red bean sundae. Part of the ongoing revitalization efforts designed to bring more visitors to this hidden gem of an island in northern Hokkaido, it is a welcome addition designed to provide a new space to relax and enjoy some delicious treats in between excursions into Rebun Island’s majestic natural landscape.
671 Kafukamura, Rebun-cho, Rebun-gun, Hokkaido Kitano Canary Park
White Lovers’ Hill
If you have ever visited Hokkaido, you will have probably noticed the ubiquitous “Shiroi Koibito”, a popular brand of cookies from the region that is sold in every souvenir shop in the prefecture. The name literally translates to “White Lover”, and the inspiration behind the brand’s trademark packaging is said to have come from the scenic mountain backdrop that you can find at “Shiroi Koibito no Oka” (or White Lovers’ Hill). Located on Rishiri Island, the White Lovers’ Hill is a perfect spot to take in the magnificent nature of the island, including the famous conical shape of Mount Rishiri, known as the symbol of the island. This spot is also notable for an interesting promotional campaign run by ISHIYA, the makers of the famous cookie: couples who propose here are actually issued a special certificate. Whether you simply come for the spectacular scenery or have a more romantic goal in mind, the hill is definitely one of our favorites on Rishiri.
Oniwaki, Oniwaki, Rishirifuji-cho, Rishiri-gun, Hokkaido
The White Path
The so-called White Path is something truly unique. Covered with white shells from end to end, this 3-kilometer path is located just outside of Wakkanai. Created in 2011 by crushing up the shells from one of the area’s most famous product, scallops, the road has become quite famous in recent years due to its “instagramability”. Indeed, the contrast between the blue sky and sea, with the lush greenery sandwiching the white road makes for a great picture – and it is for this reason we recommend visiting in the summer months. In addition, the open area of the road makes for sweeping views of far-flung landmarks, such as Mount Rishiri on nearby Rishiri Island and, on a good day, Russia’s Sakhalin Islands. Overall, the road makes for a great summer stroll in a beautiful setting!
Located in the Toyotomi Onsen District, this traditional Japanese inn is the perfect place to unwind with a relaxing hot spring experience after exploring Hokkaido’s great north. Small in scale, the ryokan features a relaxed at-home atmosphere that balances comfort and a modern style. The hot springs in the Toyotomi area are known because of their characteristic “oily” component, which is quite rare to find in Japan – and indeed the world. 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. This combination is thus renowned to have a beautiful cleansing effect on your skin, in addition to being extremely relaxing. Finally, another highlight is the unique cuisine that the hotel offers. Featuring wild vegetables as well as deer meat, the menu here is unlike anything else you can find in Japan!
Toyotomi-cho, Teshio-gun, Hokkaido
Another option to experience the above-mentioned unique natural properties of the Toyotomi Onsen District is to stay at the appropriately named Hotel Toyotomi. While Kawashima Ryokan is more of an understated small-scale facility, Hotel Toyotomi is a classic large-scale Japanese-style hot spring resort. In the massive facility, you will find all the amenities necessary to make your hot spring experience complete. 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. Enjoy seasonal ingredients, including beef and fish from northern Hokkaido, grilled to perfection on the spot and ready to enjoy fresh!
1510-2 Kamisarobetsu, Toyotomi-cho, Teshio-gun, Hokkaido