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2021.11 Enjoy Outdoor Adventures and Beautiful Scenery in Northern Hokkaido [PR]

Northern Hokkaido feels like uncharted territory, with wilderness, wide plains, clear rivers and a rugged coastline, ready for adventure. The region stretches from the city of Asahikawa and the lavender fields of Furano near the center of Hokkaido, to the northern tip of the island. The west coast faces the Sea of Japan and the east coast faces the Sea of Okhotsk. Daisetsuzan National Park covers part of Northern Hokkaido, with hiking trails through majestic mountains and hot spring villages. The Teshio River, one of Japan’s longest, meanders northward from the center of the region to the Sea of Japan. Much of the river is unobstructed by weirs and other structures, making it ideal for exploring by canoe. 

Two small islands near the northern tip of Hokkaido, Rishiri and Rebun, have hiking trails, coastal scenery, and charming fishing villages. The temperate period from spring through autumn is best for enjoying the region. Winter is cold and brings heavy snow.


Mt. Asahidake  (2,291 m; approx. 7516 ft) is Hokkaido’s highest mountain, and a popular destination for hiking and trail running. The mountain is part of the Daisetsuzan Volcanic Group, and is equipped with a ropeway to whisk visitors to the summit in 10 minutes. The Indigenous people of Hokkaido, the Ainu, revered these mountains, calling the area “the playground of the gods” (kamui mintara). The virgin forest that covers the foothills of the Daisetsuzan Volcanic Group is the first in the country to reveal its fall colors, beginning as early as September. 


The trail from Mt. Asahidake to Ohachidaira is popular for hiking and trail running.


At the top of Mt. Daisetsu, there is a large caldera, known as Ohachidaira. The view from the caldera ridgeline when it appears to float above a sea of clouds, is beautiful. The hiking trail between Mt. Asahidake and Mt. Kurodake via Ohachidaira is one of the most popular routes in the area. It takes around 8 hours to complete the hike. There are some huts and camping grounds for overnight stays, but be prepared for cold weather, even in the middle of summer. 


The Daisetsuzan Volcanic Group is in Daisetsuzan National Park, and is easily accessible by bus from Asahikawa, the largest city in the region. Asahikawa is about a 2-hour train ride from New Chitose Airport.


See Mt. Tomuraushi from the ridgeline trail to Mt. Asahidake.


Dashing through a snowy ravine on the mountain trail.


Enjoy the views on a run from Mt. Asahidake to Ohachidair


Rebun Island is Hokkaido’s northernmost island. It is known as “Flower Island” for its abundant alpine blooms, some of which are unique to the island. Hiking along paths lined with flowers is a popular activity, and some 300 varieties of alpine flowers grown on the island, some even at sea level. 


Trekking through fields of alpine flowers on Rebun Island.


Trail running is also becoming popular on the island, with many routes offering views of dramatic cliffs and the deep blue ocean. There are six hiking courses on the island, ranging from 2 to 8 hours. The island is famed for its fresh seafood, including sea urchin (uni), seaweed, and arabesque greenling. 


Rebun Island is about a 2-hour ferry ride from Wakkanai, Japan’s northernmost city. From Kafuka Port at the southern end of the island, there are regular buses and sightseeing tours to the north of the island.


Running along the ridgeline.


The dramatic coastline of Rebun Island.


Haboro near the northwestern tip of Hokkaido is an ideal base for birdwatchers and hikers. Regular ferries from Haboro Port take visitors to Teuri Island via Yagishiri Island, about an hour away. 


Teuri Island is a natural sanctuary for seabirds.


Teuri Island is a sanctuary for sea otters and seabirds, including endangered spectacled guillemots, common murres, and rhinoceros auklets. The sheer cliffs on the west coast of the island are protected as a breeding ground for seabirds, and as many as one million seabirds breed in the area annually. Visitors can see the colonies up close from the Akaiwa, Seabird, and Kannonzaki observatories. 


The island is home to large colonies of seabirds and sea otters.


A road loops around the island, for easy hiking, running and cycling.


Enjoy the green hills and sea views along the way.


Getting around the small island is easy with rental cycles available near the ferry terminal. There are also restaurants near the ferry terminal serving locally caught seafood, including sea urchin and octopus. 

Haboro is about 2 hours from Asahikawa and 3 hours from Sapporo by car. 

Cape Soya is at the very northern tip of Hokkaido, and on a clear day, you can see Sakhalin Island, 40 kilometers away. The area is popular with cyclists for its long stretches of straight road that offer easy cycling with views of green pastures and the sea. 


The gentle hills around Cape Soya are ideal for exploring.


Local roads offer easy cycling with sea views.


The well-marked “White Path” through the highlands around Cape Soya is a scenic destination for running. The 3 kilometer-long (1.8 mi.) road is paved with white scallop shells from the nearest town, Wakkanai. Scallop shells that used to be disposed of as waste from the fishing industry were recycled to create the road, the design of which reflects the area’s coastal location. The combination of green hills, blue sky, deep blue sea and white road create a beautiful and very photogenic landscape.


The “White Path” is paved with crushed scallop shells.


The soft path provides a comfortable surface for cycling and running.


Most visitors to Northern Hokkaido start their journeys in the city of Asahikawa, traveling north to Wakkanai on the coast. The cities are 250 km (155 mi.) apart, which takes around 4 hours by car. Along the way, there are plenty of opportunities to explore, relax, and enjoy local cuisine. 


The area around the Daisetsuzan Volcanic Group is blessed with an abundance of high-quality hot springs such as Daisetsu Kogen Sanso, a secluded hot spring inn, which is open during the green season (summer to autumn). Toyotomi Onsen near Wakkanai has unusual petroleum-based hot springs containing natural mineral oil. 


Relax at Daisetsu Kogen Sanso, a hot spring retreat in the mountains.


The natural hot spring water at Toyotomi Onsen contains mineral oil.


Beer lovers should visit Bifuka Shirakaba Brewery in Bifuka Town, the northernmost craft beer brewery in Japan. The beer is made with white birch sap, a local specialty. Take a break to enjoy some of the area’s signature foods. 


Try craft beer made with white birch sap at Bifuka Shirakaba Brewery.


The soba (buckwheat) noodles from Otoineppu Village known as maboroshi no soba (incredible soba), are black in color and possess the rich, unrefined flavor of the buckwheat. The sea urchin from Rebun Island, which is in season from June to early July, is prized by restaurants all over Japan, and tasting it at the source is a rare experience. 


A trip through Northern Hokkaido is an opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty and flavors of Japan’s wild frontier.   


Related Links


Rebun Island running movie


Wakkanai Soya Hills running movie


Asahidake running movie


Teuri Island running movie 



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