Rishiri-to is a small island off the north-west coast of Hokkaido made up of a single volcano called Rishiri-san (利尻山) which towers 1721 m (5,646 ft) over the surrounding sea. It can be seen from over 100 km (62 mi) away. The view of Rishiri-to from it is nothing short of spectacular.
These islands belonged to the Ainu until the migration of the Japanese to Hokkaido.
Heavy snow in winter. Summer is the best time to visit.
To get to Rishiri, take a ferry from the city of Wakkanai. There are also ferries directly connecting Rishiri and Rebun. There are about five services a day during summer, and this is cut back in winter. 2nd class one-way tickets to Rishiri or Rebun cost ¥2200. Like many other Japanese ferries, 2nd class has almost no seating inside -- you sit on tatami mats on the floor (after taking your shoes off). There is outdoor seating, weather permitting.
There are also limited turboprop plane services from Wakkanai to Rishiri Airport.
Fees and permits
Bus timetables are available at the ferry terminals and on the ferry itself. Rishiri has a bike path that circles the whole island with occasional segments on roads rather than paths. Roads don't go to the interior of the island, so the best way to see them is on foot. There are hiking trails on both islands that really let you explore the best parts of the islands, and it may be desirable to take buses or taxis to the trailheads. Cars are available for rent. It is also possible to book a nature tour by bus on the islands.
There are amazing views from the peak of Rishiri. You can see the Russian island of Sakhalin on a clear day.
Hiking is the main activity that can be done, and there are fantastic trails for beginners and experts alike. Hiking maps are available in English from Wakkanai railway station and the ferry terminals.
- Mt. Rishiri. On Rishiri, the big hike is the grueling climb to the peak of Rishiri-zan. There are two approaches, starting from either the north or the west. You can go up one and down the other or in-and-out the same way. Get supplies in town before heading out. Starting from Oshidomari in the north, walk, bus, or taxi to the Rishiri Hokuroku-yaei-jo campground. If you start after 09:00, the campground workers will give you a map and ask you to sign their hiking book. After several hundred yards, you reach the Kanronsen Spring. This is your last chance to get water, so get a lot (perhaps 3 liters). The trail gradually winds its way upward. There are a few outhouses along the way, and also an unmanned emergency-use cabin. Closer to the top, the trees get smaller and you walk up an exposed ridgeline. In the sun, this section gets hot and dry. In bad weather this section could be very dangerous, so bring appropriate gear and go down if the weather gets bad. Several minutes below the peak, the western trail forks off to the side. Continue to the summit, and you'll find a small shrine. Speed hikers have done round-trip hikes on the northern path in 6 hours, though most people take 8-10 hours.
The specialty of Rishiri is raw sea-urchin served on a bed of rice, called Uni-don (ウニ丼) and it's wonderful. If "adventurous" for you means trying a new kind of pizza then Uni probably won't be your thing, but even compared to Uni at high priced Sushi shops in Tokyo or Sapporo this is a world apart. It can be found in eateries surrounding the ferry port terminal in Oshidomari.
- Rishiri Greenhill Inn, Hokkaidō, Rishiri-gun, Rishirifuji-chō, Oshidomari, 北海道利尻郡 利尻富士町鴛泊字富士野35-3 (There is a pick-up service, but it's very close to the port.), ☏ . 08:00 - 21:00. Cosy hostel with friendly staff. Also provides back ¥3150.
- Rishiri Hokuroku-yaei-jo (From the Oshidomari ferry terminal, head west several hundred yards. Then turn south and follow signs for the campground or trailhead.), ☏ . The campground, which is the northern trailhead for Mt. Rishiri, is about 3 km from the ferry terminal. Either walk, or take a taxi. The campground office has limited hours (09:00-17:00), and sells soft drinks and beer. If you want a bath, go back towards Oshidomari about 2 km to the Rishiri Fuji Onsen Hoyoshisetsu, which also has a laundry machine. Camping for adults ¥300, children ¥100; cabins for ¥3000..
- Rishiri Family Camping Ground (From the Oshidomari ferry terminal, head west several hundred yards. Then turn south and follow signs for the family campground. It's across the street from Rishiri Fuji Onsen Hoyoshisetsu.). This family campground, so you can drive your car to your tent site, is about 1 km from the Oshidomari ferry terminal.
Everywhere on Rishiri can be reached by day hikes, so there is no backcountry.
- The trail to the peak of Rishiri is not easy, so plan accordingly.
- Water from streams may be unsafe to drink without purification. Try to obtain water from pure sources.