Hokkaido/Wakkanai Day 2: Rishiri Island & Uni Experience

Hello guys! Sorry it took me a while to come back on track with my posts – I’m here with Day 2 of Wakkanai – We travelled from Wakkanai (mainland) to the nearby island of Rishiri, where we explored for a day of sight-seeing before staying for a night.

Day 2 – Wakkanai – Rishiri

Drive from Hotel to Wakkanai Port and travel to Rishiri Island via Heart Land Ferry with car
Park car at port
Take bus tour by “Soya Bus” around Rishiri Island to cover interesting landmarks
Return to port
Lunch at Shokudo Kamome (sea urchin bowl/uni don)
Visit Kamui Kaigan Park
Sea Urchin Uni Experience
Rishiri Seaweed Kombu Experience 
Drive to Shiroi Koibito no Oka (Observatory)
Check-in at Hotel Ayase
Dinner at hotel

Day 2 might be one of my favourite days in my entire Wakkanai trip, because it will forever be memorable to me as the day I cracked open my first uni! Read on for more 🙂

Travelling by Heart Land Ferry

Aboard Heartland Ferry to Rishiri Island!

To get from Wakkanai Port to Rishiri Island, you have to take Heartland Ferry, which has ferry services running daily. There are different classes of tickets/cabins, and we got the first class seats, which were super posh and comfy! There’s even wifi onboard, as well as a little snack shop. It was such a comfortable ferry ride that I nearly wished the trip was longer so that I could take a longer nap on board the ferry.

If you drive a car, you can also purchase a ferry ticket for yourself with car inclusive, this is really helpful if you intend to drive around the island. You will have to park the car on a lower deck of the ferry and then go back to drive the car back onto land when the ferry reaches shore.

Exploring Rishiri Island by “Soya Bus” Tour

Rishiri is a small but beautiful island with a few key sightseeing spots. The best time to visit is from July – August, because that’s when the island’s alpine plants are in full bloom. In winter, the island get extremely cold (think -10 deg!) and ferry services are also closed during winter.

If you’re not driving around Rishiri Island, the best way to explore the different sight-seeing points is by the Soya Bus tour! Do take note though, although the sight-seeing bus comes with a guide, the guide only speaks in Japanese, so we had to rely on our personal translator most of the time.

The first spot we were brought to was Himenuma, translated into “Princess Lake”.

The famous Mount Rishiri

From Himenuma, you can see the famous Mount Rishiri that the island is known for! In case you didn’t know, this is the mountain that can be found on one of Japan’s most famous and well-loved biscuit: Shiroi Koibito.

Recognise the snow-covered Mount Rishiri on this familiar packaging?
Gorgeous view from Himenuma, Princess Lake

The lake is quite small, and takes only 20 minutes to circle around 🙂 On a clear day, the view is truly beautiful!

Another stop was at Lake Otatomari, the largest lake on Rishiri Island, where we also had some light bites. Look at that grilled scallop! Unfortunately, the weather turned rather cloudy, so the view of Mount Rishiri got obscured.

There are also souvenir shops here where you can buy kombu/kelp products that Rishiri Island is also known for!

View at Lake Otatomari – No more Mount Rishiri behind as the clouds came in thick and fast.

One of my favourite stops was Senhoshi Misaki Park.

Senhoshi Misaki Park

See those strange rocks and boulders? They were formed by lava flow from Mount Senhoshi-pon, another small mountain on Rishiri Island.

At Senhoshi Misaki Park, you’ll also spot wild spotted seals! They are such a playful bunch, and you can also purchase food to feed them from the nearby souvenir shop.

Lunch at Shokudo Kamome

Our lunch was at Shokudo Kamome, where you can get uni fresh from every day’s catch! The fresh uni was just so sweet and deliciously creamy. I loved it.

Kamui Kaigan Park – Uni & Kombu Experience

One of the highlights of my time on Rishiri Island must have been this: Uni “catching” or harvesting experience at Kamui Kaigan Park!

For a small fee of 1000 yen, you get to experience what it’s like to be a fisherman that harvests uni – with the same boats and apparatus used by the local fishermen!

Of course, the boats are docked in a small area that protected from the tide, so it’s very safe. With the looking glass and net provided, it’s not a difficult task to harvest your very own live sea urchin from the ocean!

I was a bit squeamish because the spikes of the sea urchin were all constantly moving about! Yikes. We were then taught how to crack it open, remove the orange gonads and clean them, which is the part that we love.

Proud of the uni I caught, opened and cleaned all by myself! We asked to have it as sushi, and it was most definitely the best uni sushi I have ever had. Being freshly caught, it tasted extra delicious!

Enjoying my self-caught uni on sushi. So good!

The uni-harvesting was such a fun and memorable activity that I really enjoyed! We also had a short kombu learning workshop with a hands-on activity that allowed us to handle the dried kombu leaves and cut them into various forms for soup, snacking and tea. I found the kombu workshop more suited for young ones as the element of craft in it was simple enough even for the little ones to do.

Shiroi Koibito Hill – Shiroi Koibito no Oka (Observatory)

This popular spot is said to be where the president of Ishiya visited Rishiri Island gazed upon Mount Rishiri. He was so impressed by the massive Mount Rishiri, which looked to him like a Swiss mountain that he decided to put a drawing of Mt. Rishiri on the box.

View from Shiroi Koibito no Oka – Imagine the mountain there, if you will!

Interesting fact: If you propose here, you will be award a Proposal Certificate with the language of proposal written on it when you register at the Oshidomari Terminal Tourism Information Desk!

Rishiri’s Natural Spring Water

If you notice a little shelter like this by the side of the roads, make a stop for some icy cold spring water that’s said to be mineral rich and tastes really clean and fresh! Bring along your own water bottles and fill them to the brim because it’s not often that you get to drink natural spring water like this.

Island Station, the oldest building on Rishiri Island! It’s 120 years old.

One last interesting stop we made was at the Island Station, which houses Rishiri Island’s radio station, and an art gallery behind. This is also the oldest building on Rishiri Island, and has been around for 120 years old! Pretty amazing.

Another view of Mount Rishiri when the clouds cleared in the late afternoon.

Check-in at Hotel Ayase

After a long and fruitful day, we checked into a very cozy accommodation: Hotel Ayase.

My room was so welcoming with a little tatami sitting area! I even took a short nap before dinner, because it was so comfortable.

I do love how most Japanese hotels come with a bath tub, because taking baths are a huge part of Japanese culture and tradition. No matter how small, there is almost always bound to be a bath tub. Love!

Dinner at Hotel Ayase

We had a really sumptuous traditional kaiseki dinner at the hotel itself, where every dish was freshly prepared seafood, sashimi, and the star was the tako shabu-shabu (or octopus hotpot) that is well-known on Rishiri Island. I had my fill of seafood and more, it was a wonderful dinner.

Outside Hotel Ayase, with a view of Mount Rishiri right behind

Thus ended one of my best days at Wakkanai, Hokkaido – On Rishiri Island! It was entirely fresh and eye-opening for me, and so different from the other parts of Japan I have experienced before. I loved it!

Next part will be coming soon – I promise!

Day 3 – Rishiri Island – Rebun Island
Drive from Hotel to Ferry Terminal and travel to Rebun Island via Heartland Ferry with car
Sight-seeing by car around island
*Cape Sukai
*Cape Sukoton
Lunch at Cafe Umi (Hokke burger)
Visit Rebun-cho Folk Museum (http://rebun-museum.orgor Momolwa Trekking to see alpine plants depending on weather
Visit famous movie spot Northern Canary Park (Movie Kita no Kanaria Tachi)
Accessory-making workshop
Check-in at Mitsui Kanko Hotel
Dinner at Seafood Restaurant Kafuka

How to book any activities or tours

As this entire trip was arranged and planned by a Japanese travel agency in conjunction with Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), they have informed me that they can offer their services for those who require assistance in making any bookings!

Wakkanai and the Soya region is still relatively new to foreigners and many of the locals can’t speak very good English, you may find that you need help booking any of the above I mentioned. (From rental car, to ferry tickets to the various activities, experiences or even a translator!) Please don’t let the language barrier stop you from having the best time of your life in Wakkanai because the locals there are all so very friendly!!

For any inquiries or booking help for this itinerary at all, please email in to tours@fsight.asia in English or Chinese 🙂

Stay tuned for the next, and as always, you know where to look for me on Instagram!

Read previous Japan blog entries below!

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