Mt. Rishiri (利尻山)

Mt. Rishiri is a spear-like, volcanic peak towering off the coast of Northern Hokkaido. It’s one of the few mountains in the world that offers an unobstructed panoramic view of the ocean on all sides.

The hike: From the campground, follow the paved path towards Kanrosen (甘露泉) spring, an underground spring with refreshing water. It should take about 10 minutes or so to reach the spring. Fill up your water bottles here, as it’s the last water source on the hike. Just beyond the spring there’s a sheltered rest area with a picnic table, as well as a trail junction. Turn right at the junction and follow the well-worn path through the forest. You’ll reach the 4th stage (四合目) in about 15 minutes or so. It’s a gradual climb for about an hour or so before reaching the 6th stage (六合目), where the real climb begins. There’s a toilet box here for those needing to use the facilities. Pick up a toilet bag at the trailhead to use for poop (there are no toilets on the mountain, and you’ve literally got to pack your shit out!). From here until the 8th stage (八合目), it’s a tough slog through brush pine and rocks, but eventually you’ll hit the ridge line, and your first real view of the summit. There’s still a lot of climbing to do, and the peak looks so close yet so far away. From the 8th stage, the trail flattens out before dropping down to the emergency hut, situated on a saddle. If there’s any morning dew then you’ll get completely soaked with all the overgrown vegetation, so consider bringing a pair of rain pants to help soak up the moisture. The emergency hut is in really good condition, bu t there’s no water source here, so bring a ton of water, sleeping and cooking gear if planning to stay here. From the hut, you’re faced with a 500m vertical climb through loose scree and red boulders. It gets quite steep and slippery in places, but there are ropes to help you along. At the time of writing they were in the process of building steps in some of the trickier sections, which will definitely make things easier if they don’t get washed away by erosion. Eventually you’ll reach the small summit of Mt. Rishiri, which has a colorful shrine and room for about 10 people. The panoramic views are absolutely amazing if you’re lucky enough to climb when the weather is good. From the summit, retrace your steps all the way back to the parking lot. Alternatively, you could take the seldom used Kutsugata (沓形) track to descend down to Kutsugata port. The trail junction is relatively hidden, branching off to the left shortly after descending the steep section with lots of red rocks. The trail is quite precarious in places, and not for the inexperienced or acrophobic.

When to go: This hike can be done from late June to early October, when most of the snow is gone. A spring hike is also possible with an ice axe and crampons, but keep an eye on the changeable weather.

Access: From Wakkanai (稚内) station, take a ferry bound for Oshidomari (鴛泊) on Rishiri Island. There are only 4 ferries a day, so plan your time accordingly. Click here for the schedule. From Oshidomari port, you can either hike uphill for about an hour to the trailhead, or catch a taxi for 1490 yen. There’s a nice campground at the trailhead that costs 300 yen per person.

Live web cam: Click here (from Rebun Island)

Map:

Level of difficulty: 5 out of 5 (elevation change ~1500m).

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15 Comments on “Mt. Rishiri (利尻山)”

  1. Kirt Cathey Says:

    Another great informative introduction. Thanks for all the info. Now I have to find my way up to the very north of Japan!!

  2. Ernest Says:

    I just wen upt to Mount Rishiri & stay overnight in Oshidomari Mountain Hut back 4 days ago. I just to update status the junction between Oshidomari & Kutsugata Trail toward to summit are doing some trail maintenance on going. So be careful for loose stone or rocks.

    • wes Says:

      Thanks for the update Ernest. I checked out your blog. I hope your foot will be ok.

      I’m in Hokkaido myself, but down at Lake Akan at the moment. I’ll be here another week or so, depending on the weather.

      Wes

      • Ernest Says:

        yeah my right foot recovered. So I also went to Daisetsuzan National Park for 8 Days Mountain Trekking with NZ Kiwi Guide Leon Roode.

  3. peytin Says:

    does this volcanoe erupt?

  4. Michelle Roe Says:

    Hi Wes

    Carl and I climbed Mt Rishiri via Oshidimiri last week. The notes are still accurate – although now there are three boats per day and the campsite fee is 500 yen per person.

    The steps that have been built in places do make it easier. The views were amazing. Thanks heaps for the inspiration.

    On the Port access road in Wakkanki there is an awesome Port Facility for travellers which provides coin washing machines, coin showers and a relaxation area. It is really clean and great value.

    Cheers

    Michelle

  5. Joe Jacobs Says:

    I run long distances up mountains and am planning to run up Rishirizan. Any advice?

    • wes Says:

      Don’t fall down! It’s steep with some sections of very loose scree. You shouldn’t have any problems on the way up, but use extra care on the descent.

  6. Ty Says:

    I’m going back to Rebun Island this year and am planning to do this hike as I was disappointed I didn’t get to do it last time.
    How long does the hike take Up and Down? Can you get up to the top and back down in a day if you start early enough? And if staying overnight at the shrine at the top, is a sleeping bag enough to keep you warm?

  7. Mathias Says:

    How long does the ascent and the descent? Thanks for the Info.

    • wes Says:

      Mathias,

      It depends on your speed. It’s a 1500 meter vertical elevation change spread out over 5km, so it’ll probably take you about 5 hours one-way if you’re slow (3 hours one-way if you’re fast). It’s an all-day affair, so get an early start

  8. tylercc Says:

    Do you need to book the hut in advance or can you just go and use it? I don’t imagine this hike is packed like Fuji.

    Also, if staying in the hut, do you need a sleeping bag?

    • wes Says:

      Which hut are you referring to? The one just below the summit near the 8th stagepoint? That is an emergency hut – an unmanned hut which is nothing more than a basic shelter with a wooden floor. You’d need to bring a sleeping bag, cooking gear, food, and water.

  9. Andy Says:

    We just climbed Mt Rishiri a few days ago. We got to Wakkanai around 9:30am and caught the 10:50am ferry across. In hindsight, an earlier start would have been better but the weather was pretty miserable.
    The ferry is easy enough to book from the super-nice, new ferry terminal in Wakkanai; just roll up with plenty of time to spare and get a ticket. About 2000 yen each way. The overnight carpark there is 2000 yen which we weren’t expecting. Maybe there are cheaper options elsewhere.
    Here’s the timetable and fare info in English: http://www.heartlandferry.jp/english/index.html

    The ferry takes about 90 mins. There are seats or plenty of floor space with the standard 2nd class tickets.
    Some people walk from the 1st station which is technically at the ferry terminal so they can say they have done the whole thing, but it’s a bit of a steep walk through the streets and it’s supposed to take at least an hour. We just got a taxi for ~1300 yen to the “touzan guchi” which is just before the 3rd marker.
    There’s a office and campsite at the end of the road there. The couple at the office are pretty hilarious and they make you check in with them before you climb. We had to fill in quite a detailed form about our details and clothing colours and what gear we had with us.

    There are no proper toilets on the mountain, only “portable toilets” which are just rooms with seats where you can put your special plastic toilet bags and sit on top. You can buy the green bags at the office. You have to carry everything back down with you. Some people even brought PET bottles for urine.

    The climb is pretty tough and from about the 7th marker it gets rocky and even steeper.
    We had decided to stay at the “emergency hut” beforehand and the people at the hut didn’t care at all. There’s certainly no one there. One of the Japanese guys we met on the ferry told us that according to the map, it’s only for emergencies. We had no problem though. It’s actually pretty big (8x8m) and has a section with seats and a “bunk” section with tarpaulins. It could probably sleep 30 people in a pinch. I’ve stayed in much more basic backcountry huts than that but you really have to bring all your own gear, including lights, mats, sleeping bags, cooker and water. It’s nice enough though. We were the only ones in there apart from the mouse, the night we statyed.

    People came past at about 7am the next morning and said they started at 5am or earlier.We really wanted to do a dawn ascent but the weather was so cloudy it would have been pointless. We left for the summit at about 8:30am but should have left much sooner. We had wanted to catch the 1pm ferry to Rebun but there was no way. The way down is absolutely insane, particularly from the summit to the hut. Definitely give yourself plenty of time to descend. An injury would be so easy. I really have no idea how 70-year-olds get down from the summit. But they do.

    There’s an onsen about 20 minutes down the road from the campsite. 500 yen and quite a nice outdoor pool. We wanted to catch a taxi back to the ferry terminal after but none were available. There is a bus that comes past just in time to catch the last ferry back to Wakkanai so catch that if you need to!

    Good luck!


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