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Japan's Secret Wild North: 7 Inspiring Sights on Rebun Island

Japan's Secret Wild North: 7 Inspiring Sights on Rebun Island

Date published: 10 December 2019
Last updated: 25 May 2020

Rebun Island, also known as Japan's 'island of flowers,' is a scenic isle off the northwest tip of Hokkaido - and a treasure trove of natural scenic beauty.

Cape Sukoton is at its northernmost tip and Cape Sukai offers the best view of the ocean’s crystal clear water; both sites are best seen while driving around the island.

Here is an introduction to a course that describes these and other scenic spots.

Table of Contents
  1. Enjoy a scenic drive around Rebun Island!
  2. Scenic spot 1: The vermillion Minai Shrine
  3. Scenic spot 2: Lake Kusha – the only one on Rebun Island
  4. Scenic spot 3: Cape Kanedano, where seals gather
  5. Scenic spot 4: A view from the highest point on the Rebun Island – Edoya Sando
  6. Scenic spot 5: Cape Sukoton, the northernmost part of Rebun Island
  7. Scenic spot 6: The charming Rebunatsumoriso (Rebun lady’s slipper orchid)
  8. Scenic spot 7: The crystal-clear ocean viewed from Cape Sukai

Enjoy a scenic drive around Rebun Island!

Rebun Island sits in the Japan Sea along with Rishiri Island off the northwest coast of Hokkaido and is only accessible by ship.

To get to the island take the ferry from Wakanai Port. From spring to autumn there are 4 roundtrip departures every day each taking about one hour and 55 minutes in each direction (going via Rishiri Island takes about two hours and 55 minutes).

From neighboring Rishiri Island between spring and autumn there are two to three departures a day from Oshidomari Port and in summer one roundtrip departure from Kutsugata Port (trips take between 40 and 45 minutes).

The Kafukako Port ferry terminal is the gateway to Rebun Island

Rebun is a long and narrow island. It is best seen by driving leisurely and visiting places you would like to see. There are many rocky cliffs on the western side and places where there are no roads. For that reason it is not possible to drive completely around the island. Taking that into consideration we will present a course you can take around the northern part for a scenic drive that departs from the Kafukako Port ferry terminal.

It takes about 40 minutes to drive to Cape Sukai from the ferry terminal. Even with stops along the way you can make a roundtrip drive in half a day.

You can either take the ferry from Wakanai with your car or rent a car on the island. For this article we opted for renting a car which for three days and two nights cost about 36,000 yen (including the cost of gasoline). Prices vary depending on the rental agency, so it is best to compare them ahead of time.

If you do not have a driver’s license or are not comfortable driving, there is no need to worry. A sightseeing bus that stops at scenic spots, such as Cape Sukoton, departs regularly from the Kafukako ferry terminal.

So let’s begin our tour!

Scenic spot 1: The vermillion Minai Shrine

In less than 10 minutes after setting out on Highway 40 going north from the Kafukako ferry terminal the Minai Shrine in the Fukakai district will come into view on the right. Stopping here and getting out of the car, you will be rewarded with a magnificent view of Mt. Rishiri on neighboring Rishiri Island and that of the shrine.

Minai Shrine faces the sea. The vermillion roof contrasts beautifully with the blue sky. Mt. Rishiri is visible far off in the distance.

The entrance is not on the side facing the road so you need to go around to the back where there is a door. On the day we visited the door was closed. The worship hall is the building behind the shrine on the side of the road. This is where Kamui and the Inari god were worshipped according to Ainu legend.

The entrance to the hall of worship is on the side facing the sea

Scenic spot 2: Lake Kusha – the only one on Rebun Island

Driving another ten minutes along Highway 40 after leaving Mina Shrine you begin to head inland. Soon Lake Kusha will come into view on the left. Situated in the Funadomari district it is the only lake on Rebun Island and also the northernmost lake in Japan.

Lake Kusha viewed from Highway 40

The lake is not that large, only about four kilometers in circumference, but there is a campground on the northern shore and paths for walking making it a popular leisure spot for Rebun Island residents. The sun reflects beautifully off the lake’s surface.

Scenic spot 3: Cape Kanedano, where seals gather

Driving further and after leaving the village in the Funadomari district you will next take Highway 507 going towards Cape Kanedano. It is about a 10-minute drive from Lake Kusha.

Two capes jut out from the northern part of Rebun Island like a pair of horns. One is Cape Sukoton and the other is Cape Kanedano. We pulled over into a small parking area to admire the broad expanse of ocean.

Cape Kaneno
The view from above. The building with the red roof is a diner near the parking area

This is also a great spot for viewing seals. On the day we visited we could see a number of them sleeping on the reef at the base of Cape Kanedano!

Seals lolling about above the rocks (photo by Rebun Hana Guide Club)

Scenic spot 4: A view from the highest point on the Rebun Island – Edoya Sando

We next returned to Highway 507 after leaving Cape Kanedano and headed toward Cape Sukoton going through the Funadomari district.

Another beautiful scene in the Funadomari district

After about 10 minutes you can see the Edoya Sando sign and here you turn left to take that mountain road.

This road offers the most scenic views of the island. During the summer the hills are blanketed with blooming flowers and the Todo Island Observation deck along the way affords a spectacular view of a broad expanse of ocean.

Driving among the hills
The road passes through more hills and curves
Many alpine flowers bloom here. The lavender-colored flower is called Chishimafuuro (Geranium erianthum)
A superb view of the deep blue Japan Sea from the road
The Todo Island Observation Deck. Todo Island can be seen in the distance to the left

Scenic spot 5: Cape Sukoton, the northernmost part of Rebun Island

After leaving the observation deck and reluctantly leaving the scenic views afforded from Edoya Sando we next ventured on to Cape Sukoton. This is the northernmost tip of Rebun Island. We parked the car and went down to its edge.

There are stairs to the side of this sign
The well-maintained path makes the descent easy
This is Cape Sukoton, the northernmost tip of Rebun Island!

Standing on this northernmost spot is very moving. From here Todo Island appears even much closer than when viewed from the Todo Island Observation Deck.

Todo Island is only about four miles in circumference and is uninhabited, though it does have a lighthouse.

Close to the parking area is a sign indicating that this is “the northernmost lavatory”. Using it is sure to be a conversation piece!

Scenic spot 6: The charming Rebunatsumoriso (Rebun lady’s slipper orchid)

On our return, rather than taking the Edoya Sando we took Highway 507 towards Funadomari and after about 10 minutes turned right at the first curve. The entrance to the Rebun Lady’s Slipper Orchid Field (no admission fee) is located close by.

Rebun lady’s slipper orchids in bloom on the hillside behind the sign

The Rebun lady’s slipper orchid is an indigenous alpine flower that only grows on Rebun Island. The blossoms appear soft and round.

Rebun lady’s slipper orchids (photo by: Rebun Hana Guide Club)

The flowers normally bloom between the end of May and early June. A path through the trees is open only at this time, so if you visit then, you should definitely take it.

The path is open to coincide with the blooming of the flowers from the end of May to early June (photo by: Rebun Hana Guide Club)

Scenic spot 7: The crystal-clear ocean viewed from Cape Sukai

A few minutes away from the field of Rebun lady’s slipper orchids we come to the end of our drive: Cape Sukai located near a cove on the west coast.

First go to the three shops just to the left of the parking area

We visited Isshi no Mise, one of the three shops, to take a break and discovered the Todo Kushi!

Todo Kushi advertised at the counter of the Isshi no Mise

The mistress of the shop advised taking a photo, not for posting on SNS, but as a commemorative photo, so I ordered one of the meat skewers.

Todo Kushi (250 yen including tax)

Todo Kushi is red sea lion meat that has been sweetly stewed and skewered. It has a firm texture and wild flavor that is most enjoyable. There are several other interesting items that can’t be found elsewhere which are definitely worth trying!

The shop also has stuffed sea lion toys and you are free to take photos in the shop such as the one shown below which you can post on SNS.

Shop owners Kazutoshi and Akiyo Ishikawa posing with a stuffed toy sea lion

After having a light meal we walked up the stairs to Cape Sukai to catch a glimpse of the beautiful cove.

Cape Sukai is said to offer the most beautiful view of the ocean on the island

The water here is crystal clear and it is from this that the cape takes its name as the first character in Japanese, su, means “clear”, and the second, kai, means “ocean”. Viewed from above, it is possible to see the rocks on the seabed and the seaweed. Nearby alpine flowers bloom creating a sight so exquisite the area could just as easily be called “paradise of the far north”. It is the perfect ending spot of this drive.

This course offers a drive through unforgettable scenery just waiting for you!

Rebun Island is blessed with natural beauty and wherever you drive, you are met with breathtaking scenery you will long remember. The views are especially sublime during the early mornings and evenings when the colors are in transformation. Here you will be able to view scenes worthy of storing in the photo album of your heart!

  • Rebun Island Association
    • Address 〒097-1201 北海道礼文郡礼文町香深村 香深港フェリーターミナル内/Kafukakou Ferry Terminal, Kafukamura, Rebun-cho Rebun-gun, Hokkaido, 097-1201, Japan
    • Phone Number 0163-86-2655
    • Open: Early April to mid-October
      Hours: 8:00 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m.
      Closed: Open daily during the above dates <facility data link ID>

Written by Fumi

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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