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Trekking Around Rebun, Japan’s Legendary 'Floating' Island of Flowers

Trekking Around Rebun, Japan’s Legendary 'Floating' Island of Flowers

Date published: 28 January 2020

Rebun Island in Hokkaido is also known as the “floating island of flowers” and is a garden paradise rising from sea level to alpine heights. I had a professional guide take me trekking on a course resplendent with unforgettable views of flowers, Mt. Rishiri, the sea, and unusual rock formations.

Table of Contents
  1. Best time to visit the flower paradise of Rebun Island: July and early September
  2. The guide’s explanations double the enjoyment!
Neighboring Rishiri Island and its Mt. Rishiri as seen from the trekking course (photo by Rebun Hana Guide Club)

Best time to visit the flower paradise of Rebun Island: July and early September

Rebun Island is located about 60 kilometers west of Wakkanai, a town situated on the tip of Hokkaido. It, together with Rishiri Island, are two small islands floating in the Sea of Japan.

The island can only be accessed by ship from Wakkanai, a trip that takes about one hour and 55 minutes; it takes about 40 to 45 minutes from Rishiri.

The Kafukako Ferry Terminal is the gateway to Rebun Island

About 70 percent of the island is designated as a national park, and upon arrival there, the vast expanse of natural beauty is indeed impressive. Everywhere on the island between April and September, more than 300 varieties of flowers bloom.

Rebunkozakura (Primula farinose) blooms from the end of April through early May (photo by Rebun Hana Guide Club)
Ezokanzo (Hemerocallis esculenta) blooms from early to mid-May (photo by Rebun Hana Guide Club)
The white flowers are Ezonohakusanichige (Anemone narcissiflora) which bloom from the end of May to June (photo by Rebun Hana Guide Club)

Different types of flowers bloom about every two weeks. From the end of June, there is an explosion of colorful blossoms leading up to the peak which is from July to early September.

Nemuroshiogama (Pedicularis schistostegia) blooms between mid-June and July
Rebunusukiso (Leontopodium discolor), which blooms between early and late July, is the town flower of Rebun Town (photo by Rebun Hana Guide Club)
Namikiso (Scutellaria strigillosa) blooms from late July to early August (photo by Rebun Hana Guide Club)

The best way to enjoy viewing flowers while trekking is in the company of a professional guide who can explain everything. I did just that this time by requesting the Hana Guide Club to provide me with a guide who is an expert in such matters and certified by the Rebun Tourist Association.

There are group tour packages, but for our reporting team, we selected the Private Guide Plan. The cost for half a day (4 hours) for two people is 15,000 yen, including tax. Ms. Emi Sasaka, a Rishiri Island and Rebun Island Flower Trekking Guide, accompanied us.

Ms. Emi Sasaka, a Rishiri Island and Rebun Island Flower Trekking Guide

What is attractive about this plan is that you can set the time and course to fit your stamina and the flowers you would like to see. We expressed a wish to visit places someone new to trekking might choose where it would be possible to see many flowers in bloom. The course that was selected was a 3-kilometer course that went from the Momoiwa Observatory to Kinbai Valley and back again.

Momoiwa Observatory is one of the best scenic spots on Rebun Island; elevation 230 meters.

The path known as Flower Road is a trekking course having the most flowers growing on the island. To the left is Mt. Rishiri and to the right the ocean with many wondrous rock formations. Just listening to the explanations by our guide set my heart aflutter. We decided on this course because the distance was just right!

Mt. Rishiri can be seen from Flower Road. The flower is Rebunshiogama (Pedicularis chamissonis) which blooms between mid-June and July. (photo by Rebun Hana Guide Club)

The items necessary for trekking are thick socks, trekking shoes, quick-drying short-sleeve or long-sleeve T-shirts, trekking pants that go down to the ankle, a day bag, warm clothes, rain gear, hat, liquid refreshment, candy or other sweets for energy, gloves, garbage bag, and sunscreen lotion.

It is best that the hat have a band to prevent the wind from blowing it off

Be sure to remember to bring rain gear. The weather on Rebun Island can often be rainy, foggy, and windy, so rain gear is essential in order to enjoy the trek. Umbrellas are no good because of the strong winds, so the best option is good rain gear.

The guide’s explanations double the enjoyment!

You can meet your guide for the day either at the Kafukako Ferry Terminal or the lobby of the Hotel Rebun. From there you will move on to the starting point by the local bus. After finishing the trek, you can walk back to the meeting place without taking a bus.

The Momoiwa Tozan-guchi bus stop, the starting point, at 130 meters elevation

When you walk walking around the Momoiwa Observatory as we did this time, get on the bus in front of the Kafukako ferry terminal and ride it to Momoiwa Tozan-guchi, the last stop. From there, it is about a 1.2-kilometer walk uphill to the Momoiwa Observatory and takes about 40 to 60 minutes.

The trek along Flower Road begins from the Momoiwa Observatory.

The view from the Momoiwa Observatory. The round mountain to the right is Momoiwa
This is the starting point of the Flower Road. Mt. Rishiri on neighboring Rishiri Island is visible across the sea.
Steep cliffs and unusual rock formations overlook the sea on the right

The photo is not as good as I would have liked because on the day we visited there was a light rain and fog which is often the case on Rebun Island between June and July.

Normally this is one of the best scenic spots on the island, but on this day the observatory was blanketed in fog

Although we could not enjoy the view, there were many lovely flowers in bloom on each side of the road.

Fields of natural flowers flank both sides of the path. The yellow flowers are Sendaihagi (Thermopsis lupinoides) which bloom around mid-June.

Many trekkers are amazed to see flowers in bloom everywhere, which on the island of Honshu only bloom at elevations above 2,000 meters.

When you think of it that way, this experience on Rebun Island is indeed most rewarding!

Amidst the chirping of birds, Ms. Sasaka first introduced the Ibukitoranoo (Common bistort), which blooms early.

Ibukitoranoo (Common bistort) which blooms in July

“This flower has a pungent order that belies its cute appearance. Rather like that of old socks (lol),” explains Ms. Sasaka. Curious, I got up close but could smell nothing, perhaps because it rained. Was I lucky?

Chishimafuuro (Geranium erianthum) which blooms in June

“The fuzzy ball behind the flower is the bud. On rainy days like today, the dew on it gives it a pretty appearance. Actually, this flower is better viewed on a foggy rather than a sunny day. The dew sparkles like jewels, adding to the pleasure!” explains Ms. Sasaka.

Her love for the flowers apparent in her explanations was entertaining to listen to!

The path goes up and down in several places

Normally at this spot the view is one of fields of flowers spreading down the slope, the sea, and Nekoiwa, but on this day everything was hidden by fog.

“We couldn’t see a thing (lol)”

Normally it is possible to see Nekoiwa, a rock resembling a cat complete with ears and tail.

Normally this is what you would see on a fine day! The white flowers are Ezonohakusanichige (Anemone narcissiflora) (photo by Rebun Hana Guide Club)
Close-up of Nekoiwa. It rather resembles the hunched back of a cat, don’t you think? (photo by Rebun Hana Guide Club)

Moving on from Nekoiwa, Ms. Sasaka suddenly said, “Look at this,” pointing to a dark, purple flower. This is the Rebunsou (Oxytropis megalantha), which can be found nowhere else on earth but here on Rebun Island.

“Many flowers are having Rebun in their names, but most of those that bloom in other areas are slightly different from this unique species. But this is the original as it can only be found here on Rebun Island.”

Rebunsou mysteriously blooms three times during the year: the end of June, the end of July, and the end of August

The Rebunatsumorisou (Rebun Lady’s Slipper Orchid) is also unique to Rebun Island, but they are not to be found along the Flower Road as they are located in fields on the north side of the island.

The Rebunatsumorisou (Rebun Lady’s Slipper Orchid) that blooms between the end of May and early June (photo by Rebun Hana Guide Club)

Ms. Sasaka explained that the Rebun Lady’s Slipper Orchid has a unique flower that resembles a round balloon. A white section opens like wings, and rather than hide, the petals act as “frames.” She knows her stuff!

We arrived at Kinbai Valley, the turnaround point, while engrossed in conversation about why there were so many alpine flowers growing on Rebun Island. The valley gets its name from the “kinbai” in Rebukinbaisou (Trollius ledebourii) as it is here that the dazzling yellow flower is found.

Rebukinbaisou (Trollius ledebourii) blooms from the middle to the end of June
The vivid yellow color delights the eye
Taking a breather at the observation point

From here, we returned along the way that we came, and our trekking through the flowers came to an end. Even though we returned along the same way that we came, it afforded a different view that was equally fascinating. Whether you have a guide or not makes a big difference. Her explanations increased my knowledge and satisfied my curiosity.

We parted company with our guide, and as the sun came out during the evening hours, we went to the Momoiwa Observatory once again and immersed ourselves in the beautiful view spread out before us.

Splendid view! Most exhilarating! Rebun Island trekking course is a great way to enjoy the beautiful scenery and flowers. When making plans, be sure to include a guide who will definitely make your visit a most memorable one.

※The times when flowers bloom mentioned in this article may differ according to weather conditions.

  • Rebun Hana Guide Club
    • Address 〒097-1201 北海道礼文郡礼文町香深字尺忍1-10/Syakunin 1-10, Kafuka, Rebun-cho Rebun-gun, Hokkaido, 097-1201, Japan
    • Phone Number 0163-89-6330
    • Open: April to September
      Hours: 9:00 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m.
      Closed: open daily during the open season
      Guide fee: Half-day private plan (4 hours) 15,000 yen (tax included) for two people

Written by Fumi

※Unless explicitly mentioned, all prices include tax.

*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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