The island of Rishiri (利尻島) is present just 20 km off the coast of Hokkaido (北海道). It has one of the most preserved wetlands and is home to a variety of flora and fauna. The people of Rishiri make a living from tourism and fishing while the island is famous for its narrow cycling tracks, onsens, mountains, and natural parks. It is also well-known for its mountain clone of Mt. Fuji (富士山), Mt. Rishiri (利尻富士).
Mt. Rishiri is a volcano present exactly at the center of the Rishiri Island with an altitude of 1,721 meters. The mountain is made of volcanic rocks and debris. It is considered as one of the greatest mountains of Japan and is often referred to as “Little Fuji” or “Rishiri Fuji” as its shape is conical and resembles the Mt. Fuji very much. Climbing Mt. Rishiri is easy and can be done without any prior experience. Although there are a few places of danger in the climbing routes, the overall hike is not that difficult.
There are three main routes to climb Rishiri Fuji. The first and most traversed one is the Oshidomari (鴛泊) trail, second is the Kutsugata (沓形), and finally, the Oniwaki (鬼脇) route. There is a total of 10 stations and cars are allowed until the 3rd station on the Oshidomari trail, while one can drive directly until the 5th station from the Kutsugata trail.
There is also a small hill just beside Mt. Rishiri called Mt. Pon (ポン山) which has an altitude of 444 meters above sea level. Its peak can be reached in 30 to 45 minutes from the 3rd station of Mt. Rishiri, or 60 to 90 minutes from Himenuma (姫沼). Himenuma or Hime Pond is a man-made pond located at the foot of Mt. Rishiri and is famous for its reflection of the mountain on its waters.
There are an observation deck and a shrine on top of the mountain. One will be able to see the entire Rishiri Island together with the nearby island of Rebun (礼文島) from the observation deck. If the view is clear on a bright day, one can also get to see the coast of the Sakhalin Island in Russia easily.
The main urban center of the Rishiri Island is the town of Oshidomari, followed by Kutsugata. There is a famous onsen named “Rishirifuji Onsen (利尻富士温泉)” in Oshidomari which is quite affordable. Also, Otadomari Pond (オタドマリ沼) on the southern end of the island offers memorable views of Mt. Rishiri. There are many fishing communities along the coast of the island. Rishiri Island is also regarded as a biker’s paradise for its numerous cycling roads. One can hire bicycles at a rental shop and freely bike along the northern coast of the island.
The Rishiri Airport (利尻空港) is the only airport on the island. From Sapporo (札幌), one can take a plane from the Okadama Airport (丘珠空港) directly to Rishiri Airport. From Tokyo (東京), one can take a plane from Haneda Airport (羽田空港) to Wakkanai Airport (稚内空港), then ride a ferry bound for Oshidomari on the island. However, the temperatures in winter can go down significantly and due to the small sizes of the airports, they are mostly closed for a few months. It is better to check with your preferred airways or the local tourism office to get any further information on flights, tours, places to visit, and much more. To reach the trailhead of Mt. Rishiri, one can either hike uphill or catch a taxi from Oshidomari Port.
Visiting Rishiri Island will certainly give you a thrilling experience and climbing Mt. Rishiri kinda prepares you before actually climbing Mt. Fuji due to its resemblance. The best months to visit Rishiri are the summer months and do book your tickets in advance as the number of tourists visiting at this time of the year increases quite rapidly.