Rausu (羅臼) is on the easternmost edge of the Shiretoko Peninsula (知床半島) overlooking Nemuro Strait (根室海峡) that separates Russia and Japan. With an estimated population of just over 5000, this is one of the least populated towns in Japan. Despite this, there are plenty of things to do in and around the pristine town of Rausu. Here are the top eight.
Shiretoko National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a bio-diversity reserve that occupies most of the part of the Shiretoko Peninsula. If you want to visit this beautiful national park filled with lakes, mountains, waterfalls, and vegetation, you have to start at Rausu.
Many tourists come to Rausu to start their epic road journey through Shiretoko Pass (知床峠) that connects Rausu with Utoro (ウトロ). Every bit of the national park is an attraction due to its serene beauty, however, some of the best places to visit are the Furepe Waterfall (フレペの滝), Shiretoko Goko (フレペの滝) Lakes, Mount Rausu (羅臼岳), and Shiretoko Cape (知床岬). The park also has some unique wildlife such as the brown bear, Ezo deer (エゾシカ), and so on. The national park is the best place to visit in the Eastern Hokkaido region.
Kunashiri is one of the main islands of Kuril Archipelago, which was once a part of Japan but was given to Russia after Japan’s loss in the Second World War. Although the border disputes still remain, you can have a pretty decent view of Kunashiri Island from Rausu. You can even get a great view of the Nemuro Strait (根室海峡) by climbing to the top of the mountains near Rausu Harbor (羅臼漁港).
You can get dolphin cruises at Rausu Harbor, on which you can get into the Nemuro Strait and see whales and dolphins swimming next to you. In winter, you can even see these creatures swimming amidst drifting ice!
There is a famous cruise which operates both in summer and winter called Goziraiwa (ゴジラ岩) Sightseeing. They can take you from either Shari (斜里) or Rausu for whale and dolphin watching. They also have fishing, drift ice walking, brown bear watching, and mountain tours on their sightseeing menu.
Rausu’s cold climate is unfit for agriculture and most of its residents rely on seafood. You can find many bars and restaurants in Rausu where you can try sea urchins, freshly caught squids, Alaskan pollocks, and the all-time favorite, Rausu kelp.
After a delicious meal, you can relax at the best hot spring in town, the Kuma no Yu, also known as the Rausu Bear Onsen (羅臼温泉 熊の湯). There are other natural hot springs there, too, such as Aidomari (相泊) and Seseki (セセキ) Onsens.
Do you know that there is a group of moss called “schistostega” that illuminates? These are found only in Siberia, Japan, Northern Europe, and Canada. You can see this “goblin gold” in Rausu. There are other natural phenomena such as the Rausu Geyser (羅臼間欠泉) that can be witnessed near town. In winter, you can also witness drifting ice everywhere at Rausu Harbor.
Rausu is actually an Ainu (アイヌ) town and one can see the indigenous culture here. There also used to be an old shrine and historical site, namely Uebetsu Shrine (植別神社), which is in ruins now.
There are a few noteworthy festivals that take place in Rausu such as the Shiretoko Biraki (知床開き) in June and Isaribi Festival (漁火まつり) in September. One more important festival that is celebrated during July’s first week, (usually July 1st to 3rd) is called the Jinja-sai (神社祭), which is a Shinto (神道) festival native to Rausu.
Rausu festivals website *Automatic translation available
Rausu is famous for its picturesque views and it occasionally features in some photography magazines as a winter hinterland. You can also find unique wildlife such as seals and sea eagles around Rausu. The town attracts many earth scientists, environmentalists, and photographers.
These are the eight things to do and feel blessed amidst pristine nature in Rausu. Apart from the aforementioned list, there are actually many attractive places in and around Rausu. The Shiretoko National Park itself is a paradise filled with natural wonders. Make the most of your trip to Hokkaido with a visit to this remarkable place.