Bicycle Touring Hokkaido (One Picture Per Day)

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Part 1Bicycle Touring Hokkaido ← You are here

Part 2Bicycle Touring Tohoku

Part 3Bicycle Touring Kanto

Part 4 Bicycle Touring Chubu

Part 5Bicycle Touring Kansai

Part 6Bicycle Touring Chugoku

Part 7Bicycle Touring Shikoku

Part 8Bicycle Touring Kyushu

Lincun, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Edited by me

My three month bicycle tour starts in Hokkaido – The Northern Sea Circuit. Hokkaido is the northernmost island and largest prefecture in Japan. Known for having cooler and less humid summers, many cyclists flock here to avoid the unbearable heat of the rest of Japan. My teaching contract ended on July 31st, just before summer in Japan is peaking, so starting my cycle across Japan on the north island was an easy choice. The ferry from Kansai was just over 20 hours, so my journey begins on August 2nd.

Day 1 – Otaru, Hokkaido

I started day one in Otaru after taking a 20 hour ferry ride from Maizuru in Kyoto Prefecture. I’ve visited here before in the winter, but this time it was hot and humid! There was a heatwave and I was definitely feeling it, but I was so excited to start the journey.

Day 2 – Tomamae, Hokkaido

At the end of day one I saw a Japanese guy walking with a big backpack. After chatting for a bit I found out he has been walking across Japan for 5 months, and he will be camping at the same spot as me with his friend who is another bicycle tourist. We had food together and chatted for a while. Rin, the bicyclist, was also heading up towards Wakkanai, so we decided to ride together the next day. The good news was that the heat completely disappeared. The bad news was that it rained all day. However, that didn’t stop us from riding 100 km north to Haboro!

Day 3 – Teshio, Hokkaido

After a relatively short ride with wet conditions, Rin introduced me to the idea of a “Rider House” – essentially a shared, bare-bones shed that you can sleep in for cheap. This one was 200 yen ($1.40 USD at the time) for a space on the floor, bring your own sleeping pad and bag. Not bad at all after riding in the rain!

Day 4 – Wakkanai, Hokkaido

The next day we had the worst weather yet: huge headwinds and pouring rain. We rode through it for about 3 hours to reach Wakkanai. I was shivering the whole time, a stark contrast from day one when I was dying of heat! About halfway along the route, we found a rest stop to warm up in where we met Sho, another cyclist making his way north to Wakkanai. He joined our group and we rode the last 1.5 hours together. As soon as we arrived in Wakkanai we warmed up in an onsen and got dinner at a restaurant before setting up camp in the dark.

Day 5 – Cape Soya, Hokkaido

The next morning our group went separate ways. Rin and Sho left to go to take a ferry to Rishiri Island, while I continued north to reach the official starting point of my trip. Cape Soya is the northernmost point in Japan. I bought a sticker here to put on the bike that will hopefully be joined by a Cape Sata, the southernmost point on Kyushu, sticker in about 3 months time haha. Reaching Cape Soya was brutal with the worst headwind I’ve ever ridden through. The 31km trip from Wakkanai took over 3 hours.

Day 6 – Nakatombetsu, Hokkaido

The headwinds the next day were just as strong as before. After cycling through it for another couple of hours, I decided to change plans and head inland where the wind wouldn’t be as strong. I ended up having the best weather of the trip so far and rode through beautiful mountain roads with very few cars. It was so nice having a break from both the wind and rain.

Day 7 – Otoineppu, Hokkaido

While eating lunch at a convenience store in the middle of nowhere, I met Vincent, a cyclist from Australia. He had recognized me from pictures I posted from my Hokkaido trip last year in a Japan cycling Facebook group! He was making his way north to Cape Soya before eventually cycling down to Osaka. It was nice to have a conversation in English after Rin and Sho put my mediocre Japanese to the test for the past few days! We chatted for a bit before heading off in opposite directions.

Day 8 – Nayoro, Hokkaido

I was really glad that I took the inner route south instead of the coastal route. The flat farmlands were beautiful with massive mountains in the background. As I got further inland and away from the cool sea breeze, the weather warmed up rapidly and became hot again.

Day 9 – Kamikawa, Hokkaido

The heat kept getting worse, and this was by far the hottest day yet with “real feel” temperatures at 111°F / 44°C. I had no time to wait out the heat, though; the weather forecast in Daisetsuzan National Park was clear skies for the next day. If I could reach the national park on this day, then I’d surely have incredible views the next day.

Day 10 – Daisetsuzan National Park, Hokkaido

I made it in time for perfect weather in Daisetsuzan National Park. In the morning I took the ropeway and chairlift up to 1,510 m elevation on Kurodake and was treated with incredible views of the surrounding area. After a while of taking in the fresh mountain air I returned to my bike and cycled over the 1,050m high Sekihoku Pass before descending into Kitami.

Day 11 – Kitami, Hokkaido

Not all days of cycle touring have glamorous pictures! I took my first rest day in Kitami and booked a hotel room for the first time on the trip. It was my first time to have my own room in 2 weeks so it was great to relax and enjoy the time off the bike.

Day 12 – Abashiri, Hokkaido

After resting up I did an 83km ride up to the coast where I got my first views of the Shiretoko Peninsula. My plan was to ride over those distant mountains in 2 days time. However, plans are constantly changing! While at my campsite I received a message on Line from Sho, who I rode up to Wakkanai with. He happened to be staying at the same campsite and recognized my bike! He was planning to ride the remaining 40km to Shiretoko and then go over the mountain in the same day because the next day’s forecast was clear skies. I agreed that this was the better option, so we decided to once again ride together and head to the mountains the next day.

Day 13 – Shiretoko National Park, Hokkaido

After fighting steep gradients and a massive headwind at the top, me and Sho conquered Shiretoko Pass at 737m elevation. We had clear skies all the way until a few clouds came over at the end. I did Shiretoko Pass last year as well, but last time was foggy, rainy, and freezing cold; I could barely see 5 meters in front of me. I was super glad to have such good weather the second time around!

Day 14 – Rausu, Hokkaido

After completing Shiretoko Pass the day before, me and Sho continued riding south towards Cape Nossapu, the easternmost point in Japan. This was by far the most boring day of riding so far. We rode through a seemingly unending forest with no big view points or change of scenery in sight. We did see a big eagle fly over which was pretty cool though. The winds weren’t too strong, but the forecast showed that there would be a powerful headwind in the coming days. Me and Sho parted ways in the midafternoon as he wanted to beat the headwind to Nemuro while I needed to rest at a campsite.

Day 15 – Nemuro, Hokkaido

Now one day behind Sho, I continued riding south towards Nemuro. Along the route I saw some red-cronwed cranes, an endangered bird that lives in Eastern Hokkaido during summer time. The winds grew stronger as I rode further south, making this a slow and difficult day.

Day 16 – Cape Nosappu, Hokkaido

The forecast was for brutal winds all day, partially due to a typhoon. I rode through them anyways, moving along slowly but surely. I eventually reached Cape Nosappu, the easternmost point in Japan. The next extreme point will be the southernmost point in Kyushu!

Day 17 – Cape Kiritappu, Hokkaido

After a relatively long day with head winds, I took it easy the next day and rode down to the coast. A few days ago while riding with Sho, he told me that a friend told him that this was the most beautiful area in Hokkaido. It did not disappoint. I found myself stopping for pictures frequently which was good to give my legs a rest day. This is Cape Kiritappu, and there is a free campsite near that lighthouse! The views are unreal for a place that is free to camp at.

Day 18 – Kushiro, Hokkaido

After an easy day 17, I pedaled 90 km to Kushiro City. As luck would have it, the Kushiro Bon-odori was happening the night I arrived in town, and my hotel was right on the street where the dancing would happen! Bon-odori is a summer festival where the town gathers to dance around the streets. Different groups perform the same dance and a winning group was selected for three categories – costume, Teodori hand dance, and freestyle.

Day 19 – Urahoro, Hokkaido

As I was packing my bags in the morning, I noticed another bicycle at my hotel. Upon closer inspection, it was Sho’s bicycle! This was the 2nd time we ended up staying at the same location after going different directions for a time. We rode together for half a day before he continued his inland route and I followed the coast. A big heatwave was coming to Hokkaido, but the Hidaka Mountains would block the worst of it. My plan was to push as many kilometers as I could to get around those mountains before the heatwave comes. This route was extremely remote with no convenience stores for 86 km and no cell service.

Side quest: I also found an iPhone on the ground along this route. It was locked, but the notification bubbles were visible. From there I could find the owner’s Instagram handle where I was able to get in contact with him to return it! It was sitting on the ground for about 28 hours by the time I found it.

Day 20 – Erimo, Hokkaido

I continued south on another long day. The plan was to cycle 100 km to a campsite near Cape Erimo. The remoteness continued, but after 50km of riding that morning I came to my first grocery store to refuel. I met another cyclist along the way, Soeda. He was staying at a hotel in town while I pressed on further south to a campsite. Close to the cape was a series of some of the worst tunnels I’ve ridden through yet. This one is famous because it’s the longest at 4,941 m. It was very narrow, but fortunately due to the remoteness there isn’t much traffic and only 2 cars passed the entire time.

Day 21 – Samani, Hokkaido

I succeeded in my plan to get to the other side of the Hidaka Mountains, but the heatwave had begun. It was hot and extremely humid, but still much cooler than if I had followed Sho to Obihiro a few days back. The past 3 days have been some of the longest of the trip, so I took a short day and camped on the beach early where a sea breeze helps keep the campsite cool. I met up with Soeda again at the campsite, and we met another cyclist as well.

Day 22 – Shinhidaka, Hokkaido

Soeda and I rode together in the morning for a short while. My route today would be a short one because there is a large gap in campsites coming up. He was going a bit further to a guesthouse, so eventually he went ahead while I took a slow day. It was hot, so I spent a lot of time chilling in the shade of convenience stores eating ice cream. There is a nice onsen next to the campsite, so I relaxed until the evening before setting up my tent.

Day 23 – Atsuma, Hokkaido

The heatwave continued strong, so in order to motivate myself to ride through it I booked a hotel room in Tomakomai. It would be 90 km through a hot and humid day with no clouds in sight. Fortunately I had a tailwind that made the ride relatively easy. After riding along sections of abandoned JR Railway lines, I finally arrived at a real station – Hama-Atsuma Station in Atsuma. This is easily the smallest station I have ever seen!

Days 24-26 – Obihiro, Hokkaido

The heatwave was hitting me strong, and I could feel the early signs of heat exhaustion. Rather than trying to power through it, I decided to take a few rest days in Tomakomai to wait out the heatwave. During this time I took a train backwards to Obihiro, a city I wanted to visit earlier but went around it because it was too hot. Obihiro is home to the only Banei horse races in the world. Rather than fast and slender horses, Banei racehorses are big and strong because the race involves carrying a 1-ton sled across a dirt track. Watching these powerful horses compete was a very entertaining spectacle, even if I lost money betting on them!

Day 27 – Noboribetsu, Hokkaido

It was still hot, but the humidity had gone down so I was ready to get back on the bike and cycle! This morning I had taken the train in from Obihiro, so it was a bit of a late start and I only cycled 43 km, but it felt nice to be back. I ended up in Noboribetsu, a very popular onsen town in southern Hokkaido. I got in late and didn’t see the real town yet, but I got a nice picture with a demon!

Day 28 – Sobetsu, Hokkaido

This day was incredibly difficult to choose one picture for! I started the morning with a difficult ride up to Lake Kuttara, a nearly perfectly circular lake formed in the crater of a volcano. From there I explored around the Noboribetsu area where I had saw and smelled bubbling sulfuric hot springs. My next destination was Lake Toya, which required a climb up over Orofure Pass at 930 m. It was certainly a challenging climb, but one I was happy to take on after my recent days of rest.

Day 29 – Toyako, Hokkaido

After my climb over Orofure Pass, I camped right on the shores of Lake Toya. Or at least I wanted to. I was late to the campsite and all of the good spots were taken so I was a little bit back away from the shore. Close enough. Anyways, I woke in the morning to cycle around the Lake. There were plenty of great views to take in before continuing the journey westward.

Day 30 – Nanae, Hokkaido

I awoke early in the morning to a dense fog covering the campsite. I had heard that this highway 5 I would be riding was beautiful, but I could barely see anything! As I continued south, the fog slowly lifted. It finally completely cleared out just in time to take in the views at Onuma Quasi National Park. I still don’t understand the term “Quasi National Park”, but I digress. You’ve probably heard this phrases thousands of times, but the pictures of Mount Komagatake don’t do it justice!

Day 31 – Hakodate, Hokkaido

A few days prior, I skipped a planned detour to Mt. Yotei up near Lake Toya. The reason was that heavy rains were on the forecast in the area, but down south in Hakodate looked clear. As soon as I made the decision to skip Mt. Yotei I knew that the rain would end up going further south, and what do you know, it did! It rained all day so I rested up for the day and put off the ferry to Tohoku for another day. I snapped this picture during a short break from the rain that bought me time to move to my next hotel.

Day 32 – Hakodate, Hokkaido

My last day in Hokkaido was a sightseeing day where I cruised around Hakodate taking in some sights. My ferry wasn’t until 4:00 p.m. so I had plenty of time. I also went to a cycle shop to replace my brake pads and get a new rear light because my had fallen off somewhere along the way. The ferry from Hakodate to Oma was short at only 90 minutes. The weather was perfect though and I had some nice views on the trip.

More Pictures

Part 1Bicycle Touring Hokkaido ← You are here

Part 2Bicycle Touring Tohoku

Part 3Bicycle Touring Kanto

Part 4 Bicycle Touring Chubu

Part 5Bicycle Touring Kansai

Part 6Bicycle Touring Chugoku

Part 7Bicycle Touring Shikoku

Part 8Bicycle Touring Kyushu